Tithing Believe it or Not?
If you are here today for the first time you can relax and know that the remaining moments of this service are a little inside housekeeping that needs to be done. IF you are new and are tempted to think that we are a church that only focuses on money you would be sadly mistaken. It was one year ago this Sunday when I last addressed this subject. As I have watched our finances over the last few months and I once again have come to realize that we need a reminder of the biblical principle of putting God first.
Preachers who talk about money are often accused of talking only about money. The fact is that money is talked about a lot in the Bible.
There are some 500 references to prayer in the Bible, and there are 2,300 references to money and possessions in the Bible. So, for every sermon preached on the subject of prayer, 4.6 sermons would be preached on the subject of money and possessions. For one Sunday sermon on prayer, there would be a month’s worth of sermons on money and possessions. I have preached on prayer at least twice a year in this church. Sometimes I think that I avoid this subject because there has been so much abuse of people when it comes to money and the church.
I have been taught to practice tithing from the time I was a child. Whether I was making $2.00 an hour bailing hay as a young teen-ager, or selling litters of registered beagle puppies I was taught that 10% of my income belonged to God and I gave willingly. I continue to practice this habit of giving today.
You need to know some things at the outset of this message:
1. I am aware of the fact that there are many people that attend here who don’t know anything about tithing and for you this message is going to be very informative and hopefully challenging.
2. I am very aware that there are some here who know about tithing and have been taught about tithing but you have been lax about it or you have chosen to ignore this biblical teaching. For you I hope this message is convicting and will motivate you to once again practice what is biblical.
The truth is, however, that what the Bible says about money and possessions is related to who is number one in our life. Is God number one, or are you number one? Consider that question as we look at our scripture passage today. Turn with me to Malachi chapter 3. Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament.
What you need to know about Malachi is that God was fed up with Israel and there was good reason. I need to set this up so you will understand the context when we get to chapter three where our text is today.
6 The LORD of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name!
“But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’
7 “You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar.
“Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices?[c]’
“You defile them by saying the altar of the LORD deserves no respect. 8 When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
9 “Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should he show you any favor at all?” asks the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings. 11 But my name is honored[d] by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they offer[e] sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of my name. For my name is great among the nations,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
12 “But you dishonor my name with your actions. By bringing contemptible food, you are saying it’s all right to defile the Lord’s table. 13 You say, ‘It’s too hard to serve the LORD,’ and you turn up your noses at my commands,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “Think of it! Animals that are stolen and crippled and sick are being presented as offerings! Should I accept from you such offerings as these?” asks the LORD.
14 “Cursed is the cheat who promises to give a fine ram from his flock but then sacrifices a defective one to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “and my name is feared among the nations!”
Now you can follow along on the screen as we look at chapter three:
“For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
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. 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 blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:6-10
Do words ever jump out at you when you read something? You can be sitting there reading along, and all of a sudden, this word just kind of jumps right off the page and smacks you. Well, the word that jumps out at me here is the word “rob.” Four times in verses 8 and 9, the word “rob” appears, or some variation of the word. Robbery is a pretty serious charge. Only murder and rape would be considered worse crimes in our culture.
It’s one of the Ten Commandments. There are several types of robbery. There is forceful robbery where someone uses a weapon and threatens the victim. There are also more passive methods. Embezzlement is robbery. Over the last few years the crime of identity theft has become more prevalent. Robbery can also come in the form of cheating.
Robbery also affects many people as well. As we examine this passage today, let’s consider three entities that are affected by the type of robbery that the prophet Malachi talks about. The first is:
1. Are You Robbing God?
The first thing that Malachi tackles is the robbing of God. Robbing God is not something to be taken lightly. We rob God, when we deny him what is rightfully his. We deny him what is rightfully his when we withhold our tithe from him. The tithe is defined as 1/10, or 10%, of our income.
We say, “Hey, I worked hard for that money. I have bills to pay.” The truth is that all of it is God’s to begin with. He allows us to have the income, and it is our act of thankfulness that we give back to him a mere 10% of what he gave us.
Psalm 24:1-2 says,
“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas and built it on the ocean depths.”
God owns the entire world to begin with. We are merely tenants on his land. The very least we can do is offer a part of what we gain to God, since he gave it to us to begin with. In verse 8, we find…
A. The claim of God.
“Yet you have robbed me.” Malachi 3:8
God levels a very serious charge in verse 8. He asserts that the Israelites were robbing him by the withholding of tithes and offerings.
Now, to set the stage a little here, let’s get some background information about the times in which Malachi lived. The Jewish people had just returned from captivity in Babylon, which is modern day Iraq. They had been gone for 70 years. The land was in ruins. The Temple was destroyed. The city of Jerusalem lay in ruins. It was a desolate land. Work was scarce. Money was in short supply. Poverty ruled the day. Here was a group of destitute people, who were struggling to provide food, shelter and clothing for their families. They had almost nothing. To top it all off, there was drought in the land, so the crops weren’t growing. It was awful.
Into this type of problems God says, “You are robbing me.” Can’t God see that these people have nothing? They are scrounging for food wherever they can find it. They can’t pay the rent. They can’t buy new sandals for the kids. They can’t buy enough grain to make a decent loaf of bread. God says, “You are robbing me.” The argument comes back, “I can’t afford to give anything.” Have you ever heard that claim? Have you ever made that claim? The truth is that no matter what our level of income or wealth, God expects us to give back to him a portion of what he has given us. They didn’t have much, but they had something. Last week, we look at the account of the poor widow’s offering of two little copper coins. Jesus said that she gave more than the wealthy that piled in money. It’s not the amount of the gift, but it is the motive and sacrifice behind the gift.
In verse 9, we find…
B. The Criticism of God.
You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. . .” Malachi 3:9
Sometimes that word “curse” troubles us. We associate curses with witches and the like. We think of wizards and magic potion when we think of curses. There is a difference here. Those curses are intended to be harmful. They are malicious in nature.
What we have here is not God saying, “I don’t like those people over there, so I am going put a curse on them.” This is a matter of the law of consequences. The consequence of their actions is what this is talking about. There are consequences when we do things. If I beat my head against the wall, the consequence will be a headache or a concussion. The consequence of their actions, or inaction, was that they received less and less.
If at your job, you continue to give less and less effort, you will receive less and less in the way of pay. You may even lose your job. I have seen that happen to people. They just quit giving effort on the job. They get bad reviews and no pay raise. They ultimately either quit or get fired. There are consequences to our actions.
The consequence of failing God is that he removes his hand of blessing from our lives. That’s what the Jewish people were facing. Their poverty deepened because they were unfaithful to God. On top of that, the whole nation was implicated in the sin. There were probably some who were faithful. There were some that may have been partially faithful. The majority was unfaithful. Partial faithfulness is also being unfaithful. If I am faithful to my wife 364 days per year, I am still unfaithful. Those that were unfaithful were ruining it for the whole nation.
Let’s take this teaching a step further. I know that none of us want to rob God but if you choose to not obey this principle does it affect anything else?
2. Are You Robbing the Church and its Ministry?
The Church is robbed. God is God, and, as the Bible says, he owns the cattle on a thousand hills. God doesn’t need our money to be God, but the Church needs money to be the Church.
In order to fulfill the mission of the Church, there has to be some financing behind it. For a church to carry on the mission and ministry for which it was intended there must be financial support. No organization can function without financial resources. If you want to belong to the YMCA you must pay a membership fee. That fee provides not only you the services you want to use but also it allows the YMCA to function. Those dues allow them to provide heat in the winter and cool air in the summer and to purchase the kind of equipment that is needed to be a place for physical fitness.
Churches are no different in this sense than other organizations. There are expenses that must be met. Utilities, building maintenance, ministry materials and supplies, and many other needs must be met on a consistent basis. Community outreach is something we are committed to but can’t do if you don’t give.
Let’s look at giving in our church from January through August:
494 Total giving units
238 individuals or families have given $0-$500
166 individuals or families have given $500-$3000
50 individuals or families have given $3000-5000
40 individuals or families have given over $5000
Bags of old, worn out currency were returned to the U.S. Treasury. In one bag, two tattered bills began to talk. The $20 bill boasted of all the wonderful places he had seen. He said, “I went to some of the nicest stores and restaurants in the world, had the distinction of being in numerous country clubs, and visited some very exotic places.” The $1 bill humbly replied, “All I ever did was go to church, go to church, and go to church.”
Reader’s Digest, June 1988, p. 147
A The Call of God.
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse. That there may be food in My house.” Malachi 3:10
The storehouse is the center of God’s activity. At the time Malachi wrote this, it was the Temple. Now, it is the Church. The storehouse is the Church.
There is some confusion about which storehouse we should give to. I believe you give to the church where you are being fed. You don’t go and eat at Ruby Tuesday’s and then go pay the bill at Applebee’s. You pay for dinner where you are fed. You tithe to the church where you are fed spiritually and where you believe in the ministry that is happening. God calls us to support His ministry on earth.
Jesus said, “Bring all the tithes. . .”
Sometimes we make excuses for people and say, “Start with two percent and work your way up.” God doesn’t tell anybody that. God doesn’t say, “Work on it.” God doesn’t say, “Pray about it.” God doesn’t say, “See if somehow you can fit that into your budget.”
God clearly says, “Bring the whole title.” By the way, partial obedience won’t bring partial blessings. Some people think. “I’ll just obey God a little bit and that will bring me a little bit of blessings.” Sorry, I’ve got some bad news for you. Partial obedience is total
If your husband or wife goes on a trip and comes home and says, “I was ninety-nine percent faithful to you while I was gone,” that’s one hundred percent unfaithfulness. Isn’t it? You bet it is.
Jesus has charged the church to go into the entire world and preach the Good News. Part of our duty, in addition to supporting the concerns of the local church, is to provide for missions around the world. We are woefully behind in giving toward global evangelism and cross cultural ministry in our local church. (Missions)
We believe and practice as a church the giving of tithes and offerings. There are many of us in this church who not only give God back the ten percent we believe that is His but we also give offerings above and beyond the 10%.
Let me let you in on a very big secret. This is not a negative sermon. This is a life-changing message. You see here is the secret. Are you ready?
You can’t out-give God! God has always looked for people who willingly and cheerfully give back to Him what is already His. I know of some people who will say, I can’t afford to give that much. You can’t afford not to.
You will say I can’t afford to give 10% but you have no trouble spending money you don’t have on frivolous things that you don’t need.
We all have our pet peeves or things that annoy us don’t we. I’m annoyed every-time I see a church having a fund-raiser. Do you know why? It is a sign that the church or the membership of that church is not following the Biblical rule of tithing. Churches that practice tithing don’t need to have yard sales. Churches that practice tithing don’t need to go to the community and beg for money.
Story from my childhood church:
Churches that practice tithing won’t need to have fund-raisers. There will be money there to support children’s ministry and youth group ministries. Compassion ministry will take place and those who are in need will be cared for. We are intentionally reaching out to this neighborhood with after school tutoring. The vision and plan for this church is about to grow beyond most of our capabilities but with faithful giving money won’t be a problem.
B The Challenge of God.
“An try me in this, says the Lord of host, If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:10
God challenges his people to support the work of the Lord. Remember that these people to whom Malachi was talking were mired in desperate poverty, and yet they are challenged to rise above that and provide for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. God is issuing them a challenge. There is a story in the Bible about a widows little offering. Jesus said that she gave more, because she gave all she had out of her poverty.
In his second letter to the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul wrote, “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will.”
The churches in the region of Macedonia were poor, but they gave generously. Paul wrote this to a rather wealthy church in the city of Corinth.
I believe that is a challenge for us. We are wealthy. We may not individually be rolling in money, but compared to the rest of the world, we are wealthy. I believe God is challenging us to step up and step out on faith to support His work on this earth and especially for those of us here today in this community.
A pastor paid a visit to a farmer and asked, "If you had two hundred dollars, would you give one hundred dollars to the Lord?
"Sure would," said the farmer.
"If you had two cows, would you give one cow to the Lord?"
"Yeah, I would."
"If you had two pigs, would you give one of them to the Lord?"
The farmer replied, "That's not fair. You know I have two pigs."
There is no other time for giving but now. It will never be easy.
Citation: Kent Hughes, Preaching Today #205
In addition to robbing God and the Church, we are also…
3. Are You Robbing Yourself?
By withholding our tithe, we not only rob God and the Church, we also rob ourselves. We rob ourselves of the blessings that God pours out on those that are faithful to him.
That doesn’t mean we give for the sole reason of getting. We aren’t lab rats who punch a button and get a food pellet. We don’t plop our money into the offering to buy a special favor from God. We can’t buy off God.
God does promise to supply the needs of his people who obey his commands. Tithing is as much a command as anything else, and God expects us to follow through on that command. He expects us to tell the truth. He expects us to be faithful to our spouse. He expects us to kind and compassionate to others. He expects us to love him above everything else.
We rob ourselves of a vibrant relationship with God when we allow something to get in the way between him and us. If we value our money and possessions more than we value our relationship with God, then our relationship with God will naturally suffer.
We rob ourselves of opportunities on the job if we value goofing off more than we value our job. We will lose our job if that’s the case.
We will lose fellowship with God if we don’t make him number one in our lives, even ahead of money. The issue of tithing really isn’t about money; it’s about commitment to God. It’s about our relationship with him. When we fail in that commitment to him, we rob ourselves of a complete relationship with him.
This basically comes down to our attitude of who owns what. If we believe that we own all we have, then we will have a stingy attitude toward God. If we realize that God owns all that I have, then we will gratefully give to him out of a heart of love. The question is, “Who owns your possessions, bank account, and even your very life?”
We have no control over our possessions, money or life. Our house might burn down tomorrow. The stock market may take a dive and slash the amount we have in our retirement fund. Our life may be taken at any time. The truth is that we don’t own ourselves, much less the stuff we possess. God owns it all. He gave us what we have. It’s all a matter of our attitude toward what we have and who we are.
In this time of financial upheaval I watched with interest this last week as alarmists on different news channels we stirring the pot regarding our personal finances. You almost got the impression watching Shepherd Smith on Fox News that he would be happy with nothing less than a run on the banks with paranoid people taking their money out.
How do authentic Christfollowers approach times like these? I considered a few options and then it dawned on me that I have given faithfully and tithed consistently and I have nothing to worry about. I will be taken care of by the promises of God.
The great thing about this passage is the last half of verse 10. It says,
“And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more.”
I love that. God wants us to put him to the test. How many times do we hear claims from people and we think, “Yea, well prove it”? God is saying, “I’ll prove it to you.” God is saying put me to the test. God promises to be faithful to those who are faithful to him.
God is saying to us today, “Put me to the test.”
I’ve heard people say, “You know, when we tithe, our money goes further.”
The truth is that the 90% that God allows us to keep will always go farther than the 100%. I can testify to that in our life. When you are faithful to God, he supplies every need you have. He may not give you a brand new car or big screen TV, but he will provide everything you need.
For action steps today I want to challenge you to take this message seriously. I want to ask you to put this to the test.
Take the next three months and give the ten percent of your income that belongs to God back to Him. Do it faithfully and factually. Don’t hold back, give the whole 10%. You will be amazed at how God provides for you and makes up the ten percent.
You see I know some of you today have never heard of such a thing and you need to go home and think about it.
Others of you know better and you just need to start obeying the word of God.
A minister preached a sermon along the lines that everything belongs to the Lord. An old farmer skeptically sat in the congregation, listening to but not agreeing with the sermon. That afternoon he invited the preacher to Sunday dinner with him and his family. After dinner they walked outside, the farmer made a point of showing the preacher around his house, barns, tool shed, and pointed to his beautifully kept farm. Then he asked the preacher half jokingly, "Pastor, I worked all my life on this land. Do you mean to tell me that it’s not my land, that it’s the Lord's land?" The minister reflected for a moment and then quietly said to the farmer. "ask me the same question a hundred years from now."
Yes, everything does belong to the Lord, and when we bring our tithes into the storehouse we simply are returning a part of what is already God's.
A church member stopped the pastor and angrily complained that the church had purchased five new brooms--an expenditure that he thought was completely unnecessary. The pastor was surprised at the man's reaction and mentioned it to the church treasurer, who said, "It's understandable. How would you feel if you saw everything you gave in the past year tied up in five brooms?" Citation: Preaching (March/April 1995); submitted by Brad Estep; St. Petersburg, Floridian
God I ask that you would look with mercy on us today. As a church we are facing financial challenges for one reason and one reason alone. Your people have failed to believe and practice the system that you put in place to honor you and provide for your work.
Forgive those of us today who drove here in stolen cars bought with Your money. Forgive us for sitting here in stolen clothes and for living in houses that we are buying with Your money.
Lord give us a chance to correct our ways and begin to live in obedience to You and Your principles. Extend grace to us as we correct the fact that we have not made you a priority in every area of our lives.
Martin Luther said:
“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”
We ask that you leave prayerfully today and consider what you have heard. God bless you and have a good week.
***Portions of this message came from a message by Wesley Bishop***