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Contained within the selection process of the Passover lamb are two important economic principles. The first economic principle illustrated by this verse is ownership, as identified by the word "your." God obviously believes in—He actually grants—the right of private property, of ownership. The lamb under discussion is one's personal possession, not his neighbor's or a friend's. According to God's command, it cannot be borrowed; it must be an animal that the offerer owns.
The application for us today is that, just as the offering cost the offerer something—a lamb—our offering to God must cost us too. We cannot borrow money from someone to give an offering: it must come from our own resources. King David provides a sterling example of this in II Samuel 24:18-25, where he tells Araunah, who offers to give him animals for a burnt offering: "No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing" (verse 24).
The second principle contained in Exodus 12:5 is purity or quality, as described in the phrase "without blemish." What does this phrase mean? In those days, the animal being offered—in this case, a lamb, but it could have been any of the clean animals God allowed to be sacrificed—had to be free of all defects. In fact, God says that every offering has to be without blemish.
What does it take to determine if a lamb has defects? As Phillip Keller points out in his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23:
Sheep do not "just take care of themselves" as some might suppose. They require, more than any other class of livestock, endless attention and meticulous care.
With this in mind, consider what it took for a sheep owner to find a lamb within his flock that met this strict qualification. The owner could not just take a quick glance over the flock and say, "Okay, I choose this one!" No, it was a process that took time. The sheep owner personally had to inspect each lamb physically and meticulously to ensure that the animal he would offer was without blemish.
How does this apply to us today? Our offerings should not be mere afterthoughts any more than the ancient Israelite's were. The Passover lamb was chosen on the tenth day of Abib, but the offerer spent a great deal of time leading up to this selection date inspecting his flock to make sure he chose his best lamb to give to God.
We, too, are to give God our best. We should not wake up on the morning of the holy day and say, "Umm, . . . let's see. How much should I put in the envelope today?" Instead, we should put some time and serious thought, prayer, and meditation into the amount we will offer.
We should now see that our offering will cost us something and that its quality is something that we must consider deeply. No matter what we do, we cannot get around these fundamental principles.
The Economics of an Offering