Return to Me…Cheaters Never Win, or Do They?

So now ask God to be gracious to us.
After what you have done, will he accept you?
says the Lord of heavenly forces.
10 Who among you will shut the doors of the temple
        so that you don’t burn something on my altar in vain?
        I take no delight in you,
says the Lord of heavenly forces.
I won’t accept a grain offering from your hand.

11 Nevertheless, from sunrise to sunset,
        my name will be great among the nations.
Incense and a pure grain offering will be offered everywhere in my name,
        because my name is great among the nations,
says the Lord of heavenly forces.
12 But you make my name impure when you say,
    “The table of the Lord is polluted.
        Its fruit, its food, is despised.”
13 But you say, “How tedious!”
        and you groan about it,
says the Lord of heavenly forces.
You permit what is stolen, lame, or sick to be brought for a sacrifice,
        and you bring the grain offering.
Should I accept such from your hands?
says the Lord.

14 I will curse the cheater who has a healthy male in his flock,
        but who promises and sacrifices to the Lord that which is corrupt.
            I am truly a great king,
says the Lord of heavenly forces,
            and my name is feared among the nations (Malachi 1:9-14, Common English Bible).

I remember the childhood chant, “Cheaters never win.” It would go off whenever one person or one team gave the appearance of cheating regardless of whether any actual cheating took place or not.

We seem to have reached a point in our society where we expect cheating from so many people. We expect our politicians to cheat on everything from exempting themselves from legislation that affects the rest of us, marital affairs, taxes, elections, using their office for personal gain, using their office to intimidate others and so on.

We see people cheating in sports competitions with things like performance-enhancing drugs, using illegal equipment or altering equipment, computer hacking and that only is a short list of the ways people cheat. It would seem the apparently old cliche, “If you ain’t cheat’in, you ain’t trying” is in full effect.

Then there are the average folks like us. Yeah, we cheat too, well many of us do. We cheat on our taxes. We cheat on our spouses. We take any opportunity we can to better ourselves, even if it is at the expense of others. Have you ever gotten more money back than you deserved? Did you keep it? If you did, your cheating might have helped you, but it was at the expense of others.

Then, there is also the way we cheat God. In the lesson, God through Malachi, tells of the way some in Israel were cheating the Lord by bringing sick or old or lame animals for sacrifice when they had far better. Do you remember back when God brought the plagues on Egypt? The last of those plagues was the death of all the firstborn of Egypt. At that point, Pharaoh seems to give up and told Moses to take the Israelites and leave Egypt. Moses led Israel out of Egypt and to the Promised Land? As the Israelites wandered the Promised Land God gave specific instructions for the offering. It was to be from the best and the firstborn. Of course, the Israelites didn’t like to give their best, so they cheated God in their offerings.

When God gave instructions for the tithe, there were those who didn’t want to give. God called on them anyway. We will see in the upcoming days that the Israelites were cheating God by not giving the full ten percent (see Malachi 3:8-10).

Ever since God instituted the tithe people have tried to give less than what God asks. Just like the Israelites of Malachi’s day, when we don’t give the full tithe, we cheat God.

Guess what. God loves you anyway. Now, isn’t that a hoot.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Cioyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All RIghts Reserved

Author:

Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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