When I was in student ministry, I distinctly remember a lesson our student minister used that has stuck with me for years. He went around the room and gave each student a handful of Skittles. After he passed them all out, he “realized” he hadn’t given any to the leaders, so he made a plan: we’d each give up 1 or 2 Skittles, and if we all did this, the leaders (and the students) would all have about the same number of Skittles. We all agreed and were all willing to give up a Skittle or two.
But can you guess which ones we gave away? Right, the ones we didn’t like. The ones we were disappointed we got in the first place. We gave away the “worst” of our Skittles, because who would want to risk getting rid of one they were excited about?
We all too often approach our relationship with God the same way. He calls us to do or say or give something, so we find the least we can do to skirt by. The Israelites had the same temptations. God used animal sacrifice in the Old Testament as a way of the people atoning for their sins, and in a way, worshiping God. They were supposed to bring their first fruit, the best of the flock, and lay it at the altar of the Lord. But in Malachi, we see a different picture. The Israelites had figured out that it cost a lot less to bring a weak lamb to the altar, than to offer the best of their flock. The weak lamb is going to die anyway, right? It just makes the most practical sense.
Malachi writes, “When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not wrong? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not wrong? Try presenting that to your governor; will he be pleased with you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts.” The Israelites had figured out a way to game the system, or so they thought - to still make sacrifices, but do so in a way that costs them nothing. In doing so, they missed the heart of God, who longs to be honored and worshiped for the value he is worth. We’ve talked before that worship literally means ascribing worth to someone or something. We don’t use the word ascribe much anymore, so we could define it as “showing value.” After all that God had done for the Israelites, was the weak lamb the best they could muster to show the value they placed in God’s provision? A lamb that’s already dying, barely hanging on, that costs them nothing?
What about you and me? Are we offering what we don’t really want anyway? The Skittle we’d probably rather just throw away? What kind of value does that show to the One who saved us and gave us new life in Him? When we come before the Lord in worship, let’s not miss the bigger picture, the opportunity we have to show value to the One we (hopefully) value most. Let’s not settle for a check-the-box, going- through-the-motions approach, looking for the least we can offer. Instead, may we offer our hearts and our lives to the Lord with the depth and highest value we can, because He alone is worthy of the best we can offer, and honestly, so much more. But we can start there.