“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. Mal 3:8-11
I love this passage. Of course, it isn’t good to think that we might be robbing the Almighty God.
But I love the promise that if we give to God, he is going to pour out blessings on us. This isn’t a prosperity gospel thing. To me, it’s just a spiritual law. If we put God first with any part of our life, we will have a return:
- For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. Luke 9:24
- Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work II Cor 9:6-8
- “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–along with persecutions–and in the age to come eternal life. Mark 10:29-30
- But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matt 6:33
Yet it is so hard to bring the “whole tithe” into the storehouse. For me, it’s not the money that’s as hard to give. It’s time. It’s doing the challenging things for God, like sharing my faith. It’s pouring myself out to new friends.
Because I want to hold back in these things. I want to preserve my resources. I never know how much energy I am going to have, or how good I will feel.
So I’m hesitant to give.
I did a study on what it means to “bring the whole tithe in to the storehouse.”
First of all, the Jews were commanded to give the Lord a tenth of what they brought in at harvest: “You must set aside a tithe of your crops–one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year.” Deut 14
This tithe would be used to support those who were formally serving the Lord: “The priest, the son of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive tithes, and the Levites shall bring up the tenth of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse. For the sons of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of the grain, the new wine and the oil to the chambers; there are the utensils of the sanctuary, the priests who are ministering, the gatekeepers and the singers. Thus we will not neglect the house of our God.” Numbers 10:38-39
Tithes were also to be taken up to support the poor: “At the end of every third year, bring the entire tithe of that year’s harvest and store it in the nearest town. Give it to the Levites, who will receive no allotment of land among you, as well as to the foreigners living among you, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, so they can eat and be satisfied. Then the LORD your God will bless you in all your work.” Deut 14:28-29.
So the Jews were supposed to take the very food that was to sustain them out of their larder, and give it to sustain others. This had to be difficult. I picture someone looking at the piles of grain, and jars of wine and oil they’ve worked hard to gather, and then taking some of the bags and jars and intentionally setting them aside, knowing they won’t have them if there is a year of drought.
It truly was a faith thing. They were giving away their hedge for the future. They had to believe that if they gave some of their sustenance away, God was going to take care of them and “bless them in all their work.”
And it’s the same with all of us. We have to believe that when we give to God, he take care of us in our time of drought; that when we pour ourselves out for him, he will replenish us.
Here is one part of the spiritual principle of giving that I think is very important to understand: God doesn’t necessarily give us a direct return for our service, but there is a return. It isn’t like giving to a bank, where you earn a set interest rate. It isn’t like planting a seed in the ground, where you know a plant will result. It’s more ambiguous. The Jews couldn’t say, “I tithed, so tomorrow it will rain.” They just had to believe that God would reward this tithe in some form or fashion so their needs would be met.
And this encourages me. Because when it comes to serving the Lord, I WANT to see a direct return. I want to feel like, “Okay, I shared my faith with those people, now they should become Christians.” And of course this often doesn’t happen.
But what does happen is that God blesses my efforts with an indirect return. Out of the blue, someone calls and says they want to come to church. All of a sudden there are people who want to start studying the Bible. We can know that our work will not be in vain.
Here is my conclusion: If we don’t hold back, God won’t hold back!
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38
Since I’ve been studying this, I have been trying to share my faith more. Earlier this week I was passing the time with a bellhop at the Auburn Hotel while I was waiting for the desk clerk. We got to talking about church, and at some point, I was uncharacteristically candid with him about what distinguishes our church. “We try to make Jesus Lord, but for some reason people don’t want that.” He sympathized, but I guess he wasn’t at a point of wanting it either.
Later, I talked to a grocery check out clerk who thought it was awesome that I was buying things to cook dinner for house church, and wanted to hear all about it. Yet when I invited her to join, she just smiled.
That evening at house church, we all filled up on spaghetti. Then we sat in a circle and sang, “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman: “Praise the Lord oh my soul, oh my soul, worship his holy name. Sing like never before…”
It was one of those perfect moments. We were full and satisfied. I looked around and saw people I love singing from their hearts to God. We were all enjoying the antics of the adorable children in our midst. We were a spiritual family. There was a glow and warmth in the room.
And I thought, “This is the feast I invited people to attend. But they didn’t realize what they could have.”
I think that’s what God was trying to say. He was telling the Jews, “”I’m inviting you to a feast! Don’t you realize what you could have, if you’ll just give what I ask?”
God is still saying that to us today. He wants to “graciously give us all things.” (Romans 8:32) He will do “immeasurably more.” (Eph 3:20) We just have to get past the point of holding back, past our fears, past our need to control, past the emotional baggage from the past. Instead, let us joyfully pour ourselves out for him with the faith that there will be a return.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. Col 3:24