Offerings that cost nothing

I’m not going to offer God, my God, sacrifices that are no sacrifice – 2 Samuel 24: 24 (from The Message*)

TorchwoodLast week’s Torchwood series on BBC1 TV was great fun for lots of reasons but featured a storyline of earth being visited by aliens who demanded the sacrifice of 10 per cent of all earth’s children. A tithe. That, of course, is just like the biblical figure that God expected his people to give in offerings although the connection was never actually made in the programme.

Among the great moral dilemmas running through the series were the questions of which children should be handed over: children from failing schools; troublesome children who wouldn’t be missed; surely not the children of government ministers?

At one point The Prime Minister instructs a senior Whitehall officer that his children will become “units” in the process … for the public good. A terrible outcome is inevitable.

The decision by the Prime Minister is one that costs him nothing. He has no children.

The conclusion to Torchwood: Children of Earth wove a satisfying thread around that dilemma, the deaths of some more of the main series characters and the character of Torchwood’s head Captain Jack Harkness, an undying time-traveller, whose daughter and grandson have been caught up in the madness.

In the Old Testament King David faced a desperate dilemma. He had done wrong and people were dying in his land. He came to make a sacrifice to God and was offered a threshing floor and ox by their owner. His response was “I’m not going to offer God, my God, sacrifices that are no sacrifice.” In other words, unless the solution had cost him something then it wasn’t a solution. So David bought the threshing barn and the oxen and the fuel for the sacrifice. Then his offering was heard by God.

The end of Torchwood involved a costly sacrifice.

It didn’t have the prospect of resurrection that Christians can hold onto with our Easter story but it showed again the truth that costly sacrifice is at the heart of God’s self-offering.


* The Message is a paraphrase of the Bible in contemporary language

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