Fruit and fruitfulness, Malachi 1

Fag Butts or First Fruits?

Malachi 1:6…

You priests despise me!

“You say, ‘Not so! How do we despise you?’

“By your shoddy, sloppy, defiling worship.

“You ask, ‘What do you mean, “defiling”? What’s defiling about it?’

7-8 “When you say, ‘The altar of God is not important anymore; worship of God is no longer a priority,’ that’s defiling. And when you offer worthless animals for sacrifices in worship, animals that you’re trying to get rid of—blind and sick and crippled animals—isn’t that defiling? Try a trick like that with your banker or your senator—how far do you think it will get you?” God-of-the-Angel-Armies asks you.

“Get on your knees and pray that I will be gracious to you. You priests have gotten everyone in trouble. With this kind of conduct, do you think I’ll pay attention to you?” God-of-the-Angel-Armies asks you.

10 “Why doesn’t one of you just shut the Temple doors and lock them? Then none of you can get in and play at religion with this silly, empty-headed worship. I am not pleased. The God-of-the-Angel-Armies is not pleased. And I don’t want any more of this so-called worship!

11 “I am honored all over the world. And there are people who know how to worship me all over the world, who honor me by bringing their best to me. They’re saying it everywhere: ‘God is greater, this God-of-the-Angel-Armies.’

12-13 “All except you. Instead of honoring me, you profane me. You profane me when you say, ‘Worship is not important, and what we bring to worship is of no account,’ and when you say, ‘I’m bored—this doesn’t do anything for me.’ You act so superior, sticking your noses in the air—act superior to meGod-of-the-Angel-Armies! And when you do offer something to me, it’s a hand-me-down, or broken, or useless. Do you think I’m going to accept it? This is God speaking to you!

14 “A curse on the person who makes a big show of doing something great for me—an expensive sacrifice, say—and then at the last minute brings in something puny and worthless! I’m a great king, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, honored far and wide, and I’ll not put up with it!”

Wow, this is a tough to read passage, even tougher when read in the contemporary language of the Message Bible.

The passage is about short changing God in worship.

Here in the passage Malachi accuses the priests of sacrificing blind animals and the runts of litters, when the Law of Moses said that the animals sacrifices were meant to be the first fruits, the best, not the worst of the crop.

David once said, “how can I offer God a sacrifice that has cost me nothing?”

I worry about much of the writings around modern Christian living (And I know got to get this sorted myself) but I worry that we sometimes pedal a ‘cost-less Christianity’ where people use phrases like “I didn’t get anything out of the worship today” -worship isn’t about what you get out of it, its because God deserves it.

Or people say “I’ve come to receive” -as St. Francis says “its in giving that we receive” yet we are so worried about what we get, that we don’t always think about giving, I believe that consumerism and individualism plague the western Church and are diametrically opposed to Kingdom living.

Or sometimes it is giving, but only what we are prepared to give, giving the stuff we were less bothered about anyway… My Training incumbent used to say instead of tithing “work out what you can afford and then give a little bit more”… that way you are always giving sacrificially rather than legalistically.

We talk about being culturally relevant, and I’m all for enabling people to encounter Jesus in the way they can understand, but I worry that sometimes we try to dumb down the words of Christ when he said “if anyone would follow me, he/she must forget self carry their cross and follow me”…

I often worry that sometimes Western Christianity feels like a hobby, and we come to Church only when there is nothing we’d rather do…

Our faith commitment sometimes can feel like that thing we do when we haven’t got anything better to do, and we wonder why the world doesn’t look at it and find it appealing (I’m not saying we aren’t under grace of course we are…) but when it comes to time with God or time serving God, does he simply get the fag butts of time rather than its first fruits -even as a minister it is easy to be so busy doing Churchy stuff that we don’t get time to spend with Jesus and we forget they are not the same thing.

It is very easy to say that we put God first, and it sounds spiritual, but  how does this work itself out in real life? Or does God just fall into line with our own wishes and desires.

I was at a meeting recently where there was a discussion about finding out God’s will… one guy said he thought it was all down to “willingness”;as the question isn’t really ever ‘does God talk’ but rather ‘do we want to hear’?

It never ceases to amaze me the tat that is dumped in Churches, too scruffy for my house but okay to be used for God’s service? -Not saying we ought to spend silly money on the latest stuff necessarily, but can you hear the underlying heart attitude?

A while ago  Mark has spoken about ‘the fear of the Lord’ and saying we need to re-establish our view of God’s awesome nature, rediscover God as God Almighty rather than just God All-Mate-y.

Although under the new covenant we don’t have to sacrifice sheep, goats and doves and so we’re probably not tempted to swap them over, but God does have our whole and entire lives as a ‘living sacrifice’ are we ‘short changing him’ by how we live.

Malachi asks ‘would you do this for you Governor’? -It’s an interesting question, do we treat God in a way we would be too embarrassed to treat another human being?

To be honest this whole thing is between you and God, we all know ourselves and this is to allow God’s Spirit to speak to what might be an uncomfortable area, but have the bravery to ask God the question and let him -who loves you- speak and challenge you, that you maybe purified like God.

I’ll end with a quote from an amazing song.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

that were an offering far too small,

Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

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