What Really Pleases God?
“The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices.” – Proverbs 21:3 NLT
A lot of us spend a lot of time trying to keep God pleased. We somehow think that He’s like a divine Santa Clause. He’s making a list, and checking it twice; gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. So if we want to keep Him happy, we better get busy doing nice things. And that can translate into everything from having a quiet time to memorizing Scripture, doing acts of service, going to a Bible study or on a short-term mission trip, or even giving money to the church. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things. They are good and proper things for us to do as believers, but when we turn them into actions that we believe will earn us brownie points with God, we miss the point. When we make them into personal sacrifices we offer on behalf of God in the hopes that He will notice and reward us favorably, they lose their meaning and we lose our focus.
King David understood this concept very well. He wrote, “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God” (Psalm 51:16-17 NLT). While God had commanded the people of Israel to offer sacrifices, what He was really looking for was the heart behind the sacrifice. Jesus had harsh words for the religious leaders in His day. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law — justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides!” (Matthew 23:23-24 NLT). These men we adept at keeping the law, of making the proper sacrifices, but they had missed the point. Their hearts were not right. They were skilled at keeping the letter of the law, but were oblivious to the real point behind the law: justice, mercy and faith. It wasn’t supposed to be about their ability to keep laws, but about the motivation of their hearts. They were doing what they were doing out of a sense of self-righteousness and in the hopes that what they did was somehow earning them points with God. But as we read in Proverbs, God is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer Him sacrifices. God is more focused on our hearts than our efforts. In the verse right before this one, Solomon writes, “People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart. God is able to see our inner motivation. He knows when we are doing what we are doing out of some sense of duty or simply in the hopes of keeping God pleased with us.
Over in the book of Micah, we read these sobering words: “No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 NLT). God’s desire is that our outer efforts be motivated by an inward transformation that He alone can bring about. As we submit to His authority over our lives and listen to the Holy Spirit’s direction, we begin to understand what it is that God would have us do. We begin to desire what He desires, love what He loves, and see the world as He sees it. We learn to walk in humility, not pride. We understand that our best efforts are never enough to earn points with God. He doesn’t need our sacrifices. He simply wants our hearts. And as He changes our hearts, we begin to do what is just and right. We act in ways that are in keeping with His heart and in accordance with His will. And He is pleased.
Father, I want to do what is right and just, not out of some sense of duty, but because my heart is being transformed to reflect Your heart. I want to love what You love and desire what You desire. Please continue to complete Your work in me, and help me get out of the way. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men