THE TRESPASS OR GUILT OFFERING Return to Index

While the trespass offering was propitiatory in its character, it differed from the sin offering. The Sin offering made atonement for the person of the offender, the trespass offering only atoned for one special offence. In fact the trespass offering can be seen as representing a ransom for some special wrong while the sin offering symbolised general redemption.
The description of the trespass offering is found in chapter 5:1 - 6:7 The trespass offering was another way of dealing with sin committed unintentionally. If the sin was against God like forgetting to pay a tithe, a ram with no defects had to be sacrificed. If the sin was against another person, not only did the ram have to be sacrificed, but those harmed by the sin had to be compensated for their loss, by adding one fifth as a penalty. Even though Christ's death has made the trespass offering unnecessary, we still need to make things right with those we hurt. One of the notable differences between the sin offering and the trespass offering was that this restitution had to be paid. Of course the trespass offering was a part of the sin offering. Sin coming from a falling short of God's standard and trespassing is stepping or slipping over the mark, that line between right and wrong.
First let us look at the examples God has given us of these trespasses and see how they apply to us today as Christians.

1 ) The sin of silence Leviticus 5:1 "'If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible. This has nothing to do with blasphemy and certainly nothing to do with not sharing your faith. It relates to taking an oath in a court of law. God demanded that those who break the law should be judged. This was the punishment of the man committing a crime, and thereby protecting the innocent, and also for keeping crime and lawlessness in check. In the light of this divine command, any person withholding evidence when it is demanded in the name of justice becomes a participant in the crime. In law it is called aiding and abetting and is punishable and is seen as a crime in itself. We have two examples of this law, one from the old testament, the other from the new testament. When Joshua destroyed the city of Jericho and then moved on to Ai where the Israelites were defeated. The reason was that there was sin in the camp, Achan had taken some of the spoils of the battle at Jericho which should have been dedicated to the Lord. When it was discovered Achan and all his family were stoned to death. To many it seems unfair that the family should die for the sin of the father. The inference is that the family was aware of the sin and had not made it known. So when by the process of elimination Achan's sin was discovered, the family were participants in the sin by there silence. (Joshua 7 ). The second example is seen in Matthew 26:62-63. It reveals Jesus standing before the high priest as false witnesses were making all sorts of accusations against him, with Jesus giving no response. The high priest then said to him "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God". If at that moment Jesus had not answered, He would have committed a sin, become a sinner, and failed to become mans redeemer. Jesus answered "yes it is as you say". He did not aid and abet the false testimony.

2 ) The sin of defilement Leviticus 5:2-3 "Or if a person touches anything ceremonially unclean"--whether the carcasses of unclean wild animals or of unclean livestock or of unclean creatures that move along the ground--even though he is unaware of it, he has become unclean and is guilty. Or if he touches human uncleanness--anything that would make him unclean--even though he is unaware of it, when he learns of it he will be guilty. This at first may seem a very harsh rule but yet there were contagious diseases that were well known that could wipe out a whole community. Hundreds of years later in Europe the plague caused wide spread panic for they were without modern drugs or medical understanding. By these simple rules God is protecting the health of the community by cutting off a source of contamination and isolating any possible sickness. The priests now became the environment health officers of Israel. People who had come into contact with a contagious disease were thereby quarantined until they came before the priests to present their offering. From the spiritual perspective how much more do we need to employ these simple safeguards to protect ourselves as Israel protected itself. We should take care in what we handle, what we allow our hearts, mind and eyes to handle. When we see something unclean or unwholesome even if by some accident, there is the need to be cleansed.

3 ) Swearing rashly Leviticus 5:4 "Or if a person thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything, whether good or evil" --in any matter one might carelessly swear about--even though he is unaware of it, in any case when he learns of it he will be guilty. This time the swearing has nothing to with bad language or the taking of an oath in a court of law but is related to the making of promises or entering into a contract or the making of vows. There would seem on reading the verse to be an injustice. It is easy to understand that if a man promises to do some good thing but does not do it he is in the wrong, but if a man vows to do some evil act, and repents of the intention and does not do it he is still guilty. This rule places the emphasis on the oath not on good or evil. It is to regulate our speech and cause us to consider the things we say lest our speech lead us into sin. Many people are perplexed about the story of Jephthah and cannot accept that he offered his daughter as a human sacrifice. People will say that she was made to live a life of singleness, their reasoning is that God did not permit human sacrifice. Yet neither does God allow his name to be taken in vain. Judges 11:30 tells us "And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD 'If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD'S, and I will sacrifice as a burnt offering. A clearer understanding may be gained by reading Numbers chapter 30. Humbleness and gentleness become the safer paths for life. Letting our yes be yes and our no be no. It means saying yes or no without the addition of oaths or promises which become committals that bind. God binds the man who binds himself by an oath (Matthew 5:33-37).

4 ) The sin of dishonesty Leviticus 5:15-16 "When a person commits a violation and sins unintentionally in regard to any of the Lord's holy things, he is to bring to the LORD as a penalty a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value in silver, according to the sanctuary shekel. It is a guilt offering. He must make restitution for what he has failed to do in regard to the holy things, add a fifth of the value to that and give it all to the priest, who will make atonement for him with the ram as a guilt offering, and he will be forgiven. Dishonesty can be against God or against man, both this sin and the following one of ignorance are against God. The question can be asked is it possible to rob God. The question was certainly in peoples minds in the time of Malachi (Mal.3:8-12), when charged the people answered how have we robbed you. It is to be remembered that everything belongs to God, and man belongs to Him too, He is the Creator, the sustainer of all things. Everything is under His ownership. Psalm 24:1 "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;" God claims the first fruit of the harvest (Lev.23:10-14), he has claim to a tithe of all man possesses including time, energy and service, as well as possessions (Lev.27:30-32). When Joshua took possession of the promised land God claimed the first city Jericho which was dedicated to him by fire (Joshua 6). In the New Testament his claim on us is unchanged, if any thing because we have received more we should be willing and able to give more. To withhold is to rob God "will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask How do we rob you. In tithes and offerings". It may be unintentional, but that does not alter the responsibility. God is robbed in our defective generosity, giving to other things before tithing in the local church, Malachi 3:10 "bring the whole tithe into the store house". God is robbed in the lack of responsibility toward Christian ministry, for he says "that a labourer is worthy of his hire". God is robbed in our failure to maintain his work because of a lack of support both practically and financially. If we are not supporting God's church by our commitment to be present when possible, to pray for the ministries, to support the programme of the church or by personal invitations to others, God is robbed. God is robbed when our times of worship and our times in the word of God are neglected. Are we honest with our time, our possessions, our abilities, our privileges, our friends? This dishonesty in holy things is a trespass for which God requires amends and restoration.

5 ) The sin of ignorance Lev 5:17 "If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord's commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible. This would seem to be another injustice, but on consideration, we realise that it is not so unfair. The natural man reasons that if he is ignorant, how can he be held responsible. The question is why are we ignorant? Is the claim of ignorance just? Much of what we claim to be ignorance is wilful, and therefore is sin. Think about the motorist, the highway code is provided as a manual of the rules and conduct expected by society of the motorist. If he does not bother to get one or refuses to read it, can he claim ignorance. The law says no, in fact he would not even pass his driving test. Yet becoming a parent, being a friend, or being a son or daughter requires no test but there is a makers manual of what conduct is acceptable and what rules there are in relationships with other people, this manual of life is called the bible. Perhaps it would be good if we were to wear the L plates of humility and willingness to learn until we knew what God expects of us. If a man could find out but does not he is guilty. Carelessness or needless forgetfulness is also a sin. This is not ignorance; it is the sin of ignorance. The following trespasses are not only against God but also against man and are found in Leviticus 6: 2-3 the New King James Version reads "If a person sins and commits a trespass against the Lord by lying to his neighbour about what was delivered to him for safe keeping, or about a pledge, or about a robbery, or if he has extorted from his neighbour, or if he has found what was lost and lies concerning it, and swears falsely - in any one of these things that a man may do in which he sins.

6 ) the sin of failure in trust. If one accepts the property of another to look after or to keep safe must do that which he has promised to do taking greater care that if the entrusted item were his own. The failure is not the deliberate wrong action but the unintentional. This could also encompass a thing that has been borrowed for a particular time or task. In 2 Kings 6:5 "As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axe-head fell into the water. Oh, my lord he cried out it was borrowed". The concern was that the axe was borrowed it was not his. Man must be concerned about borrowed goods, and even more concerned about entrusted goods. Just think for a moment, have you ever gone along your book shelf and thought I know I borrowed that book from some one I must return it but leave it there or even worse you can't even remember from whom the book was borrowed in the first place. Perhaps someone has told us something in confidence, they have entrusted us with information to keep safe or private, if we gossip about that information the trust is broken. We must be careful not to be light-hearted or careless in our approach to things left in our charge, for which we have accepted responsibility. The lie is not keeping the item safe.

7 ) Sin in partnership "or about a pledge" the idea given here is the sense of a partnership, of a contract in a business that makes those involved partners in some project. The Lord is showing his concern about our everyday behaviour as people who are in the world but not a part of it. How we relate to other people, is the central to our Christian profession. Fairness is doing our fair share, not acting as top dog and taking the easiest or glamour jobs for ourselves, and leaving others to do the dirty or the mundane tasks. This applies in business, in the home, in the church, in our social life, in fact everywhere. The lie is not playing fair.

8 ) Taking by violence We are not thinking here of robbery with violence or mugging someone for the Christian should not even think of such a thing. Every man has a will, a right to think He is entitled to make his own decisions and conduct himself as his conscience permits. This freewill is as much a part of a man's belongings as his money, his house or any of his other possessions. There are the strong-willed, determined individuals who insist on having there own way and exercising their authority, irrespective of the feelings of the other person or whether they agree. They want their way not considering whether the conscience of others is hurt or offended. This is taking the other persons mind or personality from him by violence. The lie is that it is all right for anyone in any position to abuse their authority and even to justify it. As Christians we must learn to respect the other persons rights and privileges. We may seek to persuade a person to change his point of view, but never force him, sometimes we just have to agree to disagree.

9 ) The sin of deception. This means to obtain under false pretences. There are two stories, one from the old testament and one from the new, that are worth recounting. First let us look at Joshua 9 where the Gibeonites carried out an enormous yet cunning deception. They feared for their lives and so tricked the Israelites into a treaty so that they would not be attacked. They obtained what they wanted under false pretences but became servants to the Israelites they were not destroyed because they did not lie about their deception Verses 24 & 25. The New Testament example is that of Ananias and Sapphira from Acts 5:1-11. A man called Joseph from Cyprus sold some land and gave all the money to the apostles, they called him Barnabas which means the son of encouragement and Barnabas became a man of standing and position in the Christian community. Ananias and Sapphira his wife conspired to gain such standing but kept some of the money back for themselves. They came, laid the money at the apostles feet to show that they were wholehearted for God, but they were only wholehearted for the recognition the gift would bring them. When questioned they lied to the Holy Spirit and it cost them their lives. Today children deceive their parents and teachers, employees their employers by trying to get recognition or credit for something they had not done. Even Christians embellish the facts to make things sound more attractive or their part greater, there are even some who try to deceive God. In the sight of God these are trespasses upon each other for which we are held responsible and he requires we make amends.

10) The sin of keeping things found. You have probably heard the children's saying "finders keepers losers weepers" yet this is a worldly attitude that is prevalent, selfish and wrong. It is dishonest, as Christians we should do all that is within our power to discover the owner of anything we find, and see that it is returned. The real sin here is not discovering or picking up the item but the lie that pretends that we are the owner. Think of finding some money on the street or when we find that after leaving a shop that the shop assistant has given us to much change. The Lord requires absolute honesty. Through out there is the reminder that if we take care of the little things of our conduct, then the bigger things are easier taken care of, also there is that truth that the Lord does not close his eyes to the little things which we treat so carelessly. The trespass offering consisted of a ram, which was valued by the priest according to the sanctuary shekel. The victim was slain on the northern side of the altar and the blood of the victim was sprinkled against the side of the altar with the remainder being poured out at its base. The priest then burnt the fat of the animal on the bronze altar while the rest of the animal was given to the priest as with the sin offering. So that no one was excluded if a person was unable to afford a ram then the following were accepted by the priest. two doves or pigeons but if that were not affordable then fine flour was accepted by the priest. Now the procedure was different if the trespass was against a man. The order of things when the trespass was against God was :-

1. SACRIFICE - substitution, atonement.
2. PRINCIPAL - restitution, restoration of the wrong.
3. A FIFTH MORE - recompense added

Here the thought of the atoning sacrifice was predominant. The order when the trespass was against a fellow-man changed in this way

1. RESTITUTION - the principal came first.
2. RECOMPENSE - the fifth was added as compensation.
3. SACRIFICE - atonement for the sin.

The thought of restitution to the injured party was predominant. But mere restitution would not suffice, there must also be atonement for his sin against the Lord. Jesus re-enforced the law and the order of restitution. In Matthew 5 : 23 & 24 it shows that restitution came first and then the altar. Our communion with God is broken until restitution is made, we must get it right with our fellow-man first and why not add a gift by way of compensation to the person.

Thoughts for simple sermons:

1/ If we trespass (sin) against a person, as we have seen, even if it is just insisting in having our own way. Then with our apology to put things right, why not given a box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers as the added compensation. Trespass remember is a slipping across the line between right and wrong, like a man would slip on an icy road. When the wrong word slips out or we slip into error, we must be sure that we treat our slip with the gravity it deserves and not just pass it off with comments like "I'm having a bad day" or "well its only a little thing". To God sin is SIN and if you have only slipped a little over the line you are still on the wrong side of it.

2/ The ten examples of trespass given seem small things and even inconsequential but God sites them for a reason. A journey in life can often be halted or our direction lost by what seems a small or inconsequential step. Yet a little yeast works its way through the whole batch, and little sins corrupt the whole man. 1 Cor 5:6 - 8 Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast--as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.

Burnt Offering Grain Offering Sin Offering Return to Index Peace Offering