Summary: Financial stewardship.
READ: Malachi 3:8-12
We are accountable to God for how we handle the many gracious gifts He grants us. In fact, we are answerable to Him for the whole of our lives. Romans 12:1 says ...
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
The term “bodies” here does relate to our physical frame - our flesh, blood and bones - but it also means more than that. It relates to the whole of who we are. The New English Bible brings this out, translating it: “your very selves”. It is our duty before, as stewards, to bring the whole of our lives to God as living sacrifices.
The time He grants us here; our health and energies; our talents and abilities; and, of course, our material resources - our money and possessions.
There really is so much to this matter of stewardship that I want to look at it over several messages. You see, as soon as we mention stewardship most people automatically think we’re talking solely about MONEY. But there ARE so many things God wants us to steward wisely and courageously for Him. So, I’m going to speak about our stewardship of resources today (because that area IS so important) and then in another message I’ll look at our stewardship of time and talents, etc.
Some preachers might feel awkward addressing this subject - particularly thinking about tithes and offerings - they are reluctant to do so. But I believe that the principle of bringing our tithes and offerings faithfully to the Lord releases the blessing of God in people’s lives - and therefore, I dare not NOT preach about it! In fact, it’s a joy and a privilege to minister on such a liberating subject this morning. Paul, when he was speaking to the elders of the church in Ephesus (in his farewell address) said: “You know...how I kept back nothing that was helpful (profitable), but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house.” (Acts 20:20). This is my heart today, to keep back nothing that is profitable to you.
I want this to be a very simple and very practical message, looking at this passage under three headings -
1. How a Christian Can "Rob" God.
2. How a Christian Can "Prove" God.
3. How a Christian Can "Secure" God.
This third point will then lead us to examine a New Testament passage (2 Corinthians 8-9). We will briefly look at this, and then we will finish off by answering some of the most commonly asked questions about tithing.
Firstly, then, we address ourselves to Malachi’s strong indictment. The first thing we see, in verses 8-9 of this passage is:
1. How a Christian Can "Rob" God.
The prophet poses the incredible question: "Will a man rob God?" I imagine Malachi standing up on his soap box before all the people and crying it out - "Will a man rob God?", and then pausing for effect. It’s such a ludicrous thought isn’t it; man robbing God. How COULD you rob the Almighty - you can’t exactly sneak in without Him noticing and pilfer things! And why WOULD you rob the Almighty? I imagine Malachi’s audience seeing the absurdity of the question and turning to one another - "Rob God? - NO! Surely not."
But Malachi continues and says on God’s behalf - "YET YOU HAVE ROBBED ME!" What an indictment against the people of God. They ask incredulously: "In what way have we robbed You?" Then the answer comes - "IN TITHES AND OFFERINGS!" (I IMAGINE MORE THAN A FEW RED FACES IN THE CROWD?) In the Book of Malachi we see Israel’s poor attitude toward God in so many ways. You might recall that I preached a series of messages through this book very soon after we arrived in Devonport - I believe it’s message to be one of the most clear challenges to God’s people about real and true life-giving religion.
In EVERYTHING Israel were robbing God of what He required of them and deserved from them as His people. They brought marred sacrifices before the Lord - what they felt they could afford to give Him (what they had no use for themselves!) Their sacrifices were entirely unworthy of God, and it was disobedient to His command.
The real root problem was that there was no devotion in their service for God - no love for God - no honour and respect for the Holy One of Israel. They begrudged and withheld. It’s easy to fall into “begrudging” and “withholding” if all you have is a mere FORM of “religion”. All EXTERNAL, nothing of Spirit and truth.
This word "rob" is an interesting one. It means: "to defraud, to spoil". Malachi says you have sought to DEFRAUD God of what is rightfully His! Stealing means not only taking what is not yours, but also "keeping back for yourself what belongs to someone else".