Malachi 3.6-12 NLT
Ann Landers had an interesting letter in her column. It was from a girl who was writing about her uncle & aunt. She said, "My uncle was the tightest man I’ve ever known. All his life, every time he got paid he took $20 out of his paycheck & put it under his mattress.” Then he got sick & was about to die. As he was dying, he said to his wife, "I want you to promise me one thing." "Promise what?" she asked. "I want you to promise me that when I’m dead you’ll take my money from under the mattress & put it in my casket so that I can take it all with me." The girl’s letter went on with the story. "He died, & his wife kept her promise. She went in & got all that money the day he died & went to the bank & deposited it, & wrote out a check & put it in his casket."
The Bible and Money
Money is an important party of life. We can’t live without money. We need money for food, clothing, housing, and car. God knows our need and he also knows the temptation to make money and possessions more important than they really are.
Facts about Money:
+ There are 38 parables recorded in the Bible; 16 of them deal with money management.
+ More is said in the NT about money than heaven and hell combined.
+ There is five times more is said about money than prayer.
+ And while there are 500+ verses on both prayer and faith, there are over 2000 verses dealing with money and possessions.
Our passage today in Malachi 3 introduces us to the concept of tithing.
The word tithe simply means a tenth, 10 percent. The idea behind the practice was that God’s people would take 10 percent of whatever increase they experienced and they’d bring it to their worship place as a symbol of their gratefulness to God for his giving them material blessings. Then, as a secondary purpose, that tithe was a means of supporting the ministry of their place of worship.
The concept of the tithe first appears in Genesis 14.20. After Abram rescues nephew Lot from being captured by another army/nation; Abram gives a tenth of all he has recovered to Melchizidek.
The last time tithing is mentioned is in Hebrews 7, where this tithe is recounted. Jesus priesthood is like that of Melchizedek to whom Abraham tithed.
The book of Malachi comes from a time after many people of Judah had returned from Babylonia, but just before Ezra and Nehemiah returned. The temple had been rebuilt, and the priests were again offering the people’s sacrifices to the Lord.
In Malachi 3, we have God saying, “Return to me, and I will return to you.” Return in the OT means repent. God has just said that they have turned away from his decrees and have not kept them; they are being disobedient. Be who God has made you to be. He urges them to return, so that his presence may again be with them. James 4.8 comes to mind, “Draw near to me and I will draw near to you.”
The Israelites reply is interesting,
“How can we return when we have never gone away?” There is a sense that they do not know what they have done. They are ignorant of their sin. They do not know how they have disobeyed God.
God’s reply is startling, “Should people rob God? Yet you have robbed me!”
One of the ten commandments is “Thou shalt not steal.” God’s people were commanded not to steal from other people and yet here they are stealing from God.
And God goes on to explain how they are robbing/stealing from God.
“You have robbed me of the tithes and offering that belong to me.”
Statistics indicating that today we are neglectful of tithing (generousgiving.org)
+Overall, only 3 to 5 percent of Americans who donate money to a church tithe (give a tenth of) their incomes though many more claim to do so.
+Among church members of 11 primary Protestant denominations (or their historical antecedents) in the United States and Canada, per-member giving as a percentage of income was lower in 2000 than in either 1921 or 1933. In 1921, per-member giving as a percentage of income was 2.9 percent. In 1933, at the depth of the Great Depression, per-member giving grew to 3.3 percent. By 2000, after a half-century of unprecedented prosperity, giving had fallen to 2.6 percent.
God goes on to say that the whole is under a curse because of they have been robbing God. And goes on to say, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple.” Then there will be blessing instead of curse.
All: not just some, but all
Storehouse: an actual room in the Temple to store the food that was brought.
Enough: God is concerned for the ministry. Without the tithe, ministry cannot happen, worship cannot happen, the work of the temple/church cannot take place. Who is the church? We are the church. Our ministry cannot happen.
If you do,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you! 11Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not shrivel before they are ripe,” says the LORD Almighty. 12“Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the LORD Almighty.
Verse 10 – Test me
Humankind testing God is rare in the Bible, so I caution you. Don’t ever test God uninvited. But in this case, God extends the invitation. “Test me and see if I don’t bless you abundantly.” “See if I don’t take care of you.” “I will open the windows of heaven.” – it will be like rain pouring down.
Do not give with the motive of being blessed. It is a question of the heart.
*Who/what rules your heart?
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
*Who/what do you pursue?
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
*How do you give?
2 Corinthians 9.7(8)
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
*Do you have a heart for mercy and justice?
Amos 4.4-5 – people loved to tithe
I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them … But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!
Matthew 23.23 (Jesus’ teaching)
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth … But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
Statistics to motivate our heart of mercy (generousgiving.org)
*About 1.6 billion people have never heard the life-saving good news in this sentence: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
*More than 1 billion people live in absolute poverty. This includes 700 million people living in slums, 500 million people on the verge of starvation, 93 million beggars, and 200 million children exploited for labor.
Does my giving follow my heart?
Take a realistic look at your giving. What percent are you giving? What would God have you to give? Take a step up (give a percentage more in the coming year). Be intentional. Be intentionally generous.
Statistics indicating the special responsibility of the church in the US (generousgiving.org)
+Total Christian [including nominal] income in the United States is $5.2 trillion annually, nearly half of the world’s total Christian income.
Remember God’s generosity in the giving of his Son. Remember Christ’s generosity on the cross.
Remember the promise of God’s faithfulness in Malachi.