Summary: A study of generosity as taught from the Old Testament.

“I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.” [1]

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was recognised for his godly stewardship. Wesley was one of the great evangelists of the eighteenth century. As a young man at Oxford, Wesley once was interrupted whilst hanging some extravagant paintings on his walls. A chambermaid, quite obviously impoverished, knocked at Wesley’s door. This poor woman, locked in poverty, sought some charitable assistance from Wesley, but he was unable to assist because he had just spent his allowance on the pictures.

The journal Mission Frontiers records the guilty recrimination which haunted him. “Will thy Master say, ‘Well done, good and faithful steward?’ Thou hast adorned thy walls with money which might have screened this poor creature from the cold! O justice! O mercy—Are not these pictures the blood of this poor maid?” [2]

Wesley determined to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor. In the first year, his income was thirty pounds and he found he could live on twenty-eight. So, he gave away two pounds. In the second year, his income doubled, but he held his expenses even, and so he had thirty-two pounds to give away (a comfortable year’s income). In the third year, his income jumped to ninety pounds, and he gave away sixty-two pounds. In his long life, Wesley’s income advanced to as high as 1,400 pounds in a year. Rarely, however, did his expenses rise above thirty pounds. He said that he seldom had more than one hundred pounds in his possession at a time.

This so baffled the English Tax Commissioners that they investigated him in 1776, insisting that for a man of his income he must have silver dishes that he was not paying excise tax on. He wrote them, “I have two silver spoons at London and two at Bristol. This is all the plate I have at present, and I shall not buy any more while so many round me want bread.” [3]

When John Wesley died in 1791, at the age of 87, the only money mentioned in his will was the coins found in his pockets and dresser. Most of the 30,000 pounds he had earned in his life had been given away. He wrote, “I cannot help leaving my books behind me whenever God calls me hence; but in every other respect, my own hands will be my executors.” In other words, Wesley himself put a control on his spending and he invested the rest in the cause of Christ. [4]

Few of us know what it means to give sacrificially. Consequently, few of us know what blessings might result from such sacrificial giving. Perhaps we can learn as we give attention to the text chosen for our study this morning, MALACHI 3:6-12.

FAILURE TO WORSHIP THROUGH GIVING IS THEFT — Week-by-week I briefly provide instruction concerning the act of giving. As we give, we are called to worship God. In giving, we acknowledge that God is the source of all that we hold. Moreover, we confess that we are but administrators of God’s goodness. Thus, in bringing before the Lord our gifts and offerings, we worship Him as the giver of every good and perfect gift.

What would you say is the greatest robbery ever committed? Of all the robberies witnessed on television, read about in newspapers or heard of in our conversations, which would you say is the greatest? I suggest that the greatest robbery of all history is that God’s redeemed people have robbed Him—and they do so on a continuing basis.

The text before us is shocking! “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me.” We are so accustomed to ignoring God’s claims in our lives that we would be shocked to think that these pointed words might somehow apply to us! Unfortunately, professed Christians are not particularly shocked when they realise that they have withheld honour from God through failure to give generously to His cause. Furthermore, we Christians do not expect anyone—the church treasurer, the finance committee, the deacons, the pastor—even God Himself—to do anything about it!

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