Links Daily Devotional

Sunday Best?

“When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 1:8, NIV)

I recently played rounds of golf at two courses that still do not allow short pants to be worn on site. Rainy day, sunny day, it doesn’t matter—slacks only, please.

Much of this has to do with undying traditions, of course. But when we go back to the purpose of any tradition, we often find an infusion of nobility. That is, people wanted to do what they saw as the right thing. If we dismiss tradition as tradition and miss a core of righteousness, we can find ourselves in real trouble.

Consider the sexual mores of our time. Far looser in the West than in the past. The idea of a couple waiting until they are married to sleep together? A quaint relic of tradition. At least that’s what we’re told. But what if that quaint relic is the teaching of Scripture? What if it is God’s plain instruction for his people? “Keep the marriage bed pure.” According to God, that “tradition” is meant for all places and all times; it is not a variable of culture.

So what about nice dress? There’s no scriptural directive there: “Thou shalt wear slacks and a belt, with your shirt tucked in.” It is a tradition of the world, much like the long-time church standard of wearing one’s “Sunday best.” And yet sit with an older Christian friend, or one who attends a church where suits and ties and long dresses are in order for worship, and here is what you’ll hear: “I like to give my best for God.” Sure this can get carried away. A man can sport Armani to accentuate his wealth; a woman can carry Coach to show she’s got style. God will see right through this falsehood. But the core thinking of those who do this right remains excellent: honor God with your finest.

Now let’s check this against Scripture. We certainly find the idea of offering high-quality sacrifices in the Old Testament. Malachi is among the several prophets to whom the Lord gave words like these to the Israelites: “Give me your best.”

But not all Old Testament directives apply in Jesus’ economy of grace. We have to verify that the same thread runs through the New Testament. And in this case, it surely does. Paul wrote to the Romans that their very bodies were to be offered as “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1) and to the Corinthians that believers are to honor God with our bodies because we were “bought at a price,” which was the sacrifice of Christ himself (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

It’s hard to apply this concept of excellence for God in a blanket fashion. You know where you have been serving God wholeheartedly and where you have been holding back. You know if you have been offering God “blind animals” while giving your “governor”—your boss, your tailor, your builder, your attorney, your club president—better sacrifices. You know, and God knows. So you do well to keep reminding yourself: “If the two-penny widow gave all she had, I too must give God the very best I can.”

Jeff Hopper

September 25, 2013

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