The moment someone refers to a “plate” in church, the focus of virtually everyone in the pews goes to money. That’s what I used to do but, oh how that misses the point!
In studying the Book of Malachi once again I was taken with the message God was delivering to the spiritual leaders in Israel. God was indicting them for their actions but at the same time it was an indictment of all Israel… so go the leaders, so go the people! And in Chapter 1 there were four key areas in which the leaders and the nation were failing. Yes, tithes and offerings were an issue, but the indictment went much deeper than that. Here are the challenges that hit me as I read through God’s message, challenges that are asking us today… what are we putting into the plate that isn’t money?
Mal 1:6a “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence?
What have we been putting into the plate on Sunday? Are we like the priests in Israel that were only putting in “lip-service” in their worship? It’s one thing to stand up and say that Jesus is our Lord, our bridegroom, but it’s something altogether different to demonstrate that fact in our life. Just verbally affirming that He is Lord without submitting to Him is making a false profession of our faith to all those with whom we come in contact. And Malachi voiced God’s response to that; we despise God’s name. Whatever we are offering God is “tainted” when we offer Him anything that is not our best. Remember that the Lord inspects the giver before He inspects the gift; He looks at our heart before He looks at what we are offering. The message… Put yourself in the offering plate before you put in your offering!
Mal 1:8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil?
What are we giving to the Lord? Is it our very best or is it what Israel was giving… the sick, the blind, the lame, the blemished, the second best. Sadly there is a lot of giving like that in the church today; giving God what is left over, what can be spared, or what costs very little. I am reminded of this every time I wear a necklace that holds something very special that I asked a dear friend to bring me from Jerusalem… a mite. It is the same mite that the widow put into the collection box as Jesus watched (Luke 21:3); the two mites that represented all that she had. I wrote a story about the mite that I wear around my neck in The Coin. It reminds me that when I give to the Lord, He values it based upon the fact that my heart precedes the gift into the plate. The message… a gift that is truly a sacrifice, a gift that costs me something to give it.
Mal 1:10 “Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,” Says the Lord of hosts, “Nor will I accept an offering from your hands.
Are we just putting our gift in the plate on Sunday morning without putting any of ourselves into His service? Has our walk become more like religion, just going through the motions without any purpose other than showing up on Sunday? Israel had retained all her traditional forms of worship, but they had lost all the joy and honor that comes with serving Him. And what did God do? He raised up “another people” who would honor Him… 11a My name shall be great among the Gentiles. The message… We are those “other people”… but are we in reality a kingdom of priests and a light to the nations that we have been called to be?
Mal 1:13 You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!‘ And you sneer at it,” Says the Lord of hosts.
Have our Profession, our Gifts, our Service, and our Time just become a burden on our life? Has our worship become perfunctory, casual? We would be wise to remember what response that brought from God for Israel…
13b-14 “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the Lord. 14a “But cursed be the deceiver Who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, But sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished…
We have no problem sitting through a four hour game, a long opera or symphony and never lose our enthusiasm. But then comes Sunday morning and the plate is passed and our enthusiasm has vanished. Could it be because we left ourselves at the game, the opera, or the symphony on Saturday? The message… We all need to check our offerings and see what they contain. Is there any indifference, carelessness, or half-heartedness behind our offering?