Points To Ponder/“God Doesn’t Take Coupons”
by Pastor Dennis Whitmore
I appreciate a good cup of coffee. One day I bought one that impressed me with its weakness and pour quality. I could see through the coffee; the sides of the cup and my fingers grasping it were in plain view. I remembered, “in the old days”, how this particular company was known for its good coffee.
On the side of the cup there was an 800 number, inviting comments. That seemed kind of risky on their part. So, I called to express my dissatisfaction. What happened to them? Why had their quality declined? “Why is your coffee so weak; it didn’t used to be that way?” I asked. The monotone, barely alive voice on the other end took my name and address down and promised to send me a coupon for another cup of coffee. He didn’t say he’d pass on my concerns to management or that they would take under advisement my concern. He simply promised me a coupon for another cup of their lousy coffee.
As a former business person who dealt with customer satisfaction, I feel it’s my duty to a business to report something I perceive may cost them. How can they fix a problem or make the wrong things right if no one tells them about it? But, alas, I find that a lot of businesses don’t really care to know. The guy mailing me the coupon wasn’t interested in getting rid of the problem; he sent the coupon to get rid of me. What was the coupon’s purpose? It represents the company’s supposed desire to satisfy the customer. But it was just a prop; a ritual response that looks nice on the surface, but has no substance to it.
How much is religion like that? Isaiah the prophet chastises Israel for their ritualistic religion that looked good on the surface, but it was just a coupon they were foisting off on God. As He did then, His word still does today: light shines upon unrighteous ways, arrogance and hypocrisy. Like a weak cup of coffee, God could see through their piety and spit it out for its weakness and lack of flavor.
“The multitude of your sacrifices - what are they to me?” says the Lord... “When you come to appear before Me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of My courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings!” (Isaiah 1:11a, 12-13a NIV)
Through Amos the prophet, He also said: “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies.”(Amos 5:21)
So what if you tithe? So what if you are the biggest giver in your church or community? If you don’t know the Lord, if your giving is not from the fruit of a growing relationship with the Lord, why should He receive it or honor it?
In some churches, the preacher wants to convict the one who does not tithe or those who are not consistent in their attendance. Sometimes we get fired up over the “80/20” rule. That’s where 20% of the people do 80% of the work...we urge people to commit to serving in their church.
But let us not be lulled into a sense of security...or complacency...because we are the givers, the attendees, and the servers. You may be giving more than a tithe, spending an hour in morning devotions, attending church regularly, and staying busy in church activities and yet God is not in it. How can that be? Because you can be so full of your own piety and satisfied by your own good works that there is no room for the Spirit of God in your life.
When God, the still small voice of the Lord is nudging you during a sermon, in a conversation with a friend, during a moment of devotional reading; He’s saying, “You’re leaving me out of these things you’re doing. What does any of it have to do with how well you know me? Is any of it drawing you and Me closer?”
It doesn’t come in words like that necessarily, but it’s a conscious nudge you are aware of; a lack of peace, a sense that something’s missing. For all the good stuff you do, a void is present. Where is God in all of this?
The piety of those Israelites and the holy ways of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, took a lot of effort from these people who thought that being “really good” in God’s name, was good enough. Yet God looks at it and says, “I despise all of this.” Why?
The purpose of personal holiness in all of its forms is not to prove to yourself or anyone else how holy you are. It is there to help you to pursue a closer walk with the Lord. If your walk is not improving, then what are you really doing? And why?
Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48). That’s not to say you will be without error or flaw. It means that you are so focused on living for God and conforming to His standard of righteousness (Matthew 6:33), that you draw closer to Him in spiritual maturity and in lifestyle.
The faithful servant of the Lord asks him/herself, “when people deal with me, do they feel in some way that they are dealing with my master?” The answer of course depends on who (or what) your master is.
When you worship, when you offer your personal gifts and your piety to God, what are you placing in His hands? Is it a life that seeks to grow in relationship and spiritual maturity through His spirit working in you....or are you sending Him a coupon for a free cup of more of the same old stuff you’ve always been?
“When You said, ‘Seek My Face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your Face, Lord, I will seek’.” (Psalm 27:8 NKJV)
Pastor Whitmore serves God at The First United Methodist Church in Laurel, MD. Visit www.fumcl.org.