Offering Second Rate Gifts to a First Rate God

Malachi 1:6-14

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Well my friends, the holiday shopping season has officially started. With Black Friday already behind us, whether we like it or not, we have indeed entered in the Christmas buying season for yet another year.

When it comes to buying presents for those special people in our lives, I think that most of us follow roughly the same line of thinking. Sure, we want to be conscious of how much we spend and we want to take advantage of every bargain and sale that we can. But, most of us are not going to sacrifice giving the best gift we can just so that we can save a buck. No, generally speaking and in the end, no matter how hard we try, we are going to spend more than we intended to over the holidays. Why? Because we do want the gifts that we give to communicate our love and we do want our time together with family and with special friends to be the very best experience that it can be. As a result, no matter how much we tell ourselves to stick to our budgets, most of us are going to choose the best things over the cheapest things every time if we feel it is a way of expressing how we really feel.

There really is nothing new about this way of thinking. But, when it came to the Old Testament book of Malachi and the prophet’s observation of how his contemporaries were approaching their relationship with God, he recognizes that they were taking exactly the opposite approach. Rather than giving God their best, they were giving God whatever allowed them just to get by. Instead of seeing their offering and gifts in worship as a sign of how much they loved God, their religious habits had become just another way of checking the spiritual boxes in their lives. As a result, rather than giving God their very best and through those gifts expressing what a central place God had in their lives, they were giving God their leftovers. They were giving God whatever helped them just to get by. And, whether intentionally or unintentionally this way of acting said all that needed to be said about what place God really had in their lives.

What about us? What does the time that we give to God, what does the priority that we give to the kingdom of God and what do the gifts that we offer to God say about how much we love the Lord? Do these aspects of our lives indicate a deep, abiding, profound love for and commitment to God? Or, do our offerings and our gifts, indicate that God only gets what is leftover in our lives?

My fear is that for many of us in 2012, our lives resemble those of the Israelites in Malachi’s day a little more closely than we would like to admit. My fear is that we really do give God our left over time, our spare possessions and whatever energy and resources we can afford after everything else in our lives is taken care of and tended to in full. We may think this is sufficient and this is okay, after all we gave God something didn’t we? But, in reality, my hunch is that God feels about the same in regards to our spiritual offerings as God felt about those being offered in Malachi’s day.

As you all know, our family has been in the process of settling into our new home here in Laurens over the last month or so. As is always the case when you move, I have found myself reminiscing at times as I have unpacked various long time possessions that are both large and small that have been given to us over the years. Many, many times there are stories attached and quite regularly I am reminded of the people who shared those gifts with us. Though many of these items were given to us long ago, all these years later they still retain a sense of the love and care of the special life friends who gave them to us. Those gifts really do speak of the affection that we have for one another.

Today, the Lord’s table is before us. Like no other act, this meal reminds us of God’s gift to us. God didn’t give any of us leftovers. God gave us the very best that God could offer – God’s very own son.

In light of this unspeakable gift, how do we feel about the gifts that we give to God? Oh, make no mistake, even if we do give our very best, our gifts can never truly compare. But, in all honestly, do our gifts even attempt to mirror God’s desire to offer us the very best expression of love possible? This is the question that we must all wrestle with. Not just today, but every day. Amen.