Summary: Stewardship is our chance to honor God
In the prophecy of Malachi, we find that God was not pleased with His people. The Lord had been put on the national "back burner." God preferred the honesty of no worship at all to this hypocritical show of paying lip-service to honoring God. Worship had degenerated into nothing but form. There was no powerful, dynamic relationship between the holy God of Abraham and the children of Israel. They had allowed both their sacrifices to God and their attitudes toward God to become "blemished." They weren’t giving, nor did they care about giving their best.
The church of God today must also be careful to offer acceptable worship to God. We have a tendency in our day to do what pleases ourselves, rather than what pleases God.
Stewardship is a part of worship. Giving to God anything less than our very best means we dishonor Him when we worship. The most evident expression and demonstration of that worship is a matter of what we do with those talents and material possessions with which God has entrusted his children. God is the owner, we are but managers of what He owns. Giving is that recognition; God owns everything, and we worship Him.
Today we want to examine the offering plate to see what is typically given to God. First we see:
The Polluted Offering
Malachi 1: 6 - 13 6A son honors his father, and servants their master. If then I am a father, where is the honor due me? And if I am a master, where is the respect due me? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. You say, “How have we despised your name?” 7By offering polluted food on my altar. And you say, “How have we polluted it?” By thinking that the LORD’S table may be despised. 8When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not wrong? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not wrong? Try presenting that to your governor; will he be pleased with you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. 9And now implore the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. The fault is yours. Will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts. 10Oh, that someone among you would shut the temple£ doors, so that you would 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 hands. 11For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts. 12But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and the food for it may be despised. 13“What a weariness this is,” you say, and you sniff at me, 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. (NRSVA)
Giving our best to the Lord honors Him. God told His people from the beginning they were to bring only the best (Lev 22.20 -- "But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you.") God’s reason for laying that down as the pattern is that it helped each person worship more effectively.
A wild animal cost nothing but the time to capture it, but the best lamb of a man’s flock was costly. King David (2Sa 24.24) refused to offer anything that wasn’t the best. Do you do that? Do you give God the best you have?
Around our household, the standard designation for anything less than our best is, "Missionary tea bags." Years ago we learned that some affluent (but cheapskate) people would save their used tea bags to "send them to the missionaries." It is not your best for the Lord that way.
There are grave consequences for "playing at church" when it comes to God’s offering. Notice v.8, the prophet tells them to try to offer those same kinds of blemished animals as payment of legal debts and tax levies.
Malachi was like the Don Rickles of the prophets. Rickles made a show business career out of insulting his audience. Malachi’s message was, "Try paying your income tax with the kind of trash you’re passing off as worship for the King of Glory. If the governor won’t accept it, what makes you think it won’t tick God off?" Whatever you give, make certain it isn’t polluted -- it should be your best, not your leftovers; don’t bring your "missionary tea bags."