Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Useless Fires

"Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors,
so that you would not light useless fires on my altar!
I am not pleased with you," says the LORD Almighty,
"and I will accept no offering from your hands."
(Malachi 1:10, NIV)

There my father and I stood in the dark, using my cell phone as a flashlight, pumping and repumping the switch as we hoped to get the fire to take hold. It was no good. The water heater was broken, and we were very, very frustrated. As I relit the water heater for the tenth time, it finally dawned on me that I was lighting a useless fire. 

It seems unbelievable that God would reject an offering, but it speaks to who He is.  God doesn't need our offering. He doesn't give us credit for giving Him the things no one else wants. It's called a sacrifice for a reason.

I'm reminded of an episode of Friends ("The One With the Home Study") in which Phoebe and Mike have a hard time deciding if they should have a large wedding or donate the money to charity. They go back and forth several times before the charity clerk tells them, "On behalf of the children of New York, I reject your money." What? Don't charities need donations?  Yes, but not like that.

Neither does God want us to bring things to Him with the wrong motives. In the Old Testament, there were rules on what should be given, but the modern church struggles with what is appropriate. I don't just mean tithing. I mean giving our time to help those in need. I mean giving a kind word when an harsh one would be socially acceptable. I mean choosing not to do something so that you can give quality time to someone. I mean giving to charities and "non-church" organizations that do great work. If you, like me, ever think about these things, here are a few Scripture verses to help you figure out what God is asking you to give:

Give something.
"Some people give much but get back even more. Others don’t give what they should and end up poor" (Proverbs 11:24, NCV).

Give more than money, but also give money.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former" (Matthew 23:23, NIV).

Give in response to what you have been given.
"Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you" (Deuteronomy 16:17, NIV).

Give what you want, but how God wants.
"Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV).

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