Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Will You Rob God?

           I have been occasionally working through the Minor Prophets. Here is my exegesis and application of Malachi 3:6-12. I would encourage you to read the passage before you read my post. You can read it online here


          Statistics can often be manipulated and thus are not always trustworthy. However, they can give us a general overview of where a society is at.  So when we hear that the average tithe in America is around three percent that should give us pause.  If the average tithe was eight percent we might shrug it off and say that is close enough. But three percent is nowhere near the pre-gospel tithe of ten percent. If those in the Old Testament were required to give ten percent, how much more should we in the New Testament age give? The failure of the tithe has led to many churches being hip-deep in debt. Debt can cause churches to focus on making money to pay off the debt, which diverts them from the main task of preaching Christ. This can have a tremendous impact on the spread of the Gospel, the discipling of the nations, and the glorifying of God in this fallen world.  It is no surprise that Jesus spoke about money so much.  How we use our money shows our character and priorities. 
            But this is not simply a 21st century American problem.  Over 2,000 years ago the Israelites had a hard time bringing their tithes into God’s house.  They were pinched for money and felt that they could not afford to give to God.  In this section of Malachi God urges Israel to bring in the tithe and see how he would bless her.
            At the beginning of this section, the Lord urges Israel to return to him and repent of their sins. God begins the debate by telling Israel that He is unchanging. (vs. 6) God is reminding Israel of His mercy. We need this reminder. Repentance comes quicker when we realize that God is merciful. God does not change therefore Israel is not destroyed. (Isaiah says something similar in Isaiah 1:9.)  Israel can repent and turn because God’s mercy is always present.  But then Israel says, “In what way shall we return?  What kind of repentance do you want from us, Lord? What sign can we show that our repentance is sincere?” God follows up their question with a question of his own, “Will a man rob God?” Israel replies, “In what way have we robbed you?” So this debate includes two questions by Israel instead of one: How shall we return and how have we robbed you? The main point of this disputation is now brought front and center: Israel has robbed God by failing to bring tithes and offerings into his house. Israel can show sincere repentance, a true turning to God, by tithing once again.  
            The tithes and offerings supported Israel’s priesthood. Tithes were a tenth of all produce, crops, and flocks. (Leviticus. 27:30-33)  These were given to the Levites to support them in their temple work, since their tribe did not have any specific plot of land in Israel. Every three years a tithe was taken to support a feast where not just the Levites, but the poor were invited as well. (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)  “Offerings were the portions of the sacrifices set apart for the priests and the voluntary gifts for a special purpose.” During Malachi’s time Israel was neglecting the house of God and the men appointed to oversee the house of God. Haggai addresses this same problem in Haggai 1:2-4, where Israel was building their houses, but refusing to build the house of God.
            The Lord invites Israel to test him and see if he will not bless them with great blessing when they bring the tithe into his house. (vss. 10-12) During the flood in Genesis 7:11 the windows of heaven were opened in judgment to destroy the earth. But here God says, he will open the windows of heaven and pour out blessing upon Israel. He mentions two specific blessings. First, the ground will once again be prosperous. (vs. 11) Second, the nations will call Israel blessed. (vs. 12)


There is always room for repentance because God does not change. (3:6-7) It does not matter what sin has been committed God invites us to return to him.  The Lord does not change therefore we are not consumed. The Lord mercy’s is everlasting.  The Lord does not change and therefore we can always repent.

It is a great sin to neglect the care of God’s house and those who minister in it. There have been some changes in tithes and offerings with the coming of Christ. None the less, the principle in this passage remains the same. God expects his people to use their funds to support the ministry of the Church, his house. This would include paying the pastor’s salary, upkeep of the facilities necessary for worship, providing for missionaries, and care for the poor. Those who refuse to tithe rob God.

Tithing is one of the central ways God blesses his people. It seems odd that giving results in getting, but the Scriptures are clear that this is the way God made the world to work. Proverbs 11:23-24 gives us the same principle. When we faithfully tithe God promises to bless us. This does not mean luxury and wealth, but it does mean that God will sustain us and his church.  

The nations will bless the Church when she tithes. It is hard to know exactly how this works, but here is a possibility. When the people of God tithe, the poor are cared for.  The world sees how the church cares for the poor and glorifies God.  Another possibility is that the tithe money is used to send out missionaries.  As the nations receive the Gospel they bless the Church and her Lord. However it exactly works out, the passage is clear: When we tithe the nations will see and bless God’s people. 


janel said...

very nice blog. Additionally, we know God's plan is perfect and if we follow his Biblical plan we are helping to exact his will 'on earth as it is in heaven'. If every Christian tithed at least 10 percent it is likely there would be enough money in churches to take care of the truly poor and widows and other needy individuals in society. Hence, there would be no need for government handouts and welfare programs and most importantly people would view God as their provider and put their faith in him and not the government.

Peter Jones said...

Janel, that is an excellent point and one I hope to follow up on. Many of the government's aid programs come from the failure of God's people to provide for the poor and needy.

Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8