It is not an un-Biblical way of thinking, not only in how guests should be treated, but especially in how God should be approached.
Our culture has become far more casual than ever before. Even in the days when everyone in the neighborhood was poor, they all had one pair of overalls that was saved for special occasions. They may have been denim. They may have been patched. But they were cleaner and the holes were all mended. Nowadays you buy them with the holes already in them and leave them that way.
And in all this casualness I wonder if we haven’t lost something, especially our sense of reverence and respect. Ezekiel said it this way of the priests who had neglected their duties: Her priests have done violence to my law and have profaned my holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. Ezek 22:26.
Can we even comprehend the meaning of this passage? Are there really things that are holy and things that are not? Under our new covenant it may no longer be a matter of a holy building, but on the other hand it is a matter of a holy spiritual edifice. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Eph 2:19-22.
So as part of that spiritual and holy building I must be aware of keeping it holy. When God’s people profaned his physical Temple, he left it. Do you think He won’t do the same to us if we cannot even define holiness, much less recognize it? So how do we keep it holy, how do we make a distinction between the holy and the common?
Peter tells us that our conduct can keep us from being holy. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1Pet 1:14-16. That ought to be obvious. But how about things not quite so obvious?
Ezekiel tells us that it is possible to profane the name of God by the gifts that we offer (20:39). In his day the people were guilty of worshipping God on the Sabbath and then worshipping the idols the rest of the time. That made their Sabbath service “unholy.” What do we worship? On what do we spend far more time, money, and energy than we do serving God? When God is neglected, the things that fill our time, even things that might not be wrong things, make our service profane.
Here is another example: You shall not bring the hire of a harlot, or the wages of a dog [a male prostitute], into the house of Jehovah your God for any vow: for even both these are an abomination unto Jehovah your God. Deut 23:18. If the gift I give comes from an unholy place or method, God will not accept it. It matters what we do for a living. It matters where our offerings come from.
Consider all the things that God designates as holy—His Temple the church, the offices in that church, the commandments, the Word, the scriptures, the Law, the priesthood and nation (also the church), our greeting to one another, and I could go on and on. Just run a search on the word “holy” with a Bible program as I did and you will find all these and more. We are to show somehow that we understand the difference between these sacred things and the ordinary things of the world.
So what does that mean in daily life? I think it might mean something different in each culture. It might not mean that I must put on a three piece suit to bring my offering, but it certainly means I must clean up my heart before I even attempt to offer it. Didn’t Jesus say to leave one’s gift at the altar and first make amends with a brother? Surely the state of my heart affects my gifts in several ways.
As for the gifts of worship themselves, it may not mean we must sing four part harmony in straight quadruple rhythm at a constant adagio (slow and somber) pace, but maybe it means I must be careful about singing the Holy Word of God to something that sounds like it came out of a jukebox on the “Happy Days” set. Here is what worries me the most: can we even see that some things might be inappropriate? If Ezekiel told us we were no longer making a distinction between the holy and the common, would we have any idea what he was talking about? Do we make the arrogant and presumptuous mistake of saying to God, “Your thoughts are my thoughts and I’d like this gift, so surely you would?” Did that work when you bought your wife a vacuum cleaner for your anniversary?
When I bring my sacrifices to God, whether it is a life lived in holiness or my songs of praise or the gift of my increase, I must realize that this is something special in the eyes of God, that He expects me to bring it with holy hands and a holy heart and the seriousness that speaks of recognizing my obligations before a holy God. Moses was told to take off his shoes because he was standing on Holy ground. What are we willing to shed to show God the reverence He has always required of His people?
“There is none holy like the LORD: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. 1Sam 2:2