When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts (Malachi 1:8, ESV)
We get gifts for people all the time for all different kinds of occasions: birthdays, weddings, house warming parties, dinners. Buying all those gifts elicit many different questions and emotions.
How much do I spend? Is it enough? Too much? Is this appropriate? I don’t want to look cheap. I don’t want my gift to look cheap. Sometimes we spend more than we should if we want to impress someone.
Generally, we try to buy nice gifts that don’t look small, cheap or shabby. The gifts we give are blemish free, and aren’t broken. We don’t want to embarrass ourselves.
Malachi 1:8 implies that the Israelites felt the same way we do about giving gifts, especially those who held a place of honor. They would never present something subpar to the governor!
But that’s exactly what they were giving to God: animals that were blind, lame, or sick. These were animals that were being sacrificed to cover their sins, and God demanded blemish free sacrifices. Can you imagine giving God a subpar gift, but expecting God to hold up His end of the deal wholly?
The actions of the Israelites said something about the the way they were honoring God, and God called their actions evil.
God doesn’t ask for animal sacrifices anymore, and he doesn’t ask for gifts. But God does ask for something: time.
When we care about people, we spend time with them, we think about them, and we talk to them.
How often do you think about God? I am certain there are people in your life you think about all the time: family members, girlfriend or boyfriend, coworkers, celebrities you admire, i.e., you idols, and even people you’re angry probably get more thought than God does. I think many people think about God only when they’re at church, or when they need something.
How much time do you spend reading? How much time do you spend reading God’s Word? Do you think about what you’ve read?
How much time do you spend in prayer? How much is prayer as Jesus taught us to pray, or is it a list of “I wants,” or worse, the same prayer over and over again. Can you imagine if your friend came over and said the same thing over and over to you day after day?
Obviously, I could go on.
We can ask the same questions about time with God, that I asked earlier about gifts for others. How much do I spend? Is it enough? Too much? Is it appropriate? I don’t want to look cheap. I don’t want my time to look cheap. Sometimes we spend more than we should if we want to impress someone.
Is it quality time?
We fill our days with talk, reading, golf, video games, television, work, physical fitness, and hundreds of other things. We never have time for it all. God gets penciled in for Sunday mornings. Maybe.
For a lot of us, God is an afterthought during the week. He gets the leftovers, if there are any. The actions of the Israelites said something about how much honor they weren’t giving to God, and I think the actions of us say the same thing. There is definitely a flaw in the way we schedule time for God; it’s blemished. Yet just like the Israelites, we expect God to show us favor.
So how much time should you spend? I don’t know. You should probably ask God.