Flaring Faith

Shortly after one of the big west Texas oil booms began I was driving back to Andrews from Dallas fairly late. It’s a drive I’ve made, it feels like, a thousand times. As I left Big Spring to head towards Andrews, I was struck by the flares that just seemed to be burning everywhere. I could have almost driven to Andrews without headlights there were so many flares burning. The valuable oil was stored, piped, or shipped out, the worthless gas was burned. 

I read Malachi this morning. It’s probably my favorite of the minor prophets, the language is so direct and clear. Malachi also has a simple premise that applies as much to us today as it did to those to whom Malachi preached well over 2000 years ago. What you offer to God and how you offer it matters. 

God was angry with the priests and with the nation of Judah in general because the offerings they were giving to him had become the cast offs. Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy make God’s expectation clear, offerings given to him should be without blemish, the best of the herd the first fruits of the fields. By the time of Malachi, the people of Judah were offering animals that were blind and lame as their offerings. They were giving animals they had captured from other people rather than from their own flock. They were in essence, giving God what was left over. 

You and I don’t have to sacrifice animals on an altar, but we do still have to worship God. Too often, the gifts and praise we give God are our leftovers. We give God our Sunday morning if we don’t have some other priority or aren’t too tired. We give God Wednesday night if it doesn’t interfere with one of our other activities. We give God money if there is a little left over after we pay for everything else. Basically, we praise God when and how it suits us. 

God is pretty clear in Malachi 3:8-9 (ESV) what he thinks of this kind of offering, of this kind of worship: “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me.” As we burn up the gas we cannot use out here, God will burn up worthless praise offered lazily up to him. 

At the beginning of the book, God notes that the people say in their hearts “What a weariness this is” (Malachi 1:13, ESV), referring to worshipping God. I doubt you’ve ever said those exact words and I doubt the people of Judah did either, but that’s how they acted and how we sometimes act. We act as though worshipping God is wearisome. Far from desiring to praise our savior with our first fruits (the best we have to offer), we drag ourselves to church and give him 1-3 hours a week because we want to “raise our kids in a Christian home.” 

Every cheesy Rom-Com ever has reminded us that it is not about what you are doing, but being in love with the person you’re doing it with. If you’re in love, a burger and fries can be as deeply romantic as 5-star fare if you are giving them the best of yourself. It ceases to be romantic when you give them your “leftover” time and spend your “leftover” money. Imagine how you would feel if you husband or wife, friend or family, girlfriend or boyfriend only gave you the leftovers of their time and even then only when they felt like it. 

And yet, that is exactly what we too often give God. Our leftovers, when we feel like it. And we expect the God of the universe, the creator of all things to be okay with that? Seriously? We expect him to be okay with our leftovers? Your worship, your offering to God, is on no one but you. Not your husband or wife, not your friends or family, not your boyfriend or girlfriend, not your pastor or your worship pastor…it is on you and you alone. God is the God of Justice and he will accept nothing less than your first fruits (the best you have to offer). So will your gift  be acceptable and pleasing to God or will he burn it off just like we burn of the gas we cannot use? Will God be flaring your faith?

Romans 12:1-2 and Matthew 14:14-28 will give you a big hint about what God is looking for in your life. 

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