if God was hungry, He would not tell you.
8 I have no complaint about your sacrifices or the burnt offerings you constantly offer. 9 But I do not need the bulls from your barns or the goats from your pens. 10 For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine. 12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it. 13 Do I eat the meat of bulls? Do I drink the blood of goats? 14 Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. 15 Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory. — Psalm 50:8-15 (NLT)
There are generally two types of workers in church – those who behave like dogs and those who behave like cats. You see, a dog thinks, “You provide for me, you bless me, you protect me and you love me… You must be God”. On the other hand, a cat thinks, “You provide for me, you bless me, you protect me and you love me… I must be God”. And in my years of serving God, I’ve come across both types.
I believe that workers with the dog attitude serve God out of gratitude; it seems almost second-nature and instinctive for them to offer their time, energy and resources to God because of His redemptive work in their lives. However, there are also workers with the cat attitude and they serve God out of obligation, thinking that God actually needs them to serve Him. I’d like to commend the dogs of the church and speak in love to the cats, in light of Psalm 50:8-15.
Now, I don’t think God is picky, choosy or nosey about what you offer to Him. In my years of walking with God, I don’t think God has ever frowned at what I have offered. So the issue here isn’t with God, but with us, especially when we have a tendency to think that our offering to God is more important that it really is. God doesn’t have a problem with your offering so don’t make it a problem for yourself.
For those who serve God out of obligation – coming to church more than twice weekly, preparing a cell lesson, putting a song list together, counseling a troubled youth or organising an event – I am thankful for your contribution, but I also want to remind you that you’re not the only one who’s serving; in fact, there are scores out there who out-give and out-do what you have given and done.
Now, it is easy to get legalistic about serving God and once we start to compare our contributions with each other, everything becomes flawed. Therefore, I’m inclined to think that it’s not about the size of your contribution but the manner in which you contribute. Don’t serve God contentiously or competitively. That’s a foolish attitude to have. All of us are important to God, but none of us are indispensable workers.
Your output does not impress God – because everything you give to and do for Him belongs to Him anyway. Think about it – your domesticated gifts (“bulls from your barns” and “goats from your pens”) are His to begin with. Everything that you have honed and developed over years of training belongs to Him. And your undiscovered gifts (“animals of the forest”, “cattle on a thousand hills”, “every bird on the mountains” and “all the animals of the field”) belong to Him too. The way I look at it, what we offer to God pales in comparison to what He already has, in better quality and in abundance.
People often compliment me for my speaking and writing skills, as well as my leadership capacity. I am thankful for their generous encouragement but when I bring compliments before the Lord to ask Him to help me make sense of it, I know that these gifts and talents that I have do not belong to me. God planted it from the beginning and grew it over time. I would never take credit for His grace in my life. It’s always humbling to remember the route that I would have taken if Jesus didn’t save my soul. When people praise me, I thank them, but on the inside, I tell myself that it is God whom they are praising, not me. Reality check – don’t believe your own press.
No wonder God stated that if He was hungry, He wouldn’t even breathe a word to us because of how big-headed that would make us! I think King David wrote that because he wanted to remind us of our finiteness and finality. It would be preposterous for us to think that God desires and longs for our offering. Come on, what a ludicrous thought in light of the Almighty! God is already powerful and in control. Contrary to popular belief, He doesn’t need us to serve Him.
Don’t get me wrong – yes, the Church needs workers, but God doesn’t. It’s not about the work that we do but the attitude that we do the work with that distinguishes us. The scary thing is that we focus on making the work excellent and the job impressive for accomplishing it well would garner praise and attention from men. But how dangerous it would be if we do not check the condition of our hearts! It’s something that only the Holy Spirit and you would know… And we can’t deceive Him.
If I were to use my sanctified imagination to read this text, I can almost imagine a sarcastic tone from the psalmist when He asked the two rhetorical questions: “Do I eat the meat of bulls? Do I drink the blood of goats?” Seriously, I think we should stop patronising God with our “service” because quite frankly, it insults Him and makes Him look desperate for us. May God forbid that attitude! Get this right – God is never hungry and God owns everything. Don’t try to impress Him (like Cain tried) by offering something you think is impressive. How impressive is it really, if we give to God what already belongs to Him? Stop fooling yourself.
Instead, do the four things the psalmist suggests.
Firstly, always be thankful (v14a). In the context of God being all-powerful and in control of everything, isn’t our only and right response be one of thankfulness? I’m truly inclined to believe that an attitude of gratitude pleases God most. The most appropriate phrase to utter after you’ve been blessed is, “Thank you”. When we adopt that posture, it helps us to remember that we are helpless and not in control. It reminds us of our finiteness and finality, that we are mere mortal beings created by an eternal God.
Next, fulfill your vows (v14b). Obedience is better than sacrifice; how you obey God trumps what you sacrifice for God. Perhaps this is a good time for us to think about the many things that we have promised God: doing our quiet time, fulfilling the missions pledge, going on a mission trip, evangelising to our colleagues, bringing our classmates to church, spending time with our family, working on our weaknesses, etc. If we actually accomplished 50% of our spiritual goals, our ministries would flourish – I can almost guarantee that! A healthy and growing Church has healthy and growing members! My mentor says, “If you take care of the depth of your life, God will take care of the breath of your ministry”.
Thirdly, call upon God (v15a). I hang on to the scriptural truth, that if I call unto God in my day of trouble, He will answer and deliver me. I trust that God is my ultimate search and rescue team. He is the One who will lift me up and bring me out of pain and despair. He is the One who will show me the way to eternity as I run this race to see His face. There’s one thing that only Jesus can do that I (or anyone else) can’t do myself – saving me from eternal separation from God. Let God be God and let Him deliver you when you are in trouble!
Finally, give God glory (v15b). This, I think, is the easiest of all to do, because it is a natural response. God’s grace is this: using the gifts of God for the glory of God. When we are thankful for all that He’s given to us, we will give Him glory; when He helps us to fulfill our vows, we will give Him glory; when God delivers us when we call upon Him, we will give Him glory.
So today, if you are a dog for God, continue in that attitude of gratitude. But if you possess a cattitude, then it is time for you to rethink the way you serve and honour God – in and out of church. Failure to do so would be a catastrophe.