It’s an old story, one I heard as a boy. About the turn of the 20th century, a missionary who was working in Central Asia saw a mother of twins, both babies under her arms, walking slowly, deliberately towards the river. Understanding the local belief that twins were cursed and that one should be sacrificed to the gods by throwing it in the local river, he wondered if this fate was in the mind of the woman who walked so slowly that morning.

Hours later, he saw the same woman, bearing one child. And then it struck him. When the woman walked by in the morning, she was carrying two children: one child was perfectly normal, and the other child was deformed. And it was the child with the clubfoot which she was carrying back to her village.

Overcome with curiosity, the missionary approached her and inquired as to the fate of the other child. She explained that she had offered the child as a sacrifice to her god. “But why not the child with the bad foot?” With indignation she replied, “My god demands my best–not my second best!”

There are all kinds of applications which can be made from a story such as I’ve just related, yet as I was reading the Old Testament book of Malachi, I couldn’t help noticing that giving God our second best is something people have been doing for a long, long time.

Malachi was a 5th-century prophet, one of the last of the Old Testament voices. He lived before that long period of prophetic silence which was ended when John the Baptist raised his voice at the Jordan. In his book, Malachi records the rebuke of God, who chided his people for pawning off on Him gifts or sacrifices which nobody else would want.

God wants our best–not our second best. Yet, according to Malachi, these people brought animals as sacrifices to the temple that were diseased or crippled. “`When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong?'” asked God. “… ‘Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?’ says the Lord Almighty” (Malachi 1:8).

We’ve come a long way in our thinking from the days when we actually brought something as a sacrifice for the Almighty. No longer do we think of giving anything to God, but instead we think of what we can get out of Him. Our grandparents went to church, to give worship and praise to the Almighty. Today, however, we go to church “to get a blessing!” We walk out measuring the success of the service by what we got out of it, not what we put into it.

Instead of giving, it’s getting! Instead of worship, our focus is on receiving a blessing, which is often a euphemism for “being entertained.” We’ve come 180 degrees from what God’s original plan was. Question: Have we lost sight of a spiritual principle which is changeless? God demands our best, not our second or a token of charity. Is grace entirely a transaction of “getting things from God” apart from giving Him our worship, our allegiance, our very best?

Charity is enough, we think. Put some money in the plate. Yes, remember the poor at Christmas. Take a tax write-off and donate your old piano–the one which you can’t even give away. This, however, falls far, far short of your best. A final thought: God isn’t interested in tokens of charity. He is satisfied only with your best.

Resource Reading: Matthew 16:24-28

Text: “When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. Malachi 1:13

GUIDELINES with Harold Sala – October 20, 2017