Money Talks: But What Is It Really Saying? Robbery Without a Weapon
As far-fetched as it may seem, our finances generally mark the position of our spiritual pilgrimage. We are no farther along in our walk with God than the point where we have learned to trust Him with our tithe. Someone has well said that more could be learned about a person’s commitment by looking at their checkbook than their prayer book. This one area could be the reason for many unresolved conflicts and unmet needs.
The tithe is the place where many Christians go astray. Some because they have never been taught the spiritual truths concerning stewardship. Others because they have not studied the Word of God to find these truths for themselves. But mostly, because of willful rebellion against the Word of God. Many Christians profess to love the Bible and take it as their rule of faith, yet deliberately ignore the plain teaching of the Word of God regarding the tithe.
Now please do not misunderstand. This is not designed to get more money for the church or for God’s work. It is designed to lead the listener into spiritual growth and blessing by being obedient to the Word of God. One of the common complaints about many preachers is that they are always preaching about money. It is usually a telltale sign that those who are making these statements are generally the ones who are disobedient to God’s Word regarding the tithe.
There is a lot of misunderstanding today concerning the tithe (one-tenth of our income belonging to God). In fact, one of the great injustices that many of us preachers have done to the church is to insist that God demands one-tenth of our income and one-seventh of our week. This implies that the other nine-tenths of our income and the other six days of the week are ours to do with as we please. The truth of the matter is that everything we have belongs to God. Not just the tenth — everything! We are nothing more than stewards passing through this world. For most of us, fifty years from now everything we own will be in someone else’s name. Fifty years ago what you own today belonged to someone else… your land, your home, your assets. When you came into this world you came into it naked without a dime. And the obvious truth that follows is that you will leave this world the same way. We do not own a thing. We are merely stewards of God’s resources. Consequently, the tithe is a great place to start in our stewardship with God… but it is a terrible stopping place.
As our text unfolds, we will see that the whole emphasis of the Word of God is not on our giving as much as it is on His opening the windows of heaven to pour us out a blessing there would not be room enough to receive. God wants to bless us far more than we want a blessing. The tithe is a starting place in getting God into action in the affairs of man. Let’s venture into the realm of this exciting journey with God that promises to “open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3:10).
God’s apparent problem with us
“…You have gone away from my ordinances and have not kept them… you have robbed me!” (Malachi 3:7-9)
First, we note in our text God’s apparent problem with us! “Yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from my ordinances and have not kept them. Return to me and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’ “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation” (Mal. 3:7-9).
We have before us God’s problem with us. We see initially that this problem is personal. “YOU have robbed ME!” (Note the personal pronouns.) Have you ever been the victim of robbery? I recently talked with a lady whose home had been broken into, all he drawers ransacked, money stolen along with valuable papers, including her deceased husband’s wedding ring and many sentimental items of great value. Her anguish was intensified by the fact that someone, uninvited, had invaded the privacy of her own domain and took items of value that belonged to her. You see, robbery is a very personal matter and only one who has been a victim of such an experience can know the real anguish of heart. God’s apparent problem with us is personal. He said, “You have robbed Me.” This is a strong accusation and not a mere insinuation. He calls to us in Malachi 3:7 saying, “Return to Me and I will return to you.” The point of return is always the point of departure. God said the place of departure for many of us is the matter of the tithe.
Here is God’s apparent problem with us. It is robbery without a weapon. “YOU have robbed Me!” But the truth is when we rob God there are some other things we rob in the process. When we do not faithfully bring the tithe to God we rob the church of its ministry. We also rob the world of the gospel through great missionary enterprises. But even more personally, we rob ourselves of great blessings. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
In the New Testament we find these words escaping the lips of our Lord, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). Is it not amazing that some church members would never entertain the thought of not paying their taxes (that is, rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s)? Many of us would never think of not paying taxes on our home, sales tax, or federal income taxes. And yet many of us never render unto God the things that are God’s! That is God’s apparent problem with us. It is a personal problem. We have robbed Him.
AS we further examine the text, we see the problem is not only personal, but is also pointed. God says, “You have robbed Me” (Mal. 3:8). We answer back, “How have we robbed You?” His answer comes in a very pointed way, “In tithes and offerings” (Mal. 3:8). Tithing is God’s appointed program for us. It always has been, and it always will be. There are some today that say the tithe is merely an Old Testament law and is not applicable for this dispensation of grace. The truth of the matter is the tithe existed among the people of God long before the law was given. In Genesis 14:20, we see Abram giving tithes to Melchizedek. In Genesis 28:19-22, we see Jacob vowing to give a tenth unto the Lord. When the law was given the tithe was definitely incorporated in it. “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree is the Lord’. It is holy to the Lord” (Lev. 27:30).
In the New Testament we see Jesus approving and obviously practicing the tithe. The Pharisees were out to catch Him at any point they could. Certainly had Jesus been failing on the matter of the tithe, He would have had stern fingers of accusation pointed His way. Note what He says in His rebuke of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23, “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” This verse is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. Here Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, not for their tithing. In fact, He says, “These things you ought to do.” The word “ought” is an imperative and is translated in other versions as “must.” Jesus saw the tithe as a requirement from God. It is unthinkable in light of the cross on which our Savior died that any of us under grace would give less than the Jews gave under law!
I am amazed at many churches’ mentality concerning the tithe. Some hand out pledge cards during stewardship campaigns, asking the people to sign their names on a card promising to give an amount that “moves toward the tithe” or to pledge a certain amount that is not a tithe. This is astounding that we would ask people to promise to rob God!
It is helpful in our understanding of the tithe to know that it is holy unto the Lord. “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the see of the land or of the fruit of the tree is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord” (Lev. 27:30). The Bible says that “The tithe is holy to the Lord.” That is to say, God reserves for Himself, as His own, one-tenth of what He gives to us. It is holy to Him. There are not many things called holy in the Word of God. When something is set aside as holy it is a dangerous thing to keep that from the Lord. You may say you can’t afford to tithe. The very reason you think you can’t is no doubt because you have robbed God of something that is holy to Him.
Note that the text says, “The tithe is the Lord’s!” (Lev. 27:30). This should open our eyes to a misconception that has blinded many from the truth of the Scripture that one-tenth of our income is not our own personal property at all. It does not belong to us. We have no say about it whatsoever. Regardless of what we have done with it, the tithe is the Lord’s. God’s tithe may be on your back in the form of a new suit of clothes. It may be in your home in the form of a new video game for your television set. You may be watching the Lord’s tithe each evening on a big screen television set in your den. You may be driving the Lord’s tithe down the street in the form of a new car. You may be investing the Lord’s tithe in a bank or another investment institution. You may be stealing it, robbing it, driving it, wearing it, investing it… but it is still not yours.. the tithe is the Lord’s! It belongs to God, and in reality we do not give anything to Him until we give over our tithe.
We need to change our mentality toward the tithe. God says to withhold the tithe is the same as robbing His own treasury. It is indeed a penetrating question, “Will a man rob God?” Friend, I would rather rob the First National Bank than to rob God. It doesn’t’ matter who we are or what we have, we need to tithe. The worse our financial condition, the more we need to tithe. The tithe is holy. It is the Lord’s. According to the Bible, there is a blessing when we give it and a curse when we steal it. The Bible warns us plainly not to touch the tithe. WE tithe because we love the Lord Jesus Christ. A Christian should tithe for the same reason he keeps all the other commandments. If we render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, let us also render unto God the things that are God’s. God’s apparent problem with us is personal and pointed.
God’s appointed program for us
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse” (Malachi 3:10)
Secondly, let us note God’s appointed program for us. “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try 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 such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3:10).
If we are indeed guilty of robbing God of the tithe, then certainly there will be some program of rehabilitation to bring us into right relationship with Him. God lays down this appointed program for us in the text above. Note first the plan. “BRING all the tithes into the storehouse.” Every word of Scripture is important. Note that God told us to bring the tithes, not send them. The Wise Men did not send their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ Child; they brought them .The woman with the alabaster box did not send the box for Jesus’ anointing; she brought it! God says that we are to bring the tithe. There is personal worship in the act of bringing. This is God’s plan — bring.
Second note the person. “Bring YOU all the tithes into the storehouse.” YOU bring! You bring the tithe because you are commanded to bring it, and love obeys. In the Scripture love is equated with action. Jesus aside, “Do you love me?... feed my sheep.” At another time He asked, “Do you love me?... keep my commandments. He said, “He who hears My words and does them, he is who loves Me.” Love is something we do. Love doesn’t’ sing, “Oh how I love Jesus” ― love tithes! You can tithe without loving, but you cannot love without tithing.
I am always a little intrigued by bumper sticker evangelism. We have all seen the bumper sticker that declares, “Honk if you love Jesus.” However, the latest one that says, “Tithe if you love Jesus — anyone can honk!” contains a lot more truth.
Third, note the proportion in God’s appointed program. “Bring you all the TITHES into the storehouse.” 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 says, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” Note the words, “As God has prospered him.” This signifies a definite proportion of income. It does not say, “Let everyone laid in store as he feels led.” Nor does it say, “Let everyone lay by in store as he feels moved by the Holy Spirit.” Friend, the Holy Spirit will never lead us to do anything contrary to the Word of God. And the Word of God teaches us that the tenth is the Lord’s. The Bible says, “Let everyone laid by him in store as God has prospered him.” That is, in a proportionate way, according to a percentage basis. This makes giving equal. The millionaire and less wealthy person are equal in their giving relationship s God has prospered.” Thus, we see that the proportion of our giving is the tithe.
Next, the text reveals to us the place of our tithes. “Bring ye all the tithes into the STOREHOUSE.” Where is the store house? Again 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 says we are to “lay in store.” This clearly points us back to Malachi 3:10 which says for us to “Bring all the tithes into the…” what? Into the storehouse! Also note that we are to do this “upon the first day of the week.” What happens on the first day of the week? Obviously, the local New Testament church is at worship. And the truth of the Scripture is that the local church is the storehouse! IN the New Testament, over 90% of the time the word church is mentioned, it refers to that local, first-day worshipping body of baptized believers. It is not our privilege to scatter our tithe around to all sorts of parachurch or evangelism organizations, youth groups, etc. They are to receive offerings, not tithes! The tithe is to be brought to the local New Testament church, the storehouse, on the first day of the week. And by the way, don’t sell the church short. It will still be here when all the other organizations and groups are dead and gone. Any organization that does not originate in, cooperate with and build up the local New Testament church will come to naught. The place of the tithe is the storehouse — the church.
The text also reveals to us the purpose. “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse THTAT HERE MIGHT BE MEAT IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE.” The purpose of bringing the tithe is to further the work of Christ through the church in bringing salvation to men and women. This is our good and godly purpose given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ in the great commission.
Finally, note the proposition. “Bring ye all the tithes into the store house that there might be meat in my Father’s house, and PROVE ME.” This is unbelievable! God is saying to you, “Put Me (Almighty God) on trial. Prove Me, try Me, with the tithe!” This is one directive in the Scripture that can be put on a trial basis. We are challenged to return to Him the one-tenth that is rightfully His and see whether or not He will let us be the loser. This is amazing condescension that God allows Himself to be put on trial by us in such a manner. If there is any doubt as to God’s existence, here is the way to prove Him. What a proposition — prove me, put me to the test!
God’s appointed program for us is definitely the tithe. The tithe is a great place to start, but a miserable place to stop in our stewardship. In fact, in the purest biblical sense, a tither is simply a reformed thief.
God’s abundant provision for us
“… pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10-12)
What happens when we become aware of God’s apparent problem with us, and meet the conditions of God’s appointed program for us? Note finally God’s abundant provision for us!
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try 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 such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” says the Lord of hosts; “And all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,” says the lord of hosts” (Mal. 3:10-12).
Oh, the promises of God that are ours for the claiming! We see first that there is the promise of provision. God says to us that He “will open the windows of heaven and pour us out a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive.” There has never been a time when we ore needed to know how to open the windows of heaven than today. Remember that these promises are contingent upon our returning to God in the matter of the tithe.
Note that this promise of provision involves quality. These blessings come right out of heaven. They are supernatural. God says, “I will open the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing.” He will “pour out.” They will be sudden. Have you ever poured tea from a pitcher? If you are not careful it will pour out in rapid force. God says our promise of provision will be right out of heaven. What does it mean that He will “open the windows of heaven?” Let Scripture interpret Scripture. Listen to Genesis 7:11-12: “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the foundations of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights.” Here the identical expression is uses. This same expression used with the deluge of the flood is the same expression used in Malachi 3 in God’s response to our tithe. God has promised to honor us with an abundant outpouring! We are not talking about only spiritual blessings, but temporal blessings. The truth of the Scriptures is that we “reap what we sow.” If we sow oats, we will reap oats. If we sow wheat, we will reap wheat. The laws of the harvest simply stated are that we always reap what we sow, awe always reap after we sow, and we always reap more than we sow. Surely we do not suppose the Lover of our Soul will allow us to be the loser because we are faithful to His Word and obedient to His will. I have never seen nor heard of a consistent tither who did not find this to be true. The reason so many are in financial straits today is the simple fact that they have robbed God.
The promise of provision not only involves quality, it involves quantity. Notice the quantity of the blessing “there shall not be room enough to receive it.” This simply means we shall have to give it away. This “more than enough blessing” is for all that meet His conditions. Isn’t this a far cry from the haunting need today where so many are crying “not enough?” Man’s rebellion leads to this kind of economy… the cry of not enough! But not God’s. His abundant promise to us is that He will open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing for us that we will not have room enough to receive it. This is the John 6 principle in action. The boy gave his lunch of a few fish sandwiches and thousands of people were fed and basketfuls were left over. John Bunyan is reported to have said, “There was a man; some called him mad; the more he gave; the more he had!” This is God’s promise of provision in a nutshell, involving quality along with quantity.
There is also the promise of protection involved here. God says, “I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes.” This is quite a promise! When we return the tithe to God we step into the supernatural protection of God. I confess to you that I do not know all the ramifications of this promise. However, that does not mean that I do not choose to abide in the promise that God will supernaturally give protection. If the devourer is a plague on our crops, God says He will devour him. “I will rebuke him.” If the devourer is recession, God says, “I will rebuke him in your behalf.” God gives supernatural protection to the consistent tither. It is His abundant promise to us.
We are not commanded to tithe because God is dependent upon our gifts of money. This brings the wrong concept of our sovereign God. He is certainly not dependent on you or me. The truth is, God doesn’t need our money. He commands us to tithe in order that we might get involved in His program of economy that unlocks the floodgates of blessing upon us. The whole significance of this passage of Scripture is that when the tithe is presented it releases the vast treasures of heaven and moves God into action in our behalf. It always has and it always will!
God’s apparent problem with us is obvious. It is personal. “You have robbed me.” It is pointed. “In tithes.” But God doesn’t leave us in this sad condition, for we see His appointed program for us. The plan, “bring,” the person “ye,” the proportion “all the tithe,” the place “into the storehouse,” the purpose “that there will be meat in my Father’s house,” and the proposition “and prove me.” Almighty God is saying to us, “put Me on trial. Prove me herewith… tithe!” And once again we have met this program we see God’s abundant promise to us — the promise of provision and the promise of protection. “If you return to me…. I’ll return to you.” This is God’s promise to you today.
The tithe is the Lord’s. It is holy unto Him. And He led the way. The greatest stewardship verse in the Word of God is found in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” In light of the cross upon which our Savior died, the question of our text has penetrating proportions. “Will a man rob God?”
Many say, “I know I need to b obedient to God with the tithe, but I just can’t seem to get started. The following are a few simple and proven practical suggestions as to how to begin:
- Make it a matter of definite prayer.
- Give the tithe priority over everything else. The Bible speaks of our giving of “the firstfruits.” Each time you deposit your paycheck, make sure the first check you write is “unto the Lord.”
- Be just as strict and systematic with the tithe as you are in business matters. In fact, even more so, for it belongs to God.
- Always rest in the fact that we can trust the Lord. There has never been a consistent tither who was sorry he tithed. The Lord Jesus gave Himself for you and will not allow you to be the loser because you are faithful to His Word and obedient to His will.
- GO ahead and do it! “Prove me,” says the Lord, “If I will not open the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” (Mal. 3:10) “Return to me, and I will return to you” (Mal. 3:7).