Summary: What would a prophecy about Jesus have to do with the idea of tithing?
A minister took his son with him one night to a small church where he’d been invited to preach. At the entrance of the church building, they passed a little table with a box on it and a sign which read "Alms Box."
Reaching into his pocket, the preacher took out $10 and dropped it in. When the service was over, one of the deacons approached. "Preacher," he said, "we have a custom in this church of paying our evening minister the contents of the alms box." Whereupon he removed the lid, poured the money into the preacher’s hand, and you guessed it! One lone $10 bill.
As they made their way to the car, the boy turned to his father and said, "Hey, dad, I just thought of something. If you’d put more in, you’d have got more out."
APPLY: Malachi chapter 3 is perhaps the most preached Scripture when it comes to the issue of tithing. Preachers have been known to use this text to shame Christians who don’t give a whole lot to God’s cause. And (in many churches) there is reason to do that. The national average of giving (for most congregations) is 3%, with the majority of the support - in any given church - coming from only a handful of people.
ILLUS: In an article in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, reporter Sean O’Neill wrote, “Immediately following WWII people gave proportionately more of their income than they do today.” O’Neill reported that the average evangelical Christian today gives only 3.5% of his income. As a result, the average church is only able to support half the outreach and missions that they’d like to.
Talk show host Dave Ramsey once observed how different America would be if all those who claimed to be Christians tithed. He said, “There would be no more welfare in North America. In 90 days, there would be… no existing church debts. And in the next 90 days, the entire world could be evangelized.”
So, preaching Malachi 3 is almost a no-brainer for most preachers in most congregations. In fact (for preachers that would use this to shame their people into tithing) this passage almost preaches itself because that’s exactly what Malachi was doing to the Israelites. He was shaming them. Malachi was basically telling them, if they would put into their relationship with God, they’d get more out. The Israelites had become lax in their obedience to the law and specifically the part of that law required them to give a regular tithe to God.
(pause) But then, they were under the law – we’re not. They were specifically instructed to give a 1/10 of the income to God – we’re not… at least I don’t think so.
Well, actually, it’s not quite that simple
I. Malachi 3 starts out with a powerful prophecy.
Reread Malachi 3:1-3 and you see a “messenger who will prepare the way before me.” That’s John the Baptist. And Jesus is referred to as “the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple.”
And what’s Jesus going to do when He comes? He’s going to be like a refiner’s fire… a launderer’s soap.
What’s that mean? It means: Jesus would come to clean people up. It means: He would come to bring change to people’s lives.
In the days of Malachi, the Israelites needed a lot of cleaning up. Apparently the Israelites had gotten used to allowing for (vs. 5) sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers. They had become accustomed to looking the other way when others defrauded laborers of their wages, oppressed the widows and the fatherless, and deprived aliens of justice. But who did not fear God. Jesus was going to come like a fire to burn away the evil in their hearts. He was going to come and be like that cake of soap that your mother would use to wash your mouth out when you’d said something you shouldn’t have.
BUT notice what else Jesus was going to do when He came: “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness” Malachi 3:3.
In other words: Part of what Jesus would accomplish (when He came) would be to bring about a change in attitude towards offerings. Offerings would no longer be viewed (as apparently the Jews had gotten in the habit of doing) as a way of buying God off from dealing with their evil deeds. When Jesus came – his purpose would be to fill God’s kingdom with holy people bringing a holy tithe unto their God.
Having said that, THEN Malachi launches into his sermon on tithing.
II. In this sermon, Malachi makes an intriguing comment. He’s just got done saying Israel was a wicked nation, engaged in abominable practices. And now Malachi is calling the nation back to repentance. But how are they to return to God?