Proverbs 21:3 "Sacrifice" (Breastplate of Righteousness - Week 3)

Proverbs 21:3 "Sacrifice" (Breastplate of Righteousness - Week 3)

To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. (ESV)

To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. (NIV)

The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices. (NLT)


Dive Deeper:


Corruption In The Temple

Have you ever wondered why Jesus got so upset that he began flipping tables at the temple? Matthew writes, “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the money changers' tables and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a den of robbers’” (Matthew 21:12-13). So what was the big deal? What warranted this reaction?

At this time, people from all over were making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover, a celebration involving animal sacrifice. The problem was that many people traveled far distances, so they would often just buy a sacrifice in Jerusalem when they arrived. Now, you were expected to sacrifice a lamb to be true to the celebration, but doves were the only practical option for the poor people who didn’t have enough money to get a lamb. The religious leaders knew this, and so in a spirit of greed, they made exorbitant exchange rates for foreigners to have to buy “temple-approved” sacrifices, specifically, with doves, where they took advantage of the poorest of the poor. These leaders took a holy, established form of sacrifice and twisted it to take advantage of the weak and the lowly. Jesus, deeply desiring mercy for the weak, flipped the tables in His right anger.


Redefining “Righteousness”

This story encapsulates this theme that is all over the Bible and in our memory verse this week—the theme of righteousness and justice together. The religious leaders here saw righteousness as the right practice. They saw mere outward displays of righteousness and sacrifices as the one way to please God even though they knew Hosea 6:6 says, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” The tragedy in this story is that the leaders were so wrapped up in the sacrifices themselves that they committed injustices to the foreigners and the poor. 

So, as we reflect on this verse and this story, it may seem extreme and unrelatable. We may not be in the position these leaders were in to make such horrible, corrupt decisions, but we, too, can drift. As we follow Jesus, we can also focus our thinking on performing the outward “sacrificial” acts alone to please God while neglecting to extend justice and mercy to the least of these.

The Call

Let me ask you, is it easier to show up to church on Sunday or befriend those who are homeless in your community? Is it easier to attend a Bible study or serve at an orphanage? For many of us, it can be easy to grow in practicing disciplines for God while forsaking service to our neighbor. Jesus specifically gave us the greatest two commandments in tandem. Loving God and neighbor together because, as we see in this devotional, it’s easy to redefine righteousness by taking one and leaving the other out. So even as you memorize this verse, which could easily become a religious duty for God, press into the heart of the verse and look for opportunities to embody righteousness by loving those in need. For, To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. 


Written by Ben Hesch



Read and meditate on Matthew 25:31-46

1 comment

  • Susan on

    I definitely need ro stop making excuses for not being more generous w/ the many homeless persons I see begging for help. These excuses include waiting until my husband gives me permission, as Financial Peace University advises to discuss purchases & donations above $300. I certainly don’t ask my husband for permission before ordering lunch or groceries for myself. I feel deeply convicted, but not necessarily guilty, as my husband has warned thst many beggars are pretending, but their was one man I noticed still out on the street, late at night, no longer standing as he begged… I know where he usually begs and when I will be in the area again. There are also hotels nearby. Can you relate?

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