Sunday School Lessons


Commentary by Walter Albritton


August 17


God Expects Us to Serve Him by Living a Righteous Life


Malachi 3 – 4


Key Verses: You shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. – Malachi 3:18



            The Bible is consistent. God created us. He has given us a Book that outlines his plan for our lives.  He expects us to obey him. He holds us accountable for the way we live. Ultimately, God will judge us, at which time he will reward us for righteous living or punish us for our wickedness.

            Whether you turn to Malachi or to Matthew, the message is the same. There are two ways to live. One way is to serve God. The other way is to ignore God and do whatever brings us pleasure. One way is the way of the righteous; the other is the way of the wicked.

            The Psalmist drives home this same truth in the first Psalm. One man walks “in the counsel of the wicked;” the other delights “in the law of the Lord.” Finally, the outcome is certain: “For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:6).

            Some people imagine that God is a casual observer of the affairs of men. He has created us and given us the freedom to make whatever choices we wish to make. These people believe God loves us, and because he loves us, he will not punish us, much less allow any of us to go to hell.

            Jesus paints a different picture. He speaks of sheep and goats. He speaks, as Malachi did, of righteousness and wickedness. Jesus makes it clear that God will hold us accountable for the way we live. If we choose to serve God, and obey him, then our reward will be eternal life. If, on the other hand, we choose not to serve God and live without love for our brothers, then we will “go away to eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46).

            Our Lord taught eternal truth by using contrasts. He spoke of good fruit and bad fruit, of darkness and light, and of houses built on rock and on sand. He described a wayward son and one who did not squander his wealth “in wild living.” The decisions we make result in consequences for ourselves and others, in this life, and the next.

            How we live matters – and matters eternally. Our choices determine our eternal destiny.  Two young men chose to use drugs. Needing money to support their habit, they began robbing and stealing. Finally, they were arrested and charged with murder. They gunned down a man in his own front yard – for money to buy drugs. Now, because of their choices, they are facing life in prison or perhaps even execution for their crimes.

            Most of us are not tempted to steal money to support a drug habit. Nonetheless, we should carefully examine our attitude toward our money and our attitude toward the poor in our society. The decisions we make can affect the poor. What we do about the poor, or “the least of our brothers,” will have a bearing, according to Jesus, on our eternal destiny.

            One decision that those of us in Alabama should prayerfully consider is how to vote on Governor Bob Riley’s Tax Proposal on September 9. For many of us, to vote yes will be to vote for an increase in our own personal property taxes. What may be more important, however, is to remember that to vote yes will be to vote for a fairer tax system for the poor in our state.

            Presently in Alabama, anyone who earns as little as $4,600 a year must pay income tax. Clearly, this is a shameful and unjust tax burden upon the poor. The Governor’s plan may have its flaws, but I am persuaded that it is a step in the right direction. This plan will help the poor and it may save our state from having to turn to gambling to pay for the education of our children.

            May God give us the grace so to live that people may see in our lives the difference between righteousness and wickedness. And may we be known as people who have chosen to serve God! + + + +