Guest Blog by Alex Martinez
There have been several times I’ve forgotten my godly routines. To be honest, it seems there are more of those routines than I can count. I’d probably get lost after the tenth or eleventh one I can name. The most prominent and forgotten routine is praying for my food before taking that first bite. And you know what? People who know I’m a believer, including other believers and non-believers alike, have stopped me after taking that big juicy “I’m-freaking-hungry” bite and asked, “Did you pray for that?”
Most times I explain my actions – “Well you see, I don’t always pray for my food because I simply forget sometimes and other times, I just don’t.” The ultra-conservatives usually snicker at me or look offended as they awkwardly move on to the next subject. The non-believers look absolutely lost and confused. Although it’s biblically proven praying before meals is always a good thing, I don’t think it is proven praying for my meals means I love God. I’ve seen several of my non-believing friends, who grew up in church, pray before meals. I ask them afterwards why they prayed, and the usual answer is “It’s how I was raised.”
I find the first manner in which these routines are defended by believers is, “We need to sacrifice certain things for Jesus”. I’m quickly reminded of how some people treat lent, as opposed to the biblical reason for lent. So you gave up your time and prayed for your meal; So you gave up video games for a whole week; So you don’t eat meat on Fridays in the span of forty days; So what? Is any voluntary sacrifice of personal time truly an act of love to the one true God, Creator of the universe?
What does God truly want from us? The bible evidently points to one specific thing throughout the Scriptures the Lord truly wants: Our Steadfast Love. Let’s look at a few verses of Scripture:
Psalm 51:16-17 (ESV)
“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God you will not despise.”
If you read the story of David in 1st and 2nd Samuel, you will see this guy was hardcore-parkour for God. He was a tough, true blue dude. All of his enemies were destroyed. All of his writings in the Psalms point to his devotion to the Lord. However, throughout the entire 51st Psalm a broken-hearted, somber David repents for committing adultery and murder. That’s right; a man devoted to God did a very bad thing and no giving up of meat, wine, video games, or rock-n-roll albums would ever be able to justify what he did. That’s why David says, “You will not delight in sacrifice” and he realizes “a broken and contrite heart”, in other words his steadfast love, are what God is really after.
“Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away. Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light. For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
God speaks to a very lost Israel and Ephraim. The entire book of Hosea deals with Israel and Ephraim playing “The Adulteress Wife” and God is the Husband deeply struck by what His Wife is doing. Very self explanatory, the above text is God calling his people out on their love being like the dew. It’s there in the morning, but by night it’s gone. Consequently, God rejects all types of sacrifice that His people have to offer, because they’re not being used as a reflection of their love how they were intended to be, but rather a “get out of jail – free” card when they screw up.
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
When the scribes ask Jesus what the greatest commandment is, this is Jesus’ first response. You Shall Love. Man, it takes my breath away reading just those words! Christ is speaking on behalf of His Father what the greatest desire is of the Father from His people. Love – Not just love from the heart, like we’ve modernized it to be from. But rather, loving with our hearts (Our spirits) with our minds (Our actions and thoughts), and our strength (Our talents and abilities).
God has cultivated us, his Creation, to love him with everything we are.
Am I saying praying before a meal or other godly routines or sacrifices are unnecessary? By no means! But if the heart behind it is not in love and devotion to the One who created it, then what purpose do these routines and sacrifices serve?
So I regress; these routines we do, do we reflect our steadfast love to the One to whom it belongs to? Or is it just another sacrifice, another way to rid (Or at least pretend to rid) ourselves of the guilt and shame we paint ourselves in? Is your love like the dew? Is it there in the morning, but gone by the night?
Alex Martinez is a graduate of Dallas Baptist University with a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science. He currently works for the IT Department of Camp Eagle, a Christian outdoor adventure camp, located in Rocksprings, Texas. Alex’s family lives in San Antonio, TX. If you have any questions for Alex, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.