Summary: Testing God by obedient living allows us to find God’s blessings no matter our life’s situations
What is the difference between those like Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, Robert Schuler, Dietrich Bonhoffer, C.S. Lewis & most of those who tell pollsters that they’re Christians? Let me suggest that one key difference is in how they have believed what God has promised them in verses like those here in Malachi. God governs the affairs of they’re day-to-day life. They know God is they’re creator. Without hesitation they’ve abandoned themselves over to Jesus. And they have remained obedient to anything that the Holy Spirit would direct them to do.
They have tested God and found God is true to His promise. He has poured out blessings upon them. Usually these verses are read as a guilt trip designed to remind us how inadequate our giving is. Yet I don’t think that’s God’s intent. Yes, He’s not satisfied with how His people are doing things, but this is also a Divine challenge. More so, it’s a challenge with a promise. And God’s promise is to bless those who accept His challenge.
We’re talking about stewardship but please understand that stewardship has to do with so much more than just money. I’d like to suggest three words that describe what stewardship is all about.
It is about our attachments. We’re all attached to many things. Our upbringing attaches us to a peculiar history, genetics, and environment. Our education attaches us to the popular curriculum and issues of the day. Sometimes these attachments help us hold on during hard times. Sometimes we discover these anchors aren’t adequate and we risk floundering in the sea of trouble we find ourselves in.
Three inadequate attachments are apron strings, heartstrings, and purse strings. Why? Because our families, love relationships, and earning power can only take us so far.
Apron strings are great when you’ve skinned your knee and need a Band-Aid. They’re great when you’re learning about how families function. Likewise heartstrings are invaluable when creating babies, talking over a difficult day at work, or sharing deep personal hopes and dreams with another human.
Purse strings too pay the bills and that’s part of our growing-up and becoming responsible members of our community. The problem with these and any other attachment is that too often, it seems, we make these either the most important attachments or, worse yet, we assume God won’t mind sharing center stage with these. And we’d be wrong.
John 15 describes being attached to God in terms of grape vines. Our attachment to Jesus is a healthy one. In fact, the fruit we bear is because of our attachment to Christ. We’re not suckers growing directly out of the root, trying to compete with the vine itself. Do you know what you do with suckers? You cut them off and toss them away. We aren’t parasitic but draw our very life from Christ. God asks us to test Him and see if our being attached to Him doesn’t lead to blessing?
Attitude is another key concept here in this passage. It is our attitude that usually separates you & me from those who we read about in Guidepost, Christian books and the like. The people God speaks with through Malachi aren’t bad or awful. They come to worship. They brought the sacrifices the law demanded. I imagine they tried to keep the Law of Moses. And there is nothing here to indicate they had given up celebrating Passover or harvest feasts.
What God knew was that although the words, the actions, the sacrifices didn’t demonstrate a heart sold-out to God. They brought they’re leftovers & second-best gifts.
John Maxwell, a Christian writer and expert in leadership wrote, "If you pay on the front-end you can play on the back-end." This is true whether you’re talking about ROTH IRA’s or following Jesus. Sometimes it’s easy to fall into the pattern of telling God and ourselves that "as soon as..." or "if only..." then we’d take Jesus more seriously. Or there’s a funny idea that assumes because I’m a "pastor" that this whole following Christ thing is somehow easy, down pat and second nature. It’s not.
God is jealous and we’d do well to remember that. He insists on our “first-fruits" because it’s a sign of our trust that God would take care of us. Here’s a simple self test to check on our attitude. Ask yourself, "If Jesus were removed from your life what would be different?" Would Sunday become another day to sleep in, or would you still come to church because your friends are here? Would the way you study for finals or cracked-the-books have been different? What about the way you did you’re job last week? What about how you dealt with your husband, wife, kids, parents or pets?
When our attitudes are such that the absence of Jesus would change ever aspect of our lives we will understand that such an attitude God blesses.