As many of you know from reading my about page, I’m a Sunday school teacher. Teaching is something I love and enjoy. I teach a group of senior adults who are all older than I am. It’s sort of intimidating trying to teach people who have so much more experience with life than I do, and who quite frankly know the Bible better than I do. Most of the time, I feel like I’m their student instead of the other way around, and that’s a good thing. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being a teacher, it’s that you are the first one to get hit with the subject matter of the lesson you’re preparing for, and there’s not been a single time when somehow or other what I’m studying hasn’t come to the forefront of my life during the week I’m preparing. I don’t know if it’s just that my focus is already directed toward things so I tend to notice them more, or if the good Lord is just taking the opportunity to give me an abject lesson, but either way I get the first chance to learn from it.
This past week the lesson title was, “Just Going Through The Motions” and it covers the book of Malachi, chapter 1. If you’ve never read the book of Malachi I’d like to encourage you to do so. It’s short, but does it ever have an impact. The lesson title itself brought different things to mind as I’m sure that it did for yours as well. We’ve all encountered that phrase either through observation or practice. You know what going through the motions is, don’t you. It’s when we do something, but our heart isn’t in it. I bet if you think about it you can think of a time when you’ve been guilty of it yourself. I know I’ve been guilty of it.
There’s a word for it. It’s called “apathy,” and when we’re doing it we’re being apathetic. The definition for it goes something like this, “feeling or showing a lack of concern, being indifferent. Showing little emotion, being unresponsive.” Makes the picture a little clearer, doesn’t it. I can remember a time in our country when it didn’t show as much as it does now. As a matter of fact, it shows so much now people don’t even recognize it for what it is. It’s a normal state for a lot of people anymore. Being indifferent, showing a lack of concern, being unresponsive to the problems and needs of others.
You don’t have to look very hard to see apathy rear it’s ugly head. It’s always been a part of humanity, and will continue to be. It’s everywhere. Apathy is a killer! A destroyer! Bet you never thought of it like that, huh? I know you’re thinking that statement is a little harsh, aren’t you? After all, showing a lack of concern, being indifferent, and being unresponsive to the problems and needs of others isn’t a crime, is it? Legally, being apathetic, isn’t a crime, but from a moral standpoint, I can’t think of anything much worse. Not caring, showing a lack of concern, being unresponsive to the needs and problems of others is akin to murder. Apathy destroys hope, faith, and love.
In reality this is what the priests of Malachi’s day were doing. They were just going through the motions, they had the appearance, but no substance, and that’s why their actions were so detestable to God. Today God is just as displeased with those who do the same kind of thing. The priests in Malachi’s day offered God not the best of what they had, but that which wasn’t even good to begin with, and many people do the same thing today. We don’t sacrifice the sick, the blind and the lame animals to God, but we do much the same thing by failing to give him the best of what we have. We give him our leftovers instead of the first fruits of our time, our money, our effort, our dedication, our willingness to follow and serve him.
Apathy and being apathetic happens subtly, quietly. No alarm bells will ring. It happens slowly over time. Apathy is the result of losing focus, not paying attention to what’s really important. It happens when we start allowing little things into our lives that didn’t use to be there, when we start thinking in terms of being different instead of being right; When we start accepting what we should be rejecting. It happens because we forget why we’re doing what we’re doing. Apathy is above all the result of an attitude that fails to honor God with our lives.