Summary: God desires for me to give to Him in the same way He has given to me
This morning we come to a passage that has – in my opinion – been one of the most misused passages in the entire Bible. It has been used throughout church history to perpetuate what I believe, based on my understanding of the Scriptures as a whole, are myths. And to demonstrate that, I’d like to begin this morning by taking a poll. I’m going to ask for a show of hands for each of the following questions.
• How many of you have been taught that God’s people are required to give a tithe - 10% of our gross income?
• How many of you have been taught that the church is God’s storehouse and that is where we are to bring our tithe?
• How many of you have been taught that if we don’t tithe we are cursed and that if we do tithe that God will bless us materially?
As I prepared for the message this week, I didn’t have any problem at all finding commentaries and sermons that supported these positions, or at least ones that were very close to them. That is not surprising given that this passage from Malachi 3 is the one that is typically used to develop these ideas. But I’m confident that as we look at our passage in Malachi carefully and in context this morning, we’ll discover that these are merely myths, or at best only half-truths.
So turn in your Bibles to Malachi chapter 3 and follow along as I read beginning in verse 6:
“For 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 tithe 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.
(Malachi 3:6-12 ESV)
Before we begin to look at this passage, let’s take a moment to once again be reminded of the overall theme of Malachi’s prophecy. By now you should easily be able to help me fill in the blanks:
God desires for me to pursue Him
in the same way He has pursued me
That theme is particularly relevant to our passage this morning. In fact, I think we could summarize the main point of this passage with a similarly worded sentence:
God desires for me to give to Him
in the same way He has given to me
You’ll remember that in the immediately preceding passage the people have accused of God of not being a God of justice. In effect the people are accusing of God of changing. But in verses 6 and 7, God correctly points out that He is not the one who has changed. It is the people who have changed. They are the ones who have moved away from God by failing to keep His statutes. God is still the same covenant-keeping God that He has always been and that is the only reason that Israel hasn’t been consumed.
And because God is the same patient God he has always been, there is still hope for His people. If they will return to Him, He will return to them. But unfortunately, the people are so blind to the fact that they have turned away from God, they don’t even realize they need to return to Him. So God is going to give them yet one more example to show how they have rebelled against Him.
He has already rebuked them for being half-hearted in their worship and bringing Him substandard sacrifices. He has admonished the priests for failing to teach the truth of the Scriptures and to hold the people accountable for obeying God’s law. He has reprimanded the people for being a convent-breaking people, which is evidenced by their marriages. He has warned them that by asking for a God of justice that they are going to be the first ones to face His judgment. And now, He points out that they are robbing Him when it comes to their tithes and contributions.