Proverbs 21:3 To do what is right and just
is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
God is more interested in how we live than He is in religious ceremonies. I have lost count of how many times this truth is stated in the Bible, but we still seem to have a hard time getting it through our heads. Looking at this verse just now, it strikes me that it’s closely related to the 1st and 2nd Commandments that Jesus specified. (Matthew 22:37-40) It’s a bit easier to see in Japanese than in English because of the characters used to write it, but “what is right” (as the NIV has it) is our behavior toward God, and “what is just” is our behavior toward our fellow man. The sacrifices mentioned here are religious ritual, and can be performed regardless of the condition of the heart. Several places in the Old Testament (Isaiah 1:11, Jeremiah 6:20, etc.) God says that such rituals are meaningless unless the hearts and lives of those performing them are right. We tend to cling to external things as “good luck charms,” rather than committing our hearts and lives to God. Church attendance is important for a number of reasons, but if it isn’t matched with living right Monday through Saturday it doesn’t mean a hill of beans. For that matter, being worried about how long the service goes because you want to be sure to get home in time to catch the game on TV essentially wipes out the benefits of attending church in the first place. The blessings of God are poured out on those whose hearts are committed to Him. If our hearts are committed, our lifestyles, finances, and everything else will follow.
Growing up in a missionary family as I did, on one hand I had the example of parents whose hearts were fully committed to God, but on the other hand, I got really good at going through the motions, regardless of what my heart was doing. That’s really dangerous, and it got me into real trouble. The biggest pitfall was pride, because I got to thinking I was a “good Christian” because I could go through the motions so well, despite the fact that my heart was lusting after the ways of the world. I was already married, a father, and out of the Army when the Lord tapped me on the shoulder, and when I turned, He had a mirror so that I could see myself. All I could do was fall to my knees and cry, “My Lord and my God.” Repentance is important! I wish I could say I’ve never been hypocritical in the years since, but that would be a lie. I’ve got to walk in daily humility, allowing the Holy Spirit to show me how better to love my God and love my neighbor, so that I may be pleasing to my Lord.
Father, thank You for Your overwhelming grace. Help me both hear and obey You better, however You choose to speak to me, so that I may be fully pleasing to You, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!