Shortchanging God

Exodus 20_3 (1)

As of late within the church, there are some things that have been grabbing my attention, which I will speak on here today. Before I get into those things, however, I want to start by expounding on a passage, with similarity to today’s topic, in Malachi chapter 1. (Note: reading verses 6-14 before beginning may be helpful.) There, God brings correction to Israel about their polluted offerings. 

Starting in verse 6 of our chapter, God says (through Malachi): “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My fear [reverence]? … O priests who despise My name.” So we see here that God is addressing Israel’s priests, as they were responsible for what entered the sanctuary and what didn’t.

In part b of verse 6, Judah responds with a question: “How have we despised Your name?”

God answers: “By offering polluted food upon My altar” (verse7a).

“But you say,” God goes on, “‘How have we polluted You?’”

He tells them, “By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised” (verse 7b). (Note: the people were saying, without ‘saying’, that the Lord’s table may be despised by their actions, by their offering forbidden animal sacrifices on it, as shown in the next verse.) 

“When you offer blind animals in sacrifice,” God says, “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” (verse 8).

“And now,” they say (this is God speaking on Israel’s request for favor), “entreat the favor of God, that He may be gracious to us” (verse 9a).

God answers, “With such a gift from your hand, will He show favor to any of you? … Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on My altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you … and I will not accept an offering from your hand” (verses 9b-10). (Note: it is shown here that God would rather the doors of the temple [church, today] be closed than to bring vain, worthless worship before Him.)

Jumping down to verse 14, God says, “Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and My name will be feared among the nations.”

Now, in this passage, we see that God was displeased with the sacrifices Israel was bringing Him. Notice also that when confronted with these truths, through the prophet Malachi, Israel responds two times with, “How?How have we despised Your name? How have we polluted You? The people had become so lax in their sacrificing and worship, that they couldn’t even see what they were doing wrong.

Another thing to note – something I pointed out earlier – is that it wasn’t anything Israel was saying aloud to God (at this time) that caused His displeasure, but it was their actions that spoke volumes. They’d become careless in their offerings, offering animals with blemish – blind, lame, and sick – when God had specifically prohibited those things (see Leviticus 1; 22:20-23).

In the church today, I see things taking place that goes against God’s words as well (I will speak only on two things). No, it has nothing to do with animal sacrifices, as Jesus’ death, the ultimate sacrifice, has atoned for the sins of mankind (the animal sacrifices were a shadow of that). But it does have to do with honor and modesty.

Modesty

In 1 Timothy 2, after addressing the men of the church, Paul says this concerning the women of the church: “Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works” (verses 9-10, ESV). The King James Version of these verses read: “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness [i.e., turning from what’s unbecoming, showing respect for others] and sobriety [self-control, integrity of mind], not with broided [braided] hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array, but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”

Now, before I begin, to those who may say, Modesty is a matter of the heart, I will say, “I concur.” Modesty is, indeed, a matter of the heart. However, here, Paul is speaking on modesty concerning one’s attire (those in the church of Christ)—which is, honestly, a reflection of the heart.

So, we see that Paul says, in 1 Timothy 2, that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel… However, many today enter God’s church in disrespectful apparel. What do I mean? I see various instances where women are in ripped jeans, workout clothing, off-the-shoulder shirts (in some cases, way off the shoulders), in dresses that leave nothing to the imagination… And, in many of these cases, the women adorning themselves in these things aren’t babes (at least in terms of timing) who are still learning to walk, but women who’ve been in the church for quite some time. Yet, they still believe this is okay for God’s house.

But, think about it, would that attire be acceptable for (professional) places of employment? Would we wear these pieces to a (professional) job interview? Or, to use an example similar to God’s words above, would we present ourselves like that to our governors? Many won’t even wear what they wear to church to a wedding… So, why do we feel like we can shortchange God? Why do we feel it’s okay to go to His house, into His presence any kind of way? I’ll tell you why: 1) it’s because of wrong/lax leadership (as was the case with Israel’s leadership), and 2) it’s because we have this twisted view in the church of “come as you are.”

I believe that notion stems from Matthew 11:28, where Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened…” but that is a terrible “translation.” (That verse is speaking of the spiritual state, not clothing.)

Ladies, God deserves honor and respect. But by these actions, which can be likened to bringing a blemished animal before Him for sacrifice, He’s being dishonored and disrespected.

Now, on the flipside, does this mean that if you aren’t currently able to buy decent (not showy or flashy) dress clothes you shouldn’t attend service? No. By all means, wear the best that you have until God provides the way to get more (I’ve had to do that myself following significant weight loss). This post is speaking to the sisters who can afford to dress in apparel suitable for the church but choose not to (some based on what they see their “leadership” doing).

Sisters, we should never give more honor to a governor, or an employer, or an interviewer than we give to God (the great King!). Because, contrary to popular opinion, it does matter (our dress outside of the church matters as well).

Honor

The second and last thing I want to mention concerns the carelessness many display toward the church, versus the ambition displayed toward the world. What do I mean? I mean that when it comes to worldly endeavors, such as working, going out with acquaintances, working out, or going shopping for a new outfit, etc., there’s no problem (even if we have to drag ourselves there). But when it comes to going to church, or fulfilling a duty we’ve committed to concerning the church, the time or energy isn’t there, or we just don’t feel like it (lackadaisical like Israel, see verse13 of our chapter), and God will understand.

Where is the honor in that?

Yes, sisters, God is understanding, He’s loving, He’s caring, and if we’re extremely ill or have an important matter that arises which will conflict with our church responsibilities, He will understand and not throw us away. Nevertheless, we should never use these awesome aspects of God’s character as a crutch for irresponsibility, as a means of putting other “gods” (like self) before Him. God’s grace was never meant to be used as a scapegoat for outright rebellion, but to help us to live our lives in surrender to Christ, honoring Him in everything that we do.

In Closing

That said, sisters, let us seek to do better by God. Let us seek to grow in relationship with Him. Never be okay with simply scratching the surface in this walk; you must give it all you’ve got. And in time, you will notice that the more you give of yourself (in making time for Bible study and quality time with God), the more you will grow in the truth and knowledge of God. And the more you grow in those areas, the more you will see yourself transformed and conformed into the image of Christ, which will transform the way that you think, and your attire.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30

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