I have seen many people buying gift cards for people just because they felt that they had to do it. They didn’t want to buy the gift cards. Some were very blunt about it. They were doing it because “it’s what you do” or because “the other person was getting them something” which meant to them that they had the “obligation” to do the same in return.
This verse speaks about meaningless gifts. The people were not giving gifts from the heart. The people were simply doing what was part of the ritual. When you think of it, the people were actually worshiping the ritual. It was all about the ritual, all about getting it accomplished. They were that far from God that this ritual was a routine to get done and nothing more.
God doesn’t want meaningless gifts. In fact, God doesn’t need your gifts. He doesn’t need your weekly tithe. He doesn’t need you to help your neighbor shovel. He doesn’t need anything from you. But He wants your heart. He loves you. He doesn’t want you to feel obligated to do something for Him, but if you love Him, you will want to do things for Him. You’ll want to serve, to help, to live your life with open hands. The gifts you present won’t be meaningless—they will be out of love. It will be a sweet aroma to God and He will be pleased. Not because you’re following a routine but because you’re pouring out love.
“Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting–they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings.” – Isaiah 1:13 [NLT]
“To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.”
– Daniel 1:17 [NIV]
Today’s verse says that God gave Daniel and his friends the knowledge and understanding. Now in this passage, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are all supposed to eat what the king has commanded. It was from the king’s table so one would believe it to be good—fit for a king. However, Daniel “resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine,” and he asked if he could eat his own diet of food (v. 8). The official agreed to let Daniel and his friends eat what they wanted for ten days. After the ten days, they were “healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food” (v. 15). This could cause some people to have problems digesting.
So often we look at Daniel and his friends going against the king’s rules and following a special diet of vegetables and water. We conclude that these vegetables and the water provided the four young men with better nourishment, as the passage states, and that is what we take from this passage. However, we cannot forget that it was God who gave these men the knowledge and understanding. God was and is at the forefront.
There are times in our own lives when we use our God given gifts and resources and find great success. We start to attribute this success to our hard work, our talents, etc., but we need already remember that God gave us everything—God gets the glory.
Today remind yourself of what God has given you and take the time to thank Him.
Since I am taking classes, I don’t often get the chance to sit down with my children and watch movies very often. With school on break, I had a moment to watch the Smurfs movie with them. At the start of the movie, I began to think back to when I was their age watching the Smurfs. As I listened to the beginning of the movie, my attention was immediately captured.
I never realized how educational the Smurfs were when I was a child, but there was a very important point made fairly early in the movie. The narrator of the film was discussing how each Smurf had a different name which defined the role that they had within the community of Smurfs. He spoke about how it was important for each one to have a different role for harmony within the Smurf society.
Like the Smurfs, we have roles to fulfill in society. We each have been given various gifts for which to use for the benefit of the Kingdom. Some people may be great teachers. Some of us are good at serving others. There are people given the gift to minister. We all have spiritual gifts. The big issue is how we use these gifts and how we work together in our society.
The Bible says that we are part of one body. We each have a purpose. Romans 13:4-5a states: “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly” (NASB). Therefore, we should be using our gifts wisely, and we should also be respecting the gifts of others. We each play our part.
If not sure of the gifts you have, evaluate your life. What are you good at? What seems to be your specialty? Ask someone close to you. If you know what your gifts are, are you putting them to use? Is there a better way to use them? If you know someone who is not using their gifts, find a way to encourage them and provide positive guidance. There are times when people do not recognize their talents or they simply need a little push.
The Smurfs names suited the role they had in society, but one of the main characters, Clumsy, wanted a new role, which meant a new name. He wanted to be a hero. This transformation of Clumsy is something we each go through as children of God. Names have important meanings. There are so many name changes that can be found in the Bible (ex: Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel). These new names were given because there was a transformation and an important role for the individual. As Isaiah 62 states, the Lord will give each of us a new name.
Like the Smurfs, we must do our best to live in harmony with our fellow Christians. We are to build up, not break down. We are to use our talents to the best of our ability for the purpose that God intended. We also can find great encouragement and joy in knowing that we are part of the body of Christ and that with His mouth He will give us a new name.