There are many acceptable reasons to preach on giving: to see giving increase; to help people understand what the Bible says about giving; to provide biblical instruction on stewardship or money management. There is nothing wrong with these goals. But these goals are secondary to the goal I have in mind.
The goal I have in mind is transformation of the head, heart, and hands in regards to our giving. Every topic in the Bible comes back to one issue, worship. Practically speaking, worship could be defined as the day-to-day rhythms of how I think about what I want and then actively obey those thoughts and desires.
For example, pornography use proves that I want to be wanted and I believe that the promise of pornography (I am wanted) is true. Alternatively, angry explosions prove that I want to control circumstances beyond my control, and I believe that the promise of anger (I can control this) is true.
In summary: Porn promises acceptance and angry outbursts promise control therefore a porn addict worships the god of acceptance, and the angry person worships the god of control; I believe that the promises will satisfy my desires and my actions prove what/who I am trusting/worshipping.
Many theologians describe this pattern of “thinking/belief = desires = behavior” as the activity of the head, heart, and hands. The way I think and believe has a formative effect on the desires of my heart and the activity of my hands.
But if I am not careful, I can easily slip into moralism or legalism where I try to conform my actions to a set of rules so that I am more acceptable to God. Moralism and legalism will never result in sustained transformation (spiritual maturity). Moralism and legalism will always result in inconsistent, disobedience because half-hearted obedience is still disobedience.
This is why I say that the goal of this series is transformation in our giving. I hope to faithfully communicate a theology of giving from God’s Word so that you can think about what God says on this topic. Along the way I hope to uncover some of the ungodly heart desires that are deeply rooted in us and show how God is the ultimate satisfaction for those desires. Finally, I hope to provide biblical instruction on how to live obediently as a transformed worshipper of Jesus.
In short, the goal for me, in preaching through this series, is to see God transform us as worshippers at the level of the head, the heart and the hands in our giving. This feels like a monumental task for a kid who grew up in the weekly food-stamp line with duct tape on my shoes.
But that is the beauty of the gospel. Because in the gospel I have been given infinitely more than my sinfully, poor, heart deserves. The cross was bloody because my salvation was costly. The tomb is empty, and my enemies (greed, selfishness, and false security) have been destroyed. The promise of Heaven enables my wholehearted obedient worship in my giving. Amen!? Let’s look at the text for today…
MALACHI 3:6 – 12…
6For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 7From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. 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 need. 11I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. 12Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.
The book of Malachi is a book that confronts God’s people for various things such as being skeptical of God’s love (1:2 – 5), practicing unholy pagan worship (1:6 – 2:9), divorcing their wives and marrying foreign idol worshipping wives (2:10 – 16), claiming that God was unjust while they oppressed the poor (2:17 – 3:5), robbing God of the tithes and offerings he asked for (3:6 – 12), and refusing to serve God (3:13 – 4:3); the entire book is a record of God confronting one sin after the next as he worked to cleanse the community of its rebellion while calling them to repentance (3:7).2
In the text before us today, we see the character of God contrasted with the character of Israel (vv. 6 – 7), the problem that existed among the people of Israel (vv. 8 – 9), the remedy for the sin – problem within Israel (vv. 10 – 11), and the result of living in repentance (v. 12).
#1: THE CHARACTER CONTRAST (VV. 6 – 7)
In verses 6 – 7 the character of God is contrasted with the character of Israel. Notice how God describes his own character in contrast with the character of his people when he says, 6…I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 7From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. God never changes; he is the same yesterday, today and forever. God’s people, on the other hand, were not the same as God; they had turned away from God’s Law and were guilty of breaking their agreement with him; they were no different than their disobedient ancestors.
Because of God’s never changing character, his people had not been consumed by his anger against them for their sin. But why would God’s people need to be reminded that he could in fact wipe them out but has not done so because of his never changing character? I think God reminds them that he had not wiped them out because he wanted to call them to repentance; to return to a right relationship with him according to verse 7. But what was the specific problem?
#2: THE PROBLEM (VV. 7 – 9)
In verses 7 – 9 God describes the problem that existed among the people of Israel. Notice how specific God is about the existing problem when he says, 7…But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. The specific problem here is that God’s people were robbing him; they were walking in complete disobedience to his command to give tithes and contributions (offerings). The entire nation was guilty of this sin and because of this nation-wide sin they were living under a curse instead of blessing.
Now it’s helpful to remember that the entirety of God’s commandments to his people rested on the foundational truth that he was their redeemer; God had brought them up out of slavery to their enemies (Exo. 20; Deut. 5). Therefore, God’s people were expected to worship God as their Savior by obediently giving a tenth of their all their income (among other things) and then giving offerings over and above their tithe to help the poor and the needy (Num. 18:8, 11, 19, 21 – 24).
But instead of worshipping God through the giving of their tithes and offerings, instead of honoring God with a tenth of their income (Prov. 3:9), Israel had become God’s enemies by keeping for themselves what belonged to God; they became God’s enemies by taking or robbing him of what was rightly his and on top of that they neglected being generous with the poor and the needy in their community.
This was without a doubt, a very heavy, very serious problem for the people of God. What could they do to make things right? What could they do to get their worship disfunctions straightened out? What beliefs needed to change? What desires needed to change? What behavior needed to change? Thank God that he never leaves us in the pit of our sin! God always provides the remedy for our sin-infected worship-disfunctions!
#3: THE REMEDY (VV. 10 – 11)
In verses 10 – 11 God explains the remedy for the sin – problem within Israel. It is really encouraging to know that God is the God of remedies; he is the God who loves to help his people out of their sin-filled shackles; he loves to set his people free from bondage. He loves to grab the porn addict by the hand as he helps him see that he is fully accepted by the God who has rescued him from slavery to porn. He loves to grab the out-of-control angry man as he helps him to see that he can trust the Savior who is in complete control of every circumstance.
Likewise, God loves to grab those who have robbed him by the hand as helps them to see that he has provided a way for them to once again trust and obey him in their worship of him. Notice the remedy in verses 10 -11 where God says, 10Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. 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 need. 11I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. The essence of the remedy here is that God’s people need to trust God, obey God, and be blessed by God.
God literally instructs his people to “put me to the test” (v. 10) or to “trust in me” and bring the full tithe into the temple so that God’s Word may be preached again and so that God’s people could be fully blessed instead of cursed. Worshipping God with our heads, our hearts, and our hands always revolves around trusting God as our Savior, obeying him as our King and being blessed by him as our Lord.
Why would anyone want to continue living in the cycle of mistrust, disobedience, and curses? I cannot think of anyone in their right mind who would choose the latter. This is why the results of living in obedient trust as we worship God is so attractive. Think about the result of worshipping God with our money for a minute.
#4: THE RESULT (V. 12)
In verse 12 God describes the results of living in repentance as we obediently trust in his promises. The “me-centered” philosophy of the world we live in has so infected the church that we do not look any different than the outside world. We talk about a generous God while withholding what he commands us to give. We talk about a Saving God while we rob him of what belongs to him.
You do not have to look very far to find statistics regarding Christians and their wealth. One author says that “the average American holds 3.7 credit cards and owes over $7,000 to credit card companies. Average mortgage debt stands at $150,000 and average student loan debt around $32,000” and while “debt has become a ‘fact of life’ – an unquestioned reality of our normal everyday existence”, when debt becomes the barrier to worshipping God it speaks loudly to the god we actually do worship; the god of debt.3
Allow me to press this issue a little bit further before I get to the result of obediently trusting God in our giving. I think it is important for us to understand the negative result of our disobedience if we are going to latch on to a vision of the positive result of obedient repentance.
Think about the negative result of our disobedience in terms of what the world around us sees. According to a 2008 report from the Oxford University Press that was substantiated by Christian Smith, a sociologist from Notre Dame, “Only 27% of American Christians tithe. The average median annual giving for an American Christian is about $200. 25% of American Protestants give nothing at all. Five percent of givers provide 60 percent of the money given. Christians give an average of 2.9% of household income to charity; non-Christians give 3.3%.”4
The world around us gives more than we do. Christians seem to be stingy while proclaiming that they serve a generous God who gave everything to save them from the penalty of their sins as they rob him of what is rightly his. That is the negative result of mistrust, disobedience and living under a curse; the world sees and wonders why they should bother.
But when we latch onto the fact that Jesus literally paid the debt for our sin with every ounce of his broken body and shed blood, then and only then are we enabled to lay hold of the remedy for our sin problem which is to trust, obey and live in the blessing of God’s presence. And then the result of our worship is as verse 12 says, 12Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.
The result is a missional result; the outside world sees that we put our money where our mouths are at; they see that we give even more money than they do, and this causes them to notice the blessing of God on his people. God’s mission to seek and to save the lost through the person and the work of our crucified, risen and returning Savior is supposed to be at the heart of the church and it is never more visible to others than how we spend our money.
You can tell a lot about a person by looking at their bank statement. Israel’s bank statement proved that they were robbing God. But God was merciful and gracious. He did not wipe them out. He gave them a way out of their worship disfunctions. He called them to repentance and promised to care for them. The question is, would they trust God? Would they obey God? Would they be blessed by God? Or would they continue living under a curse for the entire world to, see?
We are left with some of the same questions. What will we believe about God in our heads? What will we want to do in our hearts? What will we do with our hands? Will we believe that God has changed the expectations of worshipping our Savior in our giving? Will we desire to compromise in our worship of our Savior because of some visible barriers like debt, lack of budgeting or overspending? Will we behave the same as we always have, the same as our ancestors have?
Or will we behold the cross of Christ where our salvation was costly? Will we look through the door of the empty tomb where our enemies (greed, false financial security, and selfishness) have been destroyed? Will we hold fast to the hope of heaven and worship God in the giving of our tithes and offerings because we know that money is not eternal?
Will we rob God, or will we trust and obey and be blessed as we worship him? My dad always says that it is better to have God bless the 90% he gives us rather than to have him curse the 100% we steal from him. I am thankful that God does not give me only 10% of the salvation I need. The cross was bloody; the tomb is empty; heaven is eternal. God is immeasurably generous, and I want to mimic him for the watching world to see. Amen!?
1 Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this paper are to the English Standard Version Bible, The New Classic Reference Edition (ESV) (Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 2001).
2 Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Handbook on the Prophets (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2002), 477 – 483.
3 Bob Thune, The Money Series (Omaha, Nebraska: Gospel Resource Network, 2014), 18.