With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day near, the idea of finding the right gift is forefront. Some people are really hard to shop for (my father for instance). But for other’s it is not that you don’t know what they would like, but you want to find that perfect gift, the one that best shows your affection or appreciation for that special someone. The struggle is real. What kind of thought do you put into the gifts you give God?
Proverbs 21:3 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice.
Note that “sacrifice” here is referring to the ceremonial sacrifices performed in the temple. Of course, no one does that now so does this even apply to modern life? I believe it does. Even though we don’t sacrifice animals or incense, there is a deeper principle that this verse talks about.
The point that Solomon was making is that God desires obedience and godliness above religion and duty. What good is it for us to serve in church, to do good for others, or give to the poor, if our hearts are corrupt?
1 Corinthians 13:3 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
God cares more about our hearts and motives than He does about what we actually do. God doesn’t want followers who are only in it for attention, status, or a get-out-of-Hell-free card. He doesn’t want a church full of people who don’t care about others, who only serve because they know they are supposed to. He cares more about transformation of the heart than mere outward obedience. Christ gave a stark warning about this to the religious people of His day:
Matthew 23:27-28 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
There is a difference. Outward service without inward change is hypocrisy. Our goal should not be to look good to others, or to earn something from God, it should be godliness. We should strive to transform our hearts to be like God’s, not merely try to “be good.” If our hearts are like God’s then our actions will be like His as well. Our actions are only mirrors of what is in our hearts.
The two foremost commandments that sum up every other law in the Bible are to love God and others. Some use that as an excuse to not follow the actual law, saying that God wants love more than obedience, but Christ says it differently…
John 14:21 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.
Obedience is love.
There can be obedience without love, but there cannot be love without obedience. That is how we love God and others, by doing what the Bible says. We should not have one without the other. We should obey out of love, not out of duty or fear.
So what gift do you give to God? Do you give Him the gift of your heart, or only of duty?