What is a free will offering?
Question: "What is a free will offering / freewill offering?"
Answer: The free will (or freewill) offering was a sacrifice regulated by God’s standards in the Mosaic Law, but it was completely voluntary (Leviticus 23:38). In the Law, the free will offering was to be of a male bull, sheep, or goat with no physical deformities or blemishes, and it was not to have been purchased from a foreigner (Leviticus 22:17–25). The offering was to include flour mixed with oil and wine; the amounts varied on whether the sacrifice was a lamb, bull, or ram (Numbers 15:1–10). As with all sacrifices, the free will offering was to be made in a place of God’s choosing, not in an area formerly used by other religions or at home (Deuteronomy 12). Although it was appropriate to give the sacrifice during formal feast-days, it could be given any time (Deuteronomy 16:10). Unlike other offerings governed by stricter rules, the priests could eat the free will offering on the day it was sacrificed or the day after (Leviticus 7:16–18).
Free will offerings did not always have to be animals or grain or drink offerings. The first time a free will offering is mentioned in the Bible is in Exodus 35:10–29. God had given instructions on how to build the tabernacle, and Moses relayed what supplies were needed for its construction. The people responded as their hearts stirred them, bringing jewelry, fine yarn, tanned skins, silver, bronze, acacia wood, onyx stones, spices, and oil. These items were all donated “as a freewill offering to the Lord” (Exodus 35:29). Centuries later, the people made similar offerings for David to pass on to Solomon to build the temple (1 Chronicles 9:1–9). In the book of Ezra, the people gave traditional animal offerings (Ezra 3:5) as well as supplies to rebuild the temple after the Babylonian captivity (Ezra 2:68; 7:16; 8:28). The people also made animal offerings in 2 Chronicles 31 when King Hezekiah, one of Judah’s best kings, led the nation in returning to God and reinstituting His ceremonies. In Ezekiel 46:12, free will offerings are mentioned as being offered in the millennial kingdom.
Whether it was the sacrifice of an animal or donated supplies for a place of worship, the free will offering was to be given freely, as the Lord moved the Israelites’ hearts. It was not to be used to gain prestige (Amos 4:5) or because of guilt, inducement, or force. Today, the free will offering is the only offering we have. There is no tithe demanded on the church. We rely on the sacrifice of Jesus and not the sacrifice of animals for our atonement. All the money, time, and resources we give are to be freely given, as the Spirit leads. The trick for many is noticing and obeying “when the Spirit leads.” God has given us everything we have; if He moves our hearts (Exodus 35:29), then we should cheerfully give (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Recommended Resource: A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament edited by Roy Zuck
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What is a free will offering?