Jan. 30, 2011
Walking out of the grocery store, you hear the all-too familiar sound of metal scraping metal. Angling toward your car, you see a teenager staring at your fender. The damage is minimal but costly. When you identify yourself to the teenager, he apologizes immediately and begins to explain this incident can’t go on his driving record. He has been driving only for a couple of months, and he is on probation with the insurance company. “How much will it take to make this go away?” he asks and reaches for a checkbook. Based on the sports car idling nearby, you assume he’s good for the cash. Would you take the check?
The nation of Israel had a pitiful driving record. They had careened into many ditches and scraped the paint job beyond recognition. As a nation, the people rejected God too many times to count. They worshipped idols and practiced immorality (
Sensing hesitation on God’s part, Israel increased its offer. “Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?” (
Again afraid of God’s hesitation, Israel plopped the ultimate trump card on the negotiating table in
Before we consider the outcome of Israel’s negotiation with God, we should contemplate our own attempts at bargaining with God. While we don’t barter in calves and oil, we negotiate with God for His affections. We promise to attend church weekly as long as God will forget about the harsh words we uttered in anger. If attendance alone doesn’t appease God, we’ll toss a tip in the offering plate to atone for our little indiscretion. Surely sacrificing our time and talents will suffice; but if not, we’ll commit ourselves as servants to attend children’s camp or maybe an overseas mission trip! Isn’t that an offer God can’t refuse?
The prophet Micah revealed that Israel’s offers and ours are woefully inadequate.
What does God require? The demands of God penetrate beyond any external action and lands squarely in the heart of man. Faithful church attendance cannot impress God because He is more concerned with His presence in our hearts than with our presence in His house. Your money doesn’t astound the Almighty because He is more concerned with the state of your heart than the weight of your envelope. Your actions cannot turn the head of the heavenly Father; God is much more concerned with the condition of the heart than the contents of your hands.
What if the teenager in the parking lot had sideswiped your child instead of your car? Would you still consider the offer? Could you stand over the wounded body of your child and negotiate a price to make the offense go away?
That’s exactly what we do when we try to negotiate with God about our sins. We stand over the wounded body of Christ and ignore the sacrifice, pretending that our penance will absolve our sins. What does God require of us? He requires the same that He gave: everything!