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What About Tithing?

Malachi 3:8-10

I have a friend who has been very supportive to me over the last 25 years of my life. And even though we have a long relationship it tends to be a love / hate relationship. I mean I love to spend time with him and his family at a restaurant, or movie, or his house, or even in rush hour traffic. But I hate to go see him at his place of business.

You see my friend is a dentist, and I am not a very good patient. The reason that I have this love hate relationship with him is because every time I go see him in his office he likes to check me for TMJ. If you have ever had this test before you know that it involves him taking his index finger and pressing in the back of my jaw and mouth.  All the while that he pokes he asks me "Does this hurt? How about this? What about this?"

If I cry in pain that means one of two things has happened, either he pushed too hard, without the right sensitivity. Or, more likely, there's something wrong, and he will say, "We'd better do some more tests. It’s not supposed to hurt there!

You know it’s not just doctors that have to poke every now and then to see if everything is all right. As a preacher there are also some times that I need to press and see if everything is all right. But I understand the need to be careful. Sometimes preachers have addressed this topic and the giving stops. Sometimes the members cry out in discomfort, criticizing the message and the messenger. I believe that is because of one or two reasons: Either the preacher has pushed too hard. Or perhaps there's something wrong, because giving to the Lord is supposed to be a joyous or hilarious event; not one that hurts.

Last week we looked at our motivation, or why do we give. I hope that you were able to go home and think about the reasons that you give your time, talents, and treasure to the Lord. This week I have to poke a little, and as we talk about how much to give, I promise to try to be sensitive. I hope that you will be aware of your thoughts and feelings as we talk about tithing.

Usually when I mention the word tithing people are quick to respond that tithing was something that came under the Old law and we are New Testament Christians. But maybe we don’t really understand the practice.

The Biblical practice of tithing is the practice of giving a tenth of a person's income, including money, crops, and animals, and is referred to over 50 times in the Bible, mostly in the Old Testament, since it was a big part of the Law of Moses, but did you know that it was practiced before Mount Sinai?

In Genesis 14:18-20 we read that Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek 400 years before Moses ascended Mount Sinai.

In Genesis 28:12-22 we see a few generations later that Jacob offered tithes to God.

So by the time we get to the Law of Moses in Deuteronomy 14:22-23 the practice of tithing was something that the Children of Israel were at least familiar with.

And it was not just something the Israelites practiced. Every nationality has records of people who gave a special offering of thanks to the source of their blessing. The practice of a first fruit sacrifice was not just an Israelite thing. If a person worshiped Ra, Baal, Molech, or Ashtoreth they all gave a first-fruit giving in an effort to show that they trusted their god would provide the rest of the harvest. Now, we are made aware of the practice because it’s included in the Law of Moses in Exodus 23:16-19, as well as the books of Second Chronicles, Nehemiah, and several others. But it was a practice that was followed by many different groups of people.

You see the practice of tithing has always been symbolic of being thankful. For those who love and believe in God tithing our time, talents, and treasures is an essential way to acknowledge that God actually owns the whole, and that He alone is in control of your life.

Before we can tithe in a manner that is pleasing to God we must understand the circular nature of the tithe. Now what do I mean by that?

We are taught in Scripture to give back to God as a way of acknowledging that He already owns the whole. God blesses us with every good gift and the circle is completed by the fact that we are willing to give back to God and to others. Luke writes in Acts 20:35 "I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive."'

Did you know that little nugget of wisdom came from the Bible? All these years you thought that your grandfather came up with that and passed along to you while standing at a fence post. Luke is telling us that if you want to be blessed then we have to learn how to trust God and show that by giving to those in need. And if you do God will pour out blessings from heaven.

The text that was read for us this morning is a great text hidden away in the pages of the minor prophet Malachi. In our text God promises those who trust Him abundant provision.  Remember what was read from Malachi 3:8-10: "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"

Now let’s be careful here. This is not a health and wealth gospel. We are not saying give God a little of your attention and you will be rich beyond your wildest dreams. These passages show that God wants to work through us, but that will only happen if we trust Him to provide. God says if you trust me fully, I’ll take care of the rest. It’s the same thing Jesus taught in Matthew 6 where He promises to care for physical needs when we put him first.

"Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you".

I love how practical these two verses are and how they complement one another beautifully. Matthew says put God first and he will provide for you.  Malachi says put your money where our mouth is.  You say that you trust God well prove it by bringing all your tithes into the storehouse so that there may be food in God’s house and He will pour out such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it". The New American Standard says. “it overflows

Today when you bring your tithe to the store house, it is a little different than Old Testament times. Instead of going to the temple and making an offering to be stored away, today we pass around a little silver plate and the deacons decide the best way to use that money so that the Lord’s will can be done. The more that we bring the more of God’s work that can be done.

But that’s not all God says in our text this morning. Not only are we to bring an offering that is done cheerfully and generously, but God makes a promise and encourages us to test Him to see if He will keep His promise. Have you ever thought about the fact that God wants us to test Him? God has always given His people permission to check out His promises and see if He was telling the truth. In our text He is daring us to put Him to the test.

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me (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 such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.

Did you notice how the discussion began? Now try me, test me in this. The Hebrew word for test means to examine, scrutinize, or prove. God says that we need to check Him out and see that His word is reliable. Test God and try to out give Him. Test Him and see how He will return your worship with blessings.  It’s an Old Testament Principle that is alive and well in the New Testament Church.

Another parallel verse is found in Luke 6:38 where Jesus says "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you".

I love the symbolism that Jesus uses here. He says the "measure" you use to give "will be measured to you". That seems to be a constant theme with God. You are forgiven the way you forgive, you are judged the way you judge, and now He says that God returns blessings in proportion to the amount that you bless others. The more you give, the more you will receive.

Now that being said you would think that anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ would be an expert at tithing their time, talents, and treasure.  But that’s not always the case. I would imagine that there are a couple of reasons out there that we are a little tight fisted with our blessings.

I would venture to guess that the main reason we have a hard time applying this principle to our giving is that we are afraid God won't really keep His word. Now while we might be a little skittish to admit it our actions speak where our mouths are silent.

You think “Yeah I read these verses and I can see what you are saying, but I have got so much going on. I have so many bills, I have so many needs, I have got too many days and not enough check. Let someone give I’m trying to survive. That’s the attitude of “I believe in God, but I am not so sure that I believe God.”

What I mean is if I were to ask you today to raise your hand if you believed that God existed, I am pretty sure that a majority of you would raise your hand. But believing that God is alive and powerful; believing that He has full control of everything around us, well that takes a deeper kind of faith. You see if we really believed God we would live drastically different than the world around us.

Maybe our problem is that we have not given ourselves fully to God in the first place. Remember that Paul said in 2 Corinthians 8 that the Macedonians were overflowing with joy even in their extreme poverty because they first gave themselves to the Lord.

Let’s be honest for a moment, when things don’t go our way we are quick to give up our joy. A little traffic, a case of the flu, or more month than money turns our joy into fret. I am sure that there were a lot of things going wrong in the lives of the Macedonian’s. They still were under Roman oppression and Rome hated Christianity. But Paul said even in their affliction they begged and pleaded with us to let them share in this service for God's people. But that all started because they had first trusted God completely by giving themselves to Him first.

We must first learn to live with the understanding that God owns it all anyway. When we come to that understanding it’s easier to trust Him with your time, talents, and treasure. And that’s why so many in the church still aren't convinced tithing is still part of God's plan.

Let me close this morning by answering a question that I am sure some of you have. The question of "How much should we give?" Now most preachers would get to this point and say, “I can’t tell you that. You know it’s a personal decision, and the Bible says that we are not supposed to let our right hand know what our left hand is doing.” Well, I am not one of those preachers. So let me give you some guidelines.

First I believe that we need to give as you have been prospered. 1 Corinthians 16:2 says On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. If you have not prospered any then you shouldn’t give. That is a decision that you have to make on your own. 

Secondly, as far as the amount goes let’s look and see what Jesus celebrated. The least anyone ever gave and God commended them was 10%.

As I said earlier the Old Testament shows that people were commanded to give a tithe or ten percent to the Lord. Now I want you to think about the Jews on Pentecost. They had crucified Jesus. They were sorry for that and wanted to know if there was any hope. Peter told them about repentance and forgiveness, and we are told that about three thousand souls were baptized. Now do you imagine anyone on that day coming up out of the water saying, "Praise the Lord, I'm a Christian. I can cut my contribution. I don't have to give 10% any more!"

Well no that’s silly. As they met, they still gave their tithe, but instead of giving the money to the priests, they gave their gifts to Paul, Barnabas, and the other missionaries to spread the borders of the kingdom. In Acts 6, we see Deacons appointed to distribute the bread to the widows. Where did they get the money to buy the bread? Probably from the tithes of the church. So the least anyone ever gave and God commended them was 10%.

And the most anyone ever gave and Jesus commended her was 100%.

There is that great gospel account in Mark 12 where Jesus is in the temple. We read “Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood" (Mark 12:41-44).

So when it comes to the amount of the tithe, it looks like that if we are willing to trust God with anywhere between 10 and 100% of our time, talent, and treasure then He will be please with us. If we are willing to test Him by giving back to Him between 10 and 100% He promises to pour out His blessings until they overflow. 

But before we can give our stuff, we must first give ourselves. It’s only when we have given ourselves to God first that it becomes natural to give back to God. The great thing is that God says test me, trust me with the three things you hold dearest, and see what I can do with your life.

 

 

Questions To Consider

 

Why is the discussion about tithing difficult at times?

We mentioned this morning the circular nature of the tithe. Can you explain that in your own words?

In Malachi 3 God says test me. Are you comfortable with the idea of putting God to the test? Why or why not?

In order for God to bless us what must we do first?

To what degree will God provide for us?  (Malachi 3:10, Matthew 6:33, Luke 6:38)

Do you ever struggle with doubt that God will keep his promises?

How can we find reassurance?

Why is it eaiser to believe in God than to believe God?



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