Imagine you’ve invited all your relatives and neighbors to a banquet. Instead of serving turkey or ham with pie for dessert, what would happen if you emptied the garbage onto the table where the platter of meat goes? And after that, what if you told your guests to “dig in”? Think they’d like it? Think they’d say, “What a fine feast—let’s invite the president next year”? What would your actions say about how much you regarded your guests?
We wouldn’t think of treating other humans that way, yet these actions come close to those of the children of Israel during the prophet Malachi’s lifetime. They offered their wilted stuff to God. Leftovers. Garbage. And God objected to their bringing “what is stolen, lame, or sick” as an offering. He asked, “Should I accept this from you?”
Their gifts revealed how little they regarded the recipient. So Malachi had a message from the Lord for the people: You’ve given fourth-class gifts to a first-class God. “I have loved you!” but “You have robbed Me!”
I grew up in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, a fertile plain, with a river running through it. We had plenty of water and good soil. Dad worked a government job, but to help support his wife and five kids, he had a one-acre garden in addition to a pear orchard and a Christmas tree farm. He was good at it, too. Every year he would set aside the largest, most exquisitely formed pears and exhibit them in the Oregon State Fair. Sometimes his rhubarb was good enough to enter, too. Or a mammoth squash would make it all the way to the judges’ booth. For his display, Dad chose only the biggest and the best—the choicest fruit. And afterward he lined his walls with award ribbons.
When you’re heading to the judge’s booth, you take your best stuff. And that’s the kind of quality God expects from his people. The finest. That which is most excellent. The goods they might show off.
What kind of gifts are you offering to God? Time to take inventory?
Money – Are you giving regularly to support those who care for your spiritual health? When you give to missions, do you throw cash at whomever happens to have sent you a request letter when your have your checkbook out, or do you think strategically about local and global works?
Work – Do you view your occupation, whether volunteer or for pay, as an act of service that requires your best? Do you view your world as your mission field? God may not have called you to full-time, paid ministry, but he has definitely called you to holiness and to sharing with your neighbors. Are you ministering to coworkers, praying for them and encouraging them?
Community life – Do you give as well as taking in your church community? Do you allow yourself to receive? Do you have a community where you can share freely without hiding? What about your larger community? What volunteer work would make the best use of your time, talents, and spiritual gifts? Are you “stretching forth your hand to the needy”?
Marriage – If married, do you make your time as a couple a great priority, or does your relationship get your leftovers? A Christian leader I know determined to spend as much effort on her marriage as she spent becoming an excellent employee worth promoting. And what a difference that choice has made! The goal of marriage is oneness. So, what needs to happen for you to be fully united with your spouse? Could you benefit from a few sessions of counseling to strengthen what’s already good? Do you need a weekend away?
Parenting – If you are a parent, do you use the television as a babysitter? Do you groan when the kids get home from school because their presence means you have to stop doing what you enjoy? Or are you intentional about how you spend time with them? How can you think ahead about family prayer time and directed dinner conversations?
Health – How well do you manage the body God has given you? Do you eat right, viewing even how you eat as an act of worship and stewardship? Do you get the exercise you need? What about rest and stress management? Should you get off the couch, or could you benefit from more couch time?
Personal Development – Are you growing spiritually? Do you pray for yourself and your needs? Do you have talents you need to invest in developing? To what, if anything, do you listen during car or subway time? Do you need to set reading goals? Cancel or subscribe to some magazines? Have a hard talk with someone about your future?
The apostle Paul urges his readers to present their bodies to God as living sacrifices. What kind of sacrifice are you bringing with your life?
Adapted from Chai with Malachi (AMG).