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Mugging God at Church

Malachi 3:8-12 

 

"Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed Thee?' In tithes and offerings. [9] 'You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! [10] Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,' says the Lord of hosts, 'if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. [11] Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it may not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,' says the Lord of hosts. [12] 'And all the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,' says the Lord of hosts." 
 

It makes perfect sense to me. Why would these people tithe? These were the same people who denied that God loved them. They even thought that He blessed evil people while neglecting them. Their priests certainly weren't good role models. They offered inferior sacrifices to God, practicing a "minimalist" religion. And the people didn't take the covenants with one another seriously, (as evidenced by their cavalier attitude toward marriage and divorce), why would they be concerned with the things of God? These were complacent people who by their actions and attitudes were saying that spiritual things were less real and less important than material things. So why would they tithe?

It isn't that they weren't giving. I'm sure they were, it was that they weren't tithing. There's a difference. Look at verse 10. God said. "Bring the WHOLE tithe." Most believers give something, but that doesn't mean they are tithing.

Remember God's reaction to the priests who were sacrificing blind and crippled lambs. "Behold, I am going to rebuke your offspring, and I will spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your feasts; and you will be taken away with it." (Malachi 2:3 NAB) What a vivid picture. God spreading the refuse, created by the sacrificial lambs, on the faces of the priests who make the sacrifices. It wasn't that the priests weren't making sacrifices, it is that they were making sacrifices that didn't please God. God's people were giving. They just weren't giving their WHOLE tithe-they weren't giving a sacrifice that pleased God, and it angered Him.

How is your giving? Do you give your WHOLE tithe? 

Many Christians practice "minimalist" giving, something that is alarming church leaders in Europe because of the introduction of the Euro, the first common coinage in Europe since the Roman Empire. In France, church officials suspect donation will decrease because the most common donation is a 10-franc coin. Officials are concerned that many will drop in a similarly sized Euro instead. The Euro is worth about a third less, meaning those who want to maintain the same level of giving need to drop in two or three coins instead of one. In Ireland, officials say they are bracing for a slump of about 20 percent. Again, the problem stems from simple math. The Euro is worth about 20 percent less than the common one-punt coin generally donated by Irish believers. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

If these people were tithers, it wouldn't be an issue. They'd move the decimal point to the left one place and give 10% of their income. But because they are "minimalist" givers, their church leaders are concerned since the Euro is worth less than the equivalent sized coin the people are used to giving.

Are you a "minimalist" giver? Or do you bring your "WHOLE" tithe?

I don't know about you personally, but I do know a little something about people's giving habits. In 2000 the average non-churchgoer gave 1.3% of their income to charity. How much do you think the average churchgoer gave? Another way to ask that question, is how much difference does faith really make in how generous a person is? The answer: 2.3%. Times haven't changed since Malachi's day have they? Faith makes a 1% difference is a person's generosity. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

According to Christian pollster George Barna, in 1999 16% of born again Christians gave nothing to their church, and only 8% gave a full tithe. The other 76% gave something, but it wasn't a full tithe. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

Why do you think God is so harsh with the people by calling them thieves? I mean, doesn't the money belong to them? Shouldn't God be grateful that they are giving anything instead of angry that they aren't giving enough?

What we do with money speaks volumes about what we value. In a recent article for NEWSWEEK, Jane Bryant Quinn gave seven tips for financial health. They included things like lower your spending, get out of debt and have an emergency fund on hand-basic money management principles. Exactly what I'd expect to read in an article like this. But one thing she wrote jumped off the page when I read it. It was the kind of thing I'd expect a preacher to say, she wrote, "What you do with your money shows where your values lie." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

What would an audit of your checkbook show about what you really value in life? 

Tim Keller said, "You will always give effortlessly to that which is your salvation, to those things that give your life meaning. If Jesus is the one who saved you, your money flows easily into His work, His people, His causes. If, however, your real religion is your appearance, or your social status, or personal comfort, or pleasure, your money flows most easily into those items and symbols." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

But really, the issue isn't just do we value God and His Kingdom work, it is do we understand that the money really doesn't belong to us-it is His. Actually, that's the critical issue. If you believe it is your money, you'd have the right to give what you think God deserves, but if you know it is His, then you will do with it what He tells you to do with it. The scripture teaches that "The earth is the Lord's, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it." (Psalm 24:1 NASB)

Do you remember the uproar caused by Americans when they heard the American Red Cross wasn't planning on using all of the $547 million dollars we donated to aid the victims of September 11?

Siebel Systems in San Mateo, CA responded to the news by asking for the $3.2 million dollars they donated back. When the local Red Cross officials promised it would be used for the purpose it was donated, Siebels let them keep the money. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

The Red Cross has a responsibility to use the money the way the donors intended, and are doing so now. In the same way, God has a right to insist that we use the money He's provided us with in the way He's intended. After all, the money isn't ours, ultimately, it belongs to Him. We are just His stewards, using it according to His will. 

Do you believe that everything you have comes from a gracious God? Do you value Him? If so, then do as He says and donate the WHOLE tithe. Because I believe God is a gracious God who will provide for my needs and because I value Him and His work, I bring my WHOLE tithe and give it to the Lord.

What will happen if you do give the WHOLE tithe?

First, verse 10 indicates that it will fund His work. It pays for buildings we use for His work, and literature we study. We use the tithe to pay salaries and provide food for the hungry and resources for the mission field. When you give the WHOLE tithe, you know the money you give is going to a good cause. It helps change the world.

But there's more. God also promises in verse 10 that He will open up the windows of heaven and pour His blessings down upon you. The last time He opened up heaven's windows, the earth was filled with water and Noah took a ride on the ark, this time, He plans on flooding you with his blessings.

One more thing He promises-He will rebuke the devourer in your life. Giving the WHOLE tithe, defeats stinginess and the feeling that you can never have enough or get enough. It gets you off the consumer treadmill and places you on a higher spiritual plane.

God calls those who don't tithe, robbers. They rob resources from God's work, blessings from their own lives and they live their lives with the "devourer" nipping at their heels. They never have enough, not because they don't make enough, but because they don't give enough.

How will you respond to God's command to tithe? Will you be one of the 16% who give nothing? Will you be one of the 76% that give something? Or will you be one of the 8% who are obedient to God? 

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