Driving through the north Georgia mountains, it is not an uncommon sight to see a herd of cows grazing on the rolling hillsides. It brings to mind the words of the psalmist as recorded in Psalm 50:10-12:
“For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine” (ESV).
In this passage, God reminds man of the futility of his expression of praise by simply making a burnt offering to the Lord. After all, God already owned the very things that these vain worshipers sought to give. The lesson, of course, is that appeasing God takes more than some empty act. The worshiper must also keep God’s commandments. When such is the case, one my call out to God and He will hear (Cf. Psalm 50:15). Otherwise, one could theoretically worship God forever and yet never please or praise Him.
Why is it that we want to give God back His cows? Is it because it requires such little effort on our part? Does it demonstrate that human nature seeks to squeak by on as little work as possible? I think that both possibilities are plausible. Perhaps the real reason for this attitude, though, stems from the fact that we are not grateful for the blessings that we receive and that we are too lazy or afraid to fulfill our obligations.
We live in an entitlement society in which men and women feel that they are somehow owed a variety of things. They think that they deserve to be given health care, retirement, high pay for little work, and luxury goods at affordable prices. The problem is that too many Americans not only lay these expectations at the feet of the government but also God. God owes them salvation regardless of what they may or may not do.
When this is the case, men and women echo the words of Psalm 50:16: “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips” (Psalms 50:16 ESV)? In other words, “I am not morally obligated to You, God, even though You are obligated to me.” In the case of those about whom the psalmist spoke, they wanted to remain in a covenant relationship with God without keeping their portion of the agreement.
Is this not true of some Christians today? They quickly quote Ephesians 2:8 and 9 which states that we are saved by grace through faith and not of works, but they ignore the tenth verse. Paul continues: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV). Translation: God does expect us to do certain things to maintain our end of the new covenant He has made with us through His Son (Cf. Matthew 26:28). They are not works of our own devising, since we were unable to save ourselves. They are, rather, works that God prepared; works in which He expects us to walk.
If we want to please God, we must do more than give Him back His cows. Read God’s Word to understand what He expects of you (Cf. Romans 10:17). Then, faithfully execute that duty to the best of your ability unto death (Cf. Revelation 2:10).