We are admonished by Jesus Christ, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-38).
This tells us that God expects us not to hold back in any area of our lives—instead of settling for mediocrity, we are to give our very best. In practical terms, the more we develop our full potential through personal and spiritual growth, the more we can be of service to God and express His love through our service and contribution.
The book of Malachi contains some strong admonitions to the people of Israel: “‘You offer defiled food on My altar, but say, “In what way have we defiled You?” By saying, “The table of the Lord is contemptible...” You also say, “Oh, what a weariness!” and you sneer at it,’ says the Lord of hosts… ‘And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?’ Says the Lord” (Malachi 1:7, 13).
Is there a principle that applies to our lives today—even at a time when we do not make animal sacrifices?
“‘But cursed be the deceiver who has in his flock a male, and takes a vow, sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished—For I am a great King,’ says the Lord of Hosts, ‘And My name is to be feared among the nations’” (Malachi 1:14).
There was deception and hypocrisy on the part of those who made sacrifices—the people pretended to follow God’s instructions, but they did it grudgingly and half-heartedly. They were not fully obedient to God and did not offer their best; they just offered what they didn’t really want anyway. They were not grateful and generous.
This principle is illustrated in other places in the Bible. For example, why was the offering of Abel accepted?
“And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering” (Genesis 4:3-5).
Abel’s offering was respected because he gave “of the firstborn of his flock and their fat” (Genesis 4:4). The Hebrew word cheleb translated as “fat” in this verse also means the “choicest, best part.” Abel truly had a giving attitude.
Why was Cain’s offering not accepted? God said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?” Cain did not “do well” with his offering. Something was not up to par.
Another example can be found in the New Testament. Ananias and Sapphira had the same attitudes as both Cain and the people of Malachi’s time. Some of the wealthier brethren sold land and gave all the proceeds to the apostles for distribution to those in need. Ananias and Sapphira gave only part of the proceeds, claiming they gave it all. They were hypocritical in that they lied and pretended to be more generous than they actually were. In reality they had a selfish, stingy way of thinking (Acts 5:1-11).
Contrast that with the attitude of the widow whom Jesus Christ praised for her attitude. We read in Mark 12 that “Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood’” (Mark 12:41-44).
What can we learn from those examples? They all address the commandment Jesus Christ gave us: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).
Where are we falling short on giving the best of what we have—and who we can be—to God?
The example of the widow’s two mites shows that this is not about comparing ourselves among ourselves; it’s not about who is giving the most. Are we giving the best of what we have in terms of our time, our priorities, our resources, our talents and even our skill development?
We all fall short to some degree or another. If we do not realize that, we can become lukewarm and accept mediocrity (Revelation 3:14-18). This can lead to a spiritual version of polluted offerings—giving God much less than what we are able to.
To grow spiritually we need to ask ourselves: How can we develop a generous, unselfish and giving attitude toward God and our neighbor? How can we give of the best of what we have? Do we give Him the time of the day when we are most fresh and alert to study His word? Or do we just squeeze it in somewhere, so we fulfill our “obligation” to Him grudgingly?
Do we follow God’s instructions with enthusiasm and in the best way we can?
For example, what is our focus at the Feast each year? Having a great vacation, or growing spiritually in the depth of our understanding, in the level of our commitment to God and in our service to others?
Cain was jealous of his brother because Abel’s offering was respected. When God appears to be more involved in the life of someone else than ours, is it because God is not fair? No. If we want more of God in our lives, we need to give more of ourselves to God. James wrote, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8).
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).
Where and how have we been holding back in serving God? Let’s give Him the best of our time, talent, resources, energy and enthusiasm! In return He will give us all we need to fulfill the purpose that He has in store for us—in this life and as members of His family forever. GN