Let’s say you wanted to give a gift to God. And why not, given all He has done for all of us? What sort of gift would you consider to be appropriate?
You could give Him what you don’t want. That’s what some of the Jews in Malachi’s day were doing. It’s certainly easier on the pocketbook, and you spend less time shopping. But then, “the lame and sick” (Malachi 1:8) don’t seem to have pleased God. He saw it as blasphemous; a “great King,” one to be “feared among the nations,” required better than that (Malachi 1:13-14).
If that sounds too meager, you could offer Him what you can spare. Maybe if you had two of something, you could bear to part with one. Jesus saw some of the rich doing that in the temple, giving “out of their surplus” (Luke 21:1-4). But He did not seem to be very impressed with that; in fact, He was more impressed with the poor widow who gave “all that she had to live on,” even though it was just two small copper coins. So maybe it’s not so much about the actual amount.
You could get Him something at would make you fit in. If everyone else gives X, give X. If everyone else seems content with just giving Y, Y should do just fine. You get to let other people do your thinking for you, and you don’t run the risk of looking too flashy or too miserly; your friends would appreciate that. But then, is the point of gift-giving to impress or satisfy the other gift-givers? It would seem that acquiring the favor of God, not of men, is the real point (Galatians 1:10).
On the other hand, you might go the opposite way and get Him something to make you stand out. Something remarkable. Something over-the-top. If pleasing God is the point, why not please Him like no one has ever pleased Him before? But that has its problems, too. In the first place, we read about servants of God such as Abraham, Job, Stephen, Paul, and any number of others, and it occurs to us that “standing out” in such a crowd might be beyond our capacity. And besides that, is it really possible to give so generously as to be remarkable in any way, really, considering all He has given to us?
What keeps you out of trouble is always a practical solution. Find every T that needs to be crossed, and cross it properly and completely. How could there be any objection to that? If the preacher can prove you are required to contribute 10 percent of your earnings to the work of the church, or attend Sunday evening services and Sunday and Wednesday Bible studies, or sing in an audible tone of voice, or study your Bible and pray regularly in your hours at home, well then, absolutely! It’s like Mom telling you she wants something pretty for Mother’s Day and you give her a rose cut from her own bush. It fits the definition, so surely it is acceptable, right? After all, Isaiah wrote about people who honored God with their lips (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:7-9). Then again, they didn’t exactly put their stamp of approval on the T-crossers. They seemed to think rote compliance did not always come from the heart — and that the heart was ultimately the most important thing. Hey, we might be onto something here.
Here’s a thought. Why don’t you give Him what He is due? Since He made us, doesn’t that mean we owe Him everything? And what does He want? Simply for us to love Him with our whole heart (Matthew 22:37).
Fair warning: It’s tougher than it sounds to do that. Otherwise, everyone who calls himself a Christian would be doing it already — since it so clearly is what He wants, and all He wants. But I bet we could do it if we really put our hearts, minds and backs into it.