Psalms 50; 53

Attitude Vs. Actions

“I don’t need the bulls you sacrifice; I don’t need the blood of goats. What I want instead is your true thanks to God; I want you to fulfill your vows to the Most High. Trust me in your times of trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.” ­– Psalm 50:13-15 NLT

We can get so busy doing things for God that we actually lose sight of God. We think we are giving God what He desires – acts of service, attending Bible studies, having out quiet times, going to church, giving money – but all our busyness isn’t what God needs or desires. What He wants is our hearts. He wants a relationship. According to the Psalmist, God wants our thanks. He wants us to recognize who He is and all that He has done for us. It is our thanksgiving that should produce sacrifice. Our gratefulness will result in genuine acts of service to Him. Gratitude is an attitude that results in actions. We will love Him more when we realize just how much He first loved us.

Over in Psalm 51, the writer reminds us of something else God desires from us, and once again, it isn’t our actions and efforts.  “Unseal my lips, O Lord, that I may praise you. You would not be pleased with sacrifices, or I would bring them. If I brought you a burnt offering, you would not accept it. The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:15-17 NLT). God wants a humble, repentant heart. He wants an attitude of humility and brokenness before Him. Yet what we tend to do is just get busy for Him. We do more. We sacrifice more. We get involved in more. We may even read our Bibles more, all in an attempt to please Him. But there have been plenty of times when I have read my Bible more out of duty than out of delight to hear from Him. I do it as a chore to be done, something to check off my to-do list. The same can be true of attending church. How many times do we go, but never hear from God. We sit in services and sing songs, pray prayers, and listen to sermons, but we walk away having never really heard from or having met with God.

It is this attitude that Jesus despised in the Pharisees of His day. They were the kings of religious ritual and going through the motions. Yet Jesus said of them, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away.” (Matthew 15:8 NLT). They were religious superstars, but didn’t have a heart for God. They were outwardly religious, but inwardly distant from God. Their actions did not stem from a right relationship with God.

It seems that God wants our thanksgiving and our obedience. But He wants our obedience to come from a right heart, not just some sense of religious rule keeping. Because God knows we can DO all the right things, yet have hearts that are far from Him. In fact, the Psalmist indicates that a day is coming when God will judge those who pretend to be religious: “Recite my laws no longer, and don’t pretend that you obey me. For you refuse my discipline and treat my laws like trash. When you see a thief, you help him, and you spend your time with adulterers. Your mouths are filled with wickedness, and your tongues are full of lies. You sit around and slander a brother — your own mother’s son. While you did all this, I remained silent, and you thought I didn’t care. But now I will rebuke you, listing all my charges against you” (Psalm 50:16-21 NLT). God knows our hearts. He knows when our actions are just that – actions without the right attitude. He knows when we are going through the motions – acting religious, yet living lives that reflect a double-standard. We pretend to be in love with God, but in reality we’re in love with the world and the things it offers.

God wants our hearts. He longs for our attitudes to influence our actions. He doesn’t need our sacrifices. He desires our hearts to desire Him. “But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me” (Psalm 50:23 NLT). Thanksgiving is a reflection of our understanding and appreciation for who God is and all that He has done for us. Obedience is an action that flows from a right attitude. We obey Him because we love Him. We serve Him because we appreciate Him. We serve Him because we are grateful to Him.

My lips will praise You, for You are holy;
My voice will ever rise before Your throne.
My heart will love You, for You are lovely,
And You have called me to become Your own.

Father, You deserve my thanksgiving. You deserve my praise. You deserve my obedience. May I learn to serve You more out of gratitude than some sense of obligation or duty. Don’t let my relationship with You turn into religion and ritual. I want to praise You with my life and my lips. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men