Summary: Ever timid of preaching about tithing? Don’t be! Malachi 3:6-18 brings a strong word of exhortation to all believers. We ought not to rob God by holding back our giving any more than we would put on a ski mask and rob a bank!
The Great Heist. By Matthew Everhard. An expository sermon from Malachi 3:12-18 originally delivered at Hudson Presbyterian Church on October 28th and 29th.
Every seminary student who wants to be a pastor can tell you that there are two things that we are afraid to preach about. Two biblical truths that we dread. Two things that we know we will have to preach about one day, but we want to put off for as long as possible. Can you guess what those two things are? The number two most dreaded topic to preach about is hell. Trust me, preachers enjoy speaking about hell just about as much as you like being warned about it, ok? Do you know the number one topic we fear, tithing! I guess that means that we would rather preach about eternal hell-fire than to have to talk about financial stewardship with our people! We simply do not want to become the caricatures of the fire breathing preacher, or the corrupt money beggar! But you know what? If we want to be faithful, if we want to be obedient to Christ, if we want to have biblical ministries we must talk about both. And so today, I will take on my own top fear as we read Malachi this morning.
As we launch right into Malachi’s teaching on tithing, I want you to notice a bit about his style of writing. Notice how Malachi is recording a dispute between God and His people. He is recording a sort of verbal sparring match going on between God and Israel. God says, “Return to me” Well how are we supposed to do that? “You are robbing me.” How are we doing that? It’s all throughout Malachi. In fact, when you outline the whole book of Malachi, these verbal disputes show up as the main pillars of his teaching. Does anyone here have kids that argue like that? They debate just about anything you say? You say, “Eat your dinner” they say I can’t eat that! How am I supposed to eat that? You say, “Get dressed, get your clothes on” they shoot back, I can’t pick out my own clothes are you crazy! (Joke: And those are just the teenagers, you should hear the little kids talk back!). If you know someone who disputes every statement that you make, they either have a maturity issue, or they are just flat out disobedient.
Let’s have a closer look at our passage this morning. Verse 7, “Return to me and I shall return to you says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return.’ Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say ‘How are we robbing You?” In your tithes and contributions. Notice that the flow of the passage moves from the general concept of repentance, to the specific concept of financial faithfulness. In Israel’s case, one of the reasons they are in such bitter dispute with God is that they just will not let their stated faith in God, their said religion, translate into obedience in their actual lives. And so God gets specific. How shall we return? Let’s have a look at your heart. Because your pocketbook is a looking glass into your heart’s priorities.
Robbing God—God Owns it all. Can you stop for a moment and imagine God accusing you of robbing Him? The whole idea just seems so absurd, doesn’t it? Yet Scripture teaches us that God is the owner of all things. He is the owner of the “cattle on a thousand hills” (Ps 50:10). That’s actually an understatement! The first theological concept that we have to understand when it comes to giving is that God is the rightful owner of all things. Including your home, car, your salary. You don’t actually OWN anything. It’s all on lease for use in the Kingdom. If you never understand that, you will always think of financial giving as a hassle and never a duty that ought to be performed with joy.
Robbing God—Are We Really Thieves? At the same time, most of us just don’t picture ourselves as thieves, do we! Most of us will never, ever, go out at three in the morning, dress up in all black clothes, pull a ski mask over our faces, put on gloves to hide the prints, brandish a gun and rob someone else’s home, or a gas station, or a bank! That is just so far beyond our comprehension, that we would never consider ourselves criminals in this way! And just how does someone rob God anyway? Would we have to bring a revolver to the gates of heaven and “stickup” St. Peter? No that’s too silly, would we have to sneak into the church late at night and crack the combination to the safe room where the deacons keep our treasury of Presbyterian gold? (We actually don’t have a safe like that, but I’ve heard the mega church down the road does).