Summary: The underlying problems of God’s people are related to attitude, not behavior. The two are definitely correlated; our behavior reveals our attitudes.

The Godly Surface

(Malachi 3: 7-15)

1. When we do not pay attention, we create problems.

2. A police officer in a small town stopped a motorist who was speeding down Main Street. "Officer," the man began, "I can explain."

"No explanation needed!" snapped the Officer. "I’m going to let you cool your heels in jail until the chief gets back."

The man tried again. "But Officer, I have to tell you something."

"Just keep quiet! You’re going to jail and I’m not interested in what you have to say!" the Officer barked.

A few hours later the Officer looked in on his prisoner and said, "Lucky for you the chief is at his daughter’s wedding. He’ll be in a good mood when he gets back."

"Don’t count on it," answered the fellow in the cell. "I’m the groom." [Reader’s Digest]

3. Many of us are like this officer when it comes to God: we simply do not listen. And we do not listen because we have a problem in the realm of attitude.

Main Idea: The underlying problems of God’s people are related to attitude, not behavior. The two are definitely correlated; our behavior reveals our attitudes.

I. A STINGY Attitude Toward God (7-12)

A. Their attitude was DISRESPECTFUL (7-8)

1. “Stealing means not only taking what is not yours but keeping back for yourself what belongs to someone else.” Robert Alden

2. "Tithing is the Old Testament duty of giving one-tenth of one’s earnings and/or resources to God."

3. The original commands in the Torah only deal with agriculture (crops and livestock), or the conversion of the same to money, not necessarily earnings.

4. Tithing laws are unclear in the OT; there may have been two annual tithes (Lev. 27:30 and Deut. 14:22) and a third tithe every three years (Deut. 14:28). Others interpret the first two tithes to refer to one single tithe.

5. "According to the Rabbis, the Books of Numbers and Deuteronomy are complementary to each other (comp. Tithe, Biblical Data); consequently there can be no contradiction between them. Thus there were three kinds of tithes: (1) that given to the Levites as stated in Num. xviii. 21 et seq., and termed "the first tithe" ("ma’aser rishon"); (2) the tithe which was to be taken to Jerusalem and there consumed by the landowner and his family, and which was termed "the second tithe" ("ma’aser sheni"), it being taken from what remained after the first tithe had been appropriated; and (3) that given to the poor ("ma’aser ’ani"). Therefore two tithes were to be taken every year except in the seventh year: Nos. 1 and 2 in the first, second, fourth, and fifth years; Nos. 1 and 3 in the third and sixth years." (Source: The Jewish Encyclopedia).

B. Tithing represented PRIORITIZING God (9-10a)

Proverbs 3: 9-10, "Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine."

Matthew 6:33, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

People who can support Kingdom work may have a problem with respect towards God or they do not put God first.

C. Principal: Giving results in Being BLESSED (10b-12)

In the Mosaic Covenant, God promised to bless Israel physically with prosperity if they would serve Him faithfully; some Christians confuse the Old Covenant with the New, and use these promises to Israel to promote prosperity theology.

D. The New Testament Takes A DIFFERENT Approach

1. Grace giving and rewards in heaven

2. 2 Corinthians 8:5, "And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will"

3. The concept of stewards of our resources: time, talents, energy, and money.

4. The New Testament encourages a surrender of ourselves and then they contributed financially as God prospered them, saving up money for the purpose of giving (I Cor. 16:2, "on the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up…")

5. All of us here today will not agree on this one. But I believe that the relationship of the OT Law to the NT believer is complicated, and no one has it down to a clear science; we may like to pick and choose which parts of the law we say apply to us based on personal preference, not objective criteria. But the silence in the NT about tithing is significant.

6. The New Testament does not specify a percentage, although many Christians have found tithing helpful to assure proportionate giving; I have. But Grace giving is consistent with the idea that we live in the age of the Spirit in which God’s Spirit moves in our hearts. What you give is ultimately between you and God. {article about giving available online, called “Sorting Out Giving” in our “articles” section}.

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