This week, in our Connect Groups at Southern Calvert Baptist Church, we are finishing up our last study on the Old Testament. This has been a two year journey. Our goal was to walk through the entire Bible over a three year period. It took us about 2 years to get to where we are now and that means that we will walk through the New Testament in one year. This week, our focus is on Malachi, the last book before God goes silent for 400 years.
Have you ever heard people say that the reason that they do not attend church is because everyone there is a hypocrite? That’s a terrible excuse because there are hypocrites everywhere. You will find them at Walmart, Cracker Barrel, ballgames, and any other place where people gather. It is easy for us to become hypocritical. As we have walked through 4,000 years of Old Testament history, we have seen the children of Israel slip into hypocrisy over and over again. It’s easy to see it in them but, can we spot it in ourselves? As we look at Malachi, let’s see if we see ourselves in any of these situations.
I. Worshiping to be seen by others
The people’s hearts are far from God, yet, they come and worship Him publicly so that they can and will be seen by others. God is not fooled by this facade of phony faith. He knows that their hearts are far from Him, even though they make a public display of worship.
” ‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’ (Malachi 1:6)
God calls out the facade of phony faith. The people brag about worshiping God yet, in their daily lives, they do not show honor to God. They do not show respect to God. It is all lip service manifested in phony worship. In fact, God accuses them of despising His name. How do they show contempt to God?
7 “You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ In that you say, ‘The table of the LORD is to be despised.’
8 “But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 1)
They look down on God by the fact that they do not obey Him. They choose to do what they want to do instead of doing what the Word of God says. Have you ever been around people like this? During the week, they do whatever they want to do, contrary to what the Word of God teaches and then on Sunday, they come and worship God with beautiful songs? Maybe you are living like this? What’s God’s response to this kind of living?
“Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from you. (Malachi 1:10)
God tells the people to leave, shut the door and not come back to worship if they are going to disobey His Word and at the same time, show up to worship Him. Is that shocking to you? God is serious about this. We need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and examine our lifestyles. Do I have a facade of phony faith? I may be able to fool others Sunday to Sunday but, I cannot fool God and neither can you. The book of Malachi is intended to be a wake up call for all people who claim to worship God. It is also to be a book that causes deep, personal reflection. If that does not happen upon studying this book then you have wasted your time. Why do you come to worship God week after week? How are you living between those Sundays? Are you living according to the Word of God?
II. Giving to be seen by others
By nature, God is a giver. When we connect with Him and follow Him, we become givers. Giving is not something that comes naturally to us because of our selfish, sin nature. We have to be commanded to give. God commands His people to give all throughout the Old Testament. Giving is good for us. Science even says that giving produces the release of oxytocin in our brains. That is why we get a feeling of accomplishment, of pleasure when we give. But, over time, giving can become a habit or, even a chore. The children of Israel, during the days of Malachi, continue to give but, they were giving out of duty instead of from the heart. They start to cut corners. They give, more to go through the motions and check off the right boxes, instead of giving to the Lord. God sees through the phony giving.
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.
9 “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!
10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. (Malachi 3)
God equates what the people are doing with robbery. They continue to give so that others will see that they are doing what is required. Yet, they are not giving the full tithe to the Lord. He calls out their phony giving and proclaims that they are robbing Him. The word “tithe” simply means the tenth part of their possessions (income). This is the bare minimum required by the Old Testament Law. That does not include the offerings that the people are to bring. If you add up the tithes and offerings in the Old Testament, it comes out to be about twenty three percent of they people’s possessions (income). Do you tithe? According to a Barna study, in 2007, only 5% of American adults tithe (give 10% of their income to the church). But, 24% of evangelicals tithe. That means that 76% of evangelicals do not tithe. Tithing is the bare minimum required by God and we do not even come close to obeying. Again, it is easy to point fingers and the children of Israel yet, it is so easy for us to fall into the same pattern and put up the facade of phony faith. We can fool others by our facade of giving yet we cannot fool God. What should we do?
Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:7)
We need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and then take another long, hard look at our finances and make sure we are not trying to rob God by pretending to be givers. We also need to check out motives in our giving. Are we doing it to please God or, simply impress the people around us? Or, are we giving to make people think that we are being obedient to God, to save face? It is so easy to fall into the facade of phony faith.
III. Serving to manipulate God
Do you know that there are people who actually think that it is possible for us to manipulate God? There are those who give so that they can receive. There are others who come to worship so that God will bless them during the week. Still others “serve” God because they want something from Him. This is not a new phenomenon. It was happening during the days of Malachi.
13 “Your words have been arrogant against Me,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’
14 “You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the LORD of hosts?
15 ‘So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up but they also test God and escape.’ ” (Malachi 3)
The people pretend to be obedient to the Lord, to serve the Lord so that they can prosper. When they look around and see that people who disobey the Lord prosper, they wonder why they should continue to serve the Lord. Do you serve the Lord so that you can prosper? Do you obey God because you want His blessings? What motivates you to serve and obey God? The facade of phony faith encourages us to serve and obey for what we can get out of it. As soon as we do not prosper like we think we deserve, we no longer want to serve and obey.
What about you, my dear friend, do you see yourself in any of the three situation above? Why do you worship God? How do you live when you are not in the house of the Lord for worship? Do you give? Why do you give? Why do you serve the Lord? All of these questions will help us take a long, hard look in the mirror to see if we have a facade of phony faith or the real deal. If you have slipped into the phony, do what the Lord said to the people during the days of Malachi, “Return to Me, and I will return to you”. May the Lord help us live out genuine faith daily.