By Jared Cornutt
Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament and a book we probably do not hear from very often. However, Malachi teaches an essential lesson in chapter one, verses 6-14, about what we are giving to God.
“The value of what we give is determined by the value it is to us. If it is not of much value to us, then it will not be to God.
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.” Malachi 1:6-14
The context here is that the nation of Israel was giving blemished sacrifices to God. If you are familiar with the Law of Moses, you would immediately understand the problem here. God commanded Israel to give an unblemished lamb as a sacrifice; a holy God requires a perfect sacrifice (Leviticus 23:12). Israel had gotten in the habit of offering injured lambs, stolen lambs, and blemished lambs for their sacrifice. Their sacrifice was not actually a sacrifice because it cost them nothing. A sacrifice requires giving up something. If what we give isn’t a sacrifice to us, we are not giving God our best. A sacrifice will cost you something. Perhaps Israel’s biggest sin here was not realizing it is a big deal to give God their second best. Are we not guilty of the same, though? We often fill our lives up with non-meaningful things that do not matter when it comes to eternity. They take the priority, and God gets what is left over.
Several summers in college I worked for a Christian camp. Every summer, they would emphasize a region of the world and take up a missions offering. During worship that night, students would walk up front and put their money in the mission’s basket. It was always neat to see youth pulling their resources together to proclaim the gospel. One year, a girl who did something different from the norm was powerful to me. She walked up front during the giving time, but instead of putting money in the basket, she looked at it and then stepped in it. She was declaring to God, “I do not have money to give, but I will give you my life.” How profound! Are we giving God our lives? Are we proclaiming that nothing is more important than God and making him known with our lives?
The value of what we give is determined by the value it is to us. If it is not of much value to us, then it will not be to God. Giving God one Sunday every few months, a quiet time when we can find a minute, and not being generous are examples of not giving God much. We must ask ourselves; do we take what God says seriously? What Israel gave was displeasing to God. We must learn from them lest we be guilty of the same thing. Are we sacrificing things to God, or sacrificing God for things? May we constantly ask this of ourselves.
Look at how God responds to Israel in the passage. He rejects their sacrifice and worship because of the heart behind it. God has not changed from then to now. He does not want our Sundays; he wants our lives! He wants nothing to be before him. I pray that we would hunger and thirst so much to know God more. That we understand the need for community, look forward to it and feel like we can’t miss it. I pray that we become a community of believers doing life together, encouraging one another in love, continuing in mission together, and serving God above all else.
We have filled our lives with all sorts of things that make no eternal difference. Sports, hobbies, and so on that do not glorify God because they take priority over God. They take priority over meeting as a local church. If we spend our Sundays at the ball field, watching the NFL, or any other hobby more often than we are meeting with a local believing covenant community, we are not giving our best (Hebrews 10:25). Are we spending more time reading our favorite website, or in the Word of God? We have declared what is most important to us by what we spend our time doing and where we invest our money. People notice, our children notice, and most importantly, God notices. Are we giving God our best, or are we giving him what is left?