In chess we have this word “kibbitzer.” Someone who noisily comments on a game he or she isn’t playing in is usually called a kibbitzer. Often times, the folks who are called kibbitzers rarely play. In other words, a kibbitzer is all talk and no substance. For chess players engaged in a game, kibbitzers are nuisances because their opinions on what should be played can infect your own and because they can break one’s concentration. Think about that first one for a minute… untested and untried ideas from inexperienced folks competing with tactics and strategies developed by chess players who are trying to execute them during the pressure of the game. Add to that the break in concentration. That’s not a solid recipe for good chess. It’s also not a solid recipe for good ministry.
“When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” – Isaiah 1:12-17, ESV
The problem with Israel here is that they were doing a fine job of talking about being faithful. They were even going through with the outward signs by keeping the sacrifices and the like. In reality, though, they were all talk and no substance. God accused them of doing evil, of injustice, of oppression, and of not taking care of the orphans and the widows. Now here’s the question that hurts: if God were to speak to us today, would He say the same thing about our churches?
Unfortunately, I think He would. There is a lot of evil that goes on within the walls of many churches. Political agendas, power struggles, how money should be spent, who should get the solo for the Eastern celebration, etc. I’m just touching on the obvious things. Anyone who has been in a church regularly in recent months has likely seen more. Let’s carry that further. How are we, as God’s people, attacking injustice and oppression when we see it (and it’s everywhere)? How are we taking up the cause of the orphan and the widow? Can you point to specific, ongoing ministries in your church that deal with these last three accusations by God? No? Then how are we any different from the Israel of Isaiah’s time?
Simply sitting on the sidelines arguing isn’t what we’re supposed to be about. Caring who gets the credit misses the point that God is supposed to get all the glory. These are serious charges and we’re guilty of them. God told Israel to “fix itself,” to borrow a phrase from my Citadel days. I’m sure He expects us to do the same. We must be a Church that is active in ministry. It must be the right activity, though. In a lot churches today you can stay busy, really busy, with the activities that are going on. However, being busy isn’t the same as being effective. That goes to the first part of the verses. Israel was busy. They were carrying out the feasts and the sacrifices. However, they weren’t being effective. They weren’t doing what they needed to be doing. We’re too often guilty of that same problem. We need to be active, but active in ministering and serving in the ways God has told us to be. We need to “fix ourselves” not only for the benefit of the people around us, but for our own benefit as well.