Human Sacrifice In The 21st Century

Human sacrifice is regarded as an ancient, pagan practice. Something modern society has shed, and anywhere it’s currently practiced is in the most isolated and obscure of cultures. But this is naive, because human sacrifice is going on everywhere, and you’re guaranteed to know someone who has done it, if you haven’t already done it yourself. Now, surely I’m talking about symbolic sacrifice or something more harmless, something that isn’t really wrong? No. Real human sacrifice that kills, destroys, and damages lives. Sin never changes, and human sacrifice is happening everywhere today just like it happened everywhere long ago. So if you’ve ever thought the warnings against human sacrifice in the Bible don’t apply to you, it’s time to take another look.

Man’s Ambition

The first example of human sacrifice sets the basis for why it happens: pride. For surely a family God has blessed us with can be used and abused to prove our penitence? Surely we can entice God with gifts so that he fulfills his promises? No! Let’s look at two passages in parallel to see how human sacrifice is the product of our ambition:

Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. – Judges 11:1

But you—come here, you children of a sorceress, you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes! – Isaiah 57:3

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 it as a burnt offering.” – Judges 11:30-31

Who are you mocking? At whom do you sneer and stick out your tongue? Are you not a brood of rebels, the offspring of liars? – Isaiah 57:4

When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.” – Judges 11:34-35

You burn with lust among the oaks and under every spreading tree; you sacrifice your children in the ravines and under the overhanging crags. – Isaiah 57:5

You don’t know the damage you’re doing to your family when you put them behind your goals and desires. You want your child to be amazing at sports but forget the physical toll it’s taking on them. Your addiction set you back, and the money God gave you is gone and your kids will remember the day their parents stopped caring. Your wife died in childbirth and you blame the one who survived. You took the new job even though you hardly ever see your kids anymore. Your dad is in hospice and it’s a lot of work to help him, so you leave it to someone else.

It’s all about me and what I can give up to make myself greater, right? Doesn’t God love those who give up everything for him? Hasn’t God always desired sacrifice above all else?


And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. – 1 Samuel 15:22

To sacrifice your family is not obedience. To increase his influence with the pagans, Ahaz was willing to sacrifice anything:

Unlike David his father, Ahaz did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire. – 2 Kings 16:2-3

This is the framework of how our pride can kill and destroy our family. If some of these examples haven’t been enough, we’re going to finish with the most controversial, overlooked, and accepted form of human sacrifice that is still happening everywhere today.

Unwanted Children

Adoption happens a lot across the world. It can be a blessing to a family to adopt a child. And in scripture, God is shown as the ultimate adopter:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. – Galatians 4:4-5

And the act of adopting is fully supported in the Bible and happens a lot, it is a blessing to both the new parent and the child:

Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died. – Esther 2:7

But do you know what never occurs in the Bible? God endorsing the giving up of a child for adoption. All adoption is a reaction to sin and something bad happening, in order to save the child. You might be thinking of some examples in the Bible where God is pleased when someone gives up their child up for adoption. Let’s go over them, and see what’s really going on:


Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” “Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.” – Exodus 2:1-10

This is the most popular example of giving up your child for adoption because of extreme circumstances, but make no mistake, Moses was raised by his actual mother.


When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.” – 1 Samuel 1:21-22

It seems like Samuel is going to be given to the temple, or given up for adoption.

Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. – 1 Samuel 3:19

But again, make no mistake, Hannah was still his mother. God gave her a way to take care of him, though he lived in the temple. So what’s the point here? Adoption is wrong? No, not adoption. Adopting unwanted children can be what God wants for us, and it shows great love to do so. But what does God not want? Giving your child up. You’ll hear that it’s okay to give your child up if you feel you’re not a suitable parent. You’ll hear it’s okay to put them up for adoption if you didn’t mean to get pregnant, or you were raped, or you can’t afford it, or the father is gone. But who’s saying this? Not God. What does God say?

No Argument

Can you not afford to keep your child? Are you craving financial stability?

The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked. Proverbs 10:3

Are you worried that you won’t be a good parent? Do you think your child’s salvation is all up to you?

All your children will be taught by the LORD, and great will be their peace. – Isaiah 54:13

The child is not the problem. The moment you stop trusting God to take care of you and your family, you start sacrificing them. When you give that child up for adoption, they will always have that sacrifice in their heart. God may bless them and find them new parents, but your pride will separate you from God, and that sin will be passed down. Sacrificing your child is wrong and spits in the face of God and what he can do to help you:

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. – 1 Timothy 5:8

The Last One

There’s one more example of human sacrifice going on today, and it’s literally killing people because of someone’s pride: Abortion. Like adoption, abortion is a result of not wanting the child for whatever reason you can come up. Looking for examples of abortion in the Bible? Look no further than any example of child sacrifice, which we’ve covered already:

You burn with lust among the oaks and under every spreading tree; you sacrifice your children in the ravines and under the overhanging crags. – Isaiah 57:5

As with adoption, abortion comes with a million excuses that seek to justify human sacrifice at the altar of self worship. Rape? Sacrifice your child. Not enough money? Sacrifice your child. Too young? Sacrifice your child. Genetic defect? Sacrifice your child. You burn with lust for sin, and sacrifice your children in the ravines. The pagan gods of the Old Testament never left, and are worshipped to this day. Stop thinking about the reasons for or against abortion, and instead think about the real cause of abortion and adoption: how you’re replacing God with yourself to take care of you. Because apparently you can provide life and death, wealth and poverty, salvation and punishment? Apparently you are God?


This isn’t a nice message, it might seem like you’re in a hopeless situation. Do you feel like you must give your child up for adoption? Do you feel like there’s no other option than abortion? Do you think you really need to take that job that cuts out time with family? There’s someone else who felt like there was no other option than to kill his own child, but he had faith that God would take care of his family, and that God would allow him to continue being a father:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. – Hebrews 11:17-19

God will help you afford to have a child. God will teach your children. God will feed them. God will give you strength. God will raise your dead situation to life! Don’t give up, don’t sacrifice your children or your family, but obey God and trust him.

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 18:10

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