Humans are imperfect. We all live with inherent sin natures that we can mortify only through the grace and power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Additionally, our very humanity places various limitations on us, assuring us that we definitely are not God. So I approach this article wanting you to understand that I know people make mistakes, and that Jesus was the only perfect offering that the Father ever received.
I also realize that the Old Testament requirements for perfect offerings had the ultimate purpose of demonstrating our inability to meet the demands of a holy God. Those required offerings pointed to Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God. We must always view the Old Testament offerings in those primary context.
Having clarified those points, I’d like to discuss a passage in Malachi and apply it to the ministries we do in the name of Christ. In particular, I want to focus on ministries that involve writing.
6 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ 7 By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord‘s table may be despised. 8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. 9 And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. ~~Malachi 1:6-9 (ESV)
When I edited a church publication years ago, people would often hand me articles with truly atrocious grammar and spelling mistakes. They would demand that I publish their pieces exactly as they wrote them, claiming that they had written them precisely as God wanted them written. (My assistant editor once muttered, “I guess God isn’t very good at English.”)
Of course, writers in Reformed circles wouldn’t claim that God dictates the things we write for Him. But I have heard people excuse poor writing on the premise that content matters more than style. As long as someone rightly communicates sound theology, they argue, we should overlook spelling and grammatical errors. After all, Scripture says that we shouldn’t depend on lofty speech but on God’s power (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).
In one respect, I agree with that argument. When someone writes out of love for the Lord, we must bear with any flaws in their writing in favor of appreciating their desire to serve Him. They probably haven’t been trained as writers, and therefore they write at their skill level. But they do the best they can! Christian love recognizes that such people are indeed offering their best to the Lord.
But when a writer assumes a posture of offering instruction, we should expect a level of education qualifying them to teach. Maybe they won’t write anything worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, and maybe they’ll make a few typos. Certainly, I rely on John to catch my mistakes each time I blog.
An article with multiple errors, especially one written by a published writer, reminds me of the flawed offerings that Malachi saw the Jews making to God. Those people knew their heathen governors wouldn’t accept such pathetic offerings, yet they assumed God would welcome them. They trusted His grace (which is commendable) while they ignored His holiness.
As Christian writers, we represent our gracious, holy God. Although He ultimately draws people to Himself through His Spirit rather than our writing skills, we still have the responsibility to offer Him our best writing. We respond to His grace by taking care to offer our finest efforts. Please don’t think He will settle for less.