As a young girl, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could surprise God with something that would show how much I love Him?”
But then I thought, “He already knows everything. There’s no way to surprise Him with anything.”
But my desire to give God something that would delight His heart has remained since then. Do you know what that feeling is? It is worship.
What is a Fragrant Offering?
In Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul writes, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Jesus worshiped His Father by giving Himself for us as a fragrant sacrifice. The term “a fragrant offering” recalls the sacrificial system in the Old Testament. There are 5 types of offerings in the Old Testament: sin offering, guilt offering, burnt offering, food offering and peace offering. Of the 5 types of sacrifices, the last 3 are voluntary sacrifices, which God called “a perfume that pleases the Lord.”
Paul describes Jesus’ willing surrender of His life as a voluntary sacrifice, whose fragrant aroma rose up to God. The sacrifice pleased God's heart in a way that we cannot even put into words. Sure, Jesus sacrificed Himself for us, but the sacrifice was much more for God. It was a fragrant offering that pleased His Father. Jesus’ sacrifice delighted the heart of God. When we honor and give thanks for Jesus, we worship Him. When we stand in awe before Him, that is also worship.
A Surprising Thank You Note
Recently, I discovered something surprising. In his letter thanking his partners in Philippi, Paul wrote, “I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).
Isn’t that amazing? Paul calls their donation a fragrant offering that pleases God. He used the same words in Ephesians to express how Christ gave His life for us (Ephesians 5:2).
It’s hard to believe: A financial donation to God's co-worker is described with the same phrase as the indescribable gift of Jesus!
What does this mean for us today?
We think a donation is given at a certain place or time, to ease a need, to support a missionary or fund the work of the church. In reality, this donation is a voluntary sacrifice that will be received at the throne of God as a fragrant offering that pleases Him. When the Philippians gave Paul a donation, they had actually worshiped God.
The gift becomes an act of priestly service as an offering is made, which pleases the heart of God. There was joy in Rome, in Philippi, and in heaven over this gift.
This is what I had been looking for since my childhood – a way to do something that pleases the heart of God. In a way, I can put a smile on God’s face by giving.
Martha Conrad works in Western Europe, training and coaching staff members in ministry partner development. She is the Agape Europe executive agent for ministry partner development. She has been a Cru staff member since 1973, serving in Germany since 1976. She is married to Duane; they have 3 adult children and 6 grandchildren.