When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts... I want no more of your pious meetings. When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
Isaiah 1:12-13, 15-17
I don't think I have taken God very seriously. I am the perfect example of the first part of this passage. My worship is extravagant. People see that I am a follower of God through the services I attend, the excellence of my church, the relevance of our message in culture.... And somehow, when I read these verses, I feel like I am not even close to doing what God wants of me. My worship, though awesome and "pretty" is nothing at all. Not that I do not have this desire inside of me to please God and follow him, I do, really. But then, as I type that, I truly wonder, do I? I have been reading this book Red Letters that talks about really living out our faith, and not just in our "everyday Christian" ways. I can so tell myself that I am doing a good job. I do not watch things that I shouldn't. I have a pure relationship with my boyfriend. I encourage others to follow God and I live in a "righteous" manner. But there is so much that I am missing. I feel like the nation of Israel that God is addressing in this first chapter of Isaiah. He is saying to me, personally, that my worship, my acts, my ceremony, my committment, isn't enough. And I know that there are those out there that would comfort me and say, that yes, I am doing all I can, and I live a good life, because I have been that person to comfort others in their normalcy. I want to think that there is nothing to worry about because everybody can see that I am different, and that I try to "sin less". But I can't miss God's heartbeat in the last part of these verses, and I have to say that his heart is not in our ceremonies, not in our lifting of hands, not in the excellent environments we create for his worship. His heart is in our going and in our giving. And he takes it seriously. His words are strong and he repeats it over and over throughout the Bible. He calls his true followers not to make or put on a show for him, but to go and be like him. Worship, yes, is wonderful and an integral part of intimacy with our Maker, but I have to question myself if I can truly worship God in fullness if I am not going or doing the absolute most I can to "do good... help the oppressed... defend the cause of orphans... fight for the rights of widows..."
I'll end with this. When I think of giving, I wonder how much is enough. How much can I give to meet the "good Christian" quota? Well, I came upon this quote from C.S. Lewis, and it completely convicted my heart:
I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.