«Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift» (Matthew 5:23, 24).
IN THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT, which is the most important discourse recorded in the Bible, Jesus said: «Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift» (Matthew 5:23, 24). Here we see how Jesus establishes a clear order of priorities: the first thing is to settle accounts with my neighbor before I go to reconcile with God. Later, Jesus Himself clarifies: «For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses» (Matthew 6:14, 15).
The Jews who listened to these words had enemies: the Samaritans (historical enemies), the Romans (who subjected them to a cruel yoke), the tax collectors (who betrayed their own nation to collaborate economically with the oppressor and also to enrich themselves personally), and other enemies derived from various interpretations of Scripture. It is easy for our postmodern mindset to understand why Jesus said to them what He said. They thought they could worship God in appearance while, deep down, they had hatred for another human being. But what about us today? Is it possible to say (without lying) that we are not in a similar situation?
When you set aside your tithes and offerings, do you do it knowing that you have nothing in your heart against anyone? Have you completely forgiven the harm that someone else has done to you? Could it be that you consider it more sacred to give an offering to God than to be at peace with your brethren not just with your relatives or your church members, but with all the people around you)? Do you think God forgives you if you are not able to forgive someone else?
«If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also» (1 John 4:20, 21). That is the most important thing.