Summary: If we trust God with our eternity, we don't we trust him with our wallets? Giving is an act of Faith.
Opening Illustrations: A country pastor was talking to his farmer friend, and he asked the farmer, “If you had one hundred horses, would you give me fifty?” The farmer said, “Certainly.” The pastor asked, “If you had one hundred cows, would you give me fifty?” The farmer said, “I absolutely would” Then the pastor asked, “If you had two pigs, would you give me one?” The farmer said, “Now cut that out, pastor, you know that I have two pigs!”
So many of us would be generous with what we don’t have or might have, but are stingy with what we do have. It is easy to look to the future with what we do not yet have and make promises. But what about that we do have today?
A little girl was given two dollars by her father. He told her that she could do anything she wanted with one and that the other was to be given to God on Sunday at church. The girl nodded in agreement and asked if she could go to the candy store. With visions of all that she could buy with her dollar, she happily skipped toward the store, holding tightly to the two dollars in her hand. As she was skipping along, she tripped and fell and the wind blew one of the dollars into a storm drain at the curb. Picking herself up, the little girl looked at the dollar still in her hand and then at the storm drain and said, “Well, Lord, there goes your dollar.”
Sadly, many of us Christians have the same attitude toward giving. First me, then God. (1)
Today’s passage deals with the Tithe. In the Old Testament the Tithe was part of the covenant God had with His people. The people brought in the tithe and God would bless them. The tithe went to the Levites to maintain the temple and a tenth of that went to Priests (also Levites) who ministered in the temple. To neglect the Levites was regarded as neglecting God. But like everything else in human history, the tithe was being neglected and the Levites needed to find other employment to support their families resulting in the neglect of the temple, and ministries of the temple.
Israel’s attitude toward and use of the their wealth was one big indicator of the health of their relationship to God. In the NT, Jesus never refutes the tithe, but He did emphasized the weightier things of the law like:
Matthew 23:23 (NKJV) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
The tithe is an acknowledgment that all we have belongs to God. What we give is part of the bigger picture of our Christian life, yet it is often the more neglected.
For that matter, if we acknowledge that all belongs to God, then even after tithe is paid we cannot do as we please with the remainder. We are stewards of what God had entrusted us with.
Malachi 3:8a (NKJV) “Will a man rob God?
Of course we do not overtly rob God, to take what is His. So the question is asked:
Malachi 3:8a (NKJV)
“Will a man rob God?
Yet you have robbed Me!
But you say,
‘In what way have we robbed You?’
Other Translations (NIV, HCSB, NASB) have “How have we robbed You?” God’s answer is clear:
Malachi 3:8 (NKJV) In tithes and offerings.
We are not giving to God what belongs to God. The NT concept of giving has been grossly understated. The argument has been made that tithing is not required in the NT. But looking at the early church and looking had what is said in the NT, The Tithe is not the end of giving, but rather the starting point.
Putting this passage in Malachi in context, the robbery of the tithe and offerings from God was both in terms of quantity and quality. Not only was the quantity not given, but what was given lacked in quality.
Malachi 1:6b–8 (NKJV)
Where is My reverence?
Says the LORD of hosts
To you priests who despise My name.
Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’
7 “You offer defiled food on My altar,
But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’
By saying, ‘The table of the LORD is contemptible.’
8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil?
And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil?
Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you?
Would he accept you favorably?”