I read through several chapters seeing verse after verse of more doom and gloom ahead for Israel and of their many sins. It’s obvious God is exasperated with the people. He’s had enough. But chapter 11 comes around and God proclaims that He doesn’t really want to punish Israel. It’s obvious this pains Him. In fact, He says that this turmoil and time of desperation will be temporary for Israel — of course, by temporary we’re talking it will last a generation or two. But God promises that it will not be permanent.
Then I move onto Chapter 12 and the first verse just screams off the page: “There is much that the people of Israel do from morning to night. But it has no worth…..”And I see it. I recall in previous chapters mention of the Israelites making sacrifices, providing offering, and such. All of that sounds so good, but God is not happy about it. Well, yes, there is that one little issue of these being made to idols, but there are times when that’s not really clear to me. I began to wonder…..what if the Israelites had been making offerings and giving sacrifices to God, but He was not pleased by this?
I know there are other places in scripture where this is mentioned…..take Cain, for instance (Genesis 4). So why would God not be happy if we dedicate things to Him? Perhaps it is the spirit in which it is done. Maybe those Israelites were keeping busy doing what they believed were “all the right things.” Certainly, Cain did. But God is able to look through the act straight to our heart and see the intent behind the actions.
Today, we don’t go and offer up burnt sacrifices to God or other deities typically. But we do make sacrifices and offerings — a kind gesture, volunteering, financial gifts, mentoring others, offering of talents, etc…..we fill our calendars and over extend ourselves. We sign up to serve on every committee, ministry team, etc. We stay busy, but we leave very room for God in our efforts to serve God. We sigh and talk about how tired we are. We announce on Facebook all that we do so we can get kudos and rack up the “likes”. But our heart is not in service. Our mind is not set on God. We are giving to promote ourselves or to gain influence. We are doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons. We are “doing much from morning to night, but it has no worth.”
I think God is way more impressed and happy with us when we volunteer one time a week — maybe even one time a month — maybe even less often — but we do it with a totally humble and cheerful heart. I don’t think God is keeping track with who does more and how often. I don’t think God is happy at all with us when we overextend and overcommit to ministry at the risk of losing our heart for ministry. (And by ministry, I don’t mean being a full time pastor or missionary — I simply mean serving others.)
Don’t just stay busy. Don’t feel like you have to do everything or volunteer in 40,000 ways at your church or in your community. But when you serve — and I totally think Christians should — make it for all the right and selfless reasons.