Notice that Malachi does not say God will necessarily take away our blessings, but that our behavior leads to those blessings becoming curses. Why would this be? Malachi’s words allude to the great “Blessings and Curses” narrative (Deuteronomy 11) in which God reminded ancient Israel that faithfulness and obedience to His laws would result in individual and national blessings – whereas turning from God would lead to many resultant curses. The prophet’s words also have a specific reference to the priests who had become corrupt and were not honoring the God they were supposed to serve – but the principle is one that can apply to all of us, in our marriages, families, careers or finances.
The Bible shows that we can lose blessings or see them become curses for a number of reasons; the Old Testament may even be described as a book of the giving and losing of blessings – from Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden to the expulsion of Israel and Judah from their homelands. Many of the Old Testament prophets elaborate on this theme (see for example, Malachi and Haggai), but it is not just an Old Testament concept. The New Testament also shows we can lose God’s blessings – the fact is stressed throughout the Bible.
Look at a few examples. We can lose blessings by putting them – the physical things themselves – before God. We don’t necessarily do this by making idols of them, but sometimes just by focusing on them to the point that our character suffers and our spiritual lives decline. This idea is found in the words of Solomon: “A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that makes haste to be rich shall not be innocent” (Proverbs 28:20) and Jesus: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). We can miss the point of these scriptures if we think this only applies to avaricious greed and not to letting such things as desire for promotion in our careers or “trying to make a comfortable living” come between us and God. It’s a matter of focus.
We can lose blessings or have them become curses by being unwilling to share them where we can (Romans 15:27, 2 Corinthians 9:9). We can also lose blessings by taking them for granted (Hebrews 12:17). In all these ways, and others, we can fall into the trap that Malachi warns of – that our focus is not on honoring God by keeping him first in our lives.
It’s something we can think about this Thanksgiving season. Is our focus on the blessings or on the One who ultimately gives them? Our Thanksgiving should perhaps be about more than just enjoying our blessings – and the big game of the day. Psalm 50:23 tells us that “Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me” and the principle of offering sacrifices of thanks certainly applies to the Thanksgiving holiday. But Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity not only to give thanks for physical and spiritual blessings, but also to remind ourselves to live our thanks by honoring God, as Malachi urges us to do.