Summary: God challenges His people to be authentically devoted to Him.
I voted to close the church; not intentionally, not maliciously perhaps, but carelessly, thoughtlessly, lazily, indifferently, I voted. I voted to close its doors that its witness and its testimony might be stopped. I voted to close the open Bible on its pulpit . . . The Bible that had been given us by years of struggle and by the blood of martyrs who died that we might have it to read. For, you see, I could have gone and I should have gone, but I didn’t. I could have prayed and I should have prayed, but I didn’t. I could have tithed and I should have tithed, but I didn’t. I could have served and I should have served, but I didn’t. And, as a result, I voted to close the church.
Malachi speaks to the people of God in his day about the importance of authenticity. I believe it is a message God’s people today need to hear, as well. For if we were to sum up in one phrase our responsibility as Christians, it would be nothing more, nothing less, and nothing other than to honor God through a commitment that is authentic.
1. God’s expectation is that we honor Him - v. 6a
Just as an earthly father or master has the right to expect honor, our heavenly Father and Master has the right to expect to be honored in the lives of those who belong to Him. God’s expectation that His children honor Him with authentic commitment is echoed through-out Scripture.
“Let all that I am praise the LORD; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.” - Psalm 103:1 (NLT)
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” - Mark 12:30 (NIV)
“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.” - Romans 12:1 (Amplified)
The problem with too many of us is that we like to think of the privilege of having God as our Father and Master, but not of the responsibility that goes along with that special relationship.
“One of the biggest problems in the church today is that we emphasize God’s promises more than His demands.” - Chuck Colson
God not only makes promises to us; He makes demands of us. As our heavenly Father and Master, He demands that we honor all that He is with all that we are. But too many of us find it easier to “go through the motions” than to authentically, whole-heartedly, honor God with the devotion of our lives. We find it is easier to sing than to be sincere.
“A charge to keep I have, a God to glorify.” But, Lord, expect no cash from me, Your glory comes too high. “Am I a soldier of the cross, I follower of the Lamb?” Yes, though I seldom ever pray, I still insist I am. “Must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free?” No, others, Lord, should do their part, but please don’t count on me.” “Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise Him all creatures, here below.” Loud songs of praise I like to bring, because it doesn’t cost to sing.
God expects His people to honor Him with authentic devotion.
2. God’s definition of what it means to honor Him - vs. 6b-9; 11-14
What does it mean to honor God with authentic devotion? It means to give God our best. These priests dishonored God by not offering their best. Their questions and statements reveal two things:
A. This problem hadn’t developed overnight - vs. 6-7
No doubt, you’re heard the illustration of the frog in the kettle. The idea is that if a frog is placed in a pot of boiling water, the frog will immediately jump out. But if the frog was placed in the water while it is yet cool, and then heated gradually, the frog will adapt to the gradual changes in temperature until it boils to death!
They had been “frogs in a kettle” - an environment had gradually developed, through one compromise after another, where honoring God by offering their best was no longer the accepted standard; but offering God what should be rejected had become commonplace. Notice verse 8. Malachi basically says, “Try paying your taxes to the government by giving it worthless things. No, the government gets its hand into the paycheck first and takes its share right off the top. Always. But God is more important than the government; so why do people think they can get away with giving him inferior gifts?”