Exodus 20:15- “You must not steal.”
8 “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. 9 You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! 11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease.[a] Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 12 “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 13 “You have said terrible things about me,” says the Lord. “But you say, ‘What do you mean? What have we said against you?’ 14 “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the Lord of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins?
It’s not just stealing from others that has an impact on our relationships but also:
- STEALING FROM GOD
Not only can we steal from each other, but we can also steal from God! Usually those who have no problem taking from God will have less a problem taking from others. Because if we are willing to be irresponsible in our relationship with God there is a good possibility that we will be irresponsible in our relationship with others. The same Israel that kept back their tithes from God had also learned to take advantage of one another and the whole nation was under a curse as a result. Because Israel as a people had withheld or misused their tithes the temple of God was empty and could not meet anyone’s needs, so people resorted to stealing in order to meet their own needs. Worship had no meaning because there was no sacrifice made by the one who claimed to be a worshipper. Without sacrifice there is no value! But a giving Church is a powerful Church regardless of the size of the congregation or the collection. It’s not about the size of the gift but the heart of the giver. Do you know of any churches composed entirely of givers? Dr. Hugh McKean of Chiengmai, Thailand, tells of a church of four hundred members where every member tithes. They receive a weekly wage of forty stangs (less than twenty cents] and their rice. Of this meager existence, each gives a tenth every week. Because of this, they have done more for Christ in Thailand than any other church. They pay their own preacher and have sent two missionary families to spread the gospel in a community cut off from the outside world. They are intensely interested in all forms of Christian work, especially work for unfortunates of every kind; and their gifts for this kind of work are large. They have not only accepted Christ, but, having found Him good, they are making Him known to others. Oh, by the way, this church of all tithers is also a church of all lepers, every person has leprosy. These lepers were touched by the love of a man who took God’s gift of being a medical doctor and became a missionary to lepers. He taught them the lesson of loving which involves the gift of giving. But when we keep back from God, He is not able to bless us so that the less we give, the less we have as an individual and as a nation. Instead of being a blessing and helping they end up hurting. It has always been the nations who are most generous that are most blessed, a characteristic of our country in times past, and based on the Judeo Christian ethic that our country was founded on. As a nation moves away from God its blessings tend to decline, proof of the principle found here in Malachi. We carry a responsibility before God to honor Him with what is His, even Jesus said to “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s” Matthew 22:21 clearly a reference to both taxes and tithes. Rather than getting ahead, Israel actually became poorer when they failed to honor God with their tithes, the act of stealing had really robbed them of blessings. What about you, have you ever defrauded the Deity by withholding your tithe of treasure or time? Many of us try to cheat Christ by giving Him our leftovers instead of our lives. So often we approach tithing based on the amount instead of the Almighty. And so, we make it about the percent instead of the person. We give based on a formula instead of faith. When we do our giving is based on our head and not our heart. But tithing is not an intellectual decision but rather our love for the Lord. It revolves around relationship not rules. God loves a cheerful giver not a calculated giver. When we give instead of asking how much of my money am I going to give we need to ask how much of Gods money are we I going to keep.
God honors givers, for the ultimate giver is God Himself, and when we give, we reflect His grace. This is what Israel failed to understand, that by keeping back their tithes they not only robbed God, but they ruined their own welfare and their witness. Instead of being a light for the Lord they become a testimony to selfishness and Satan. Stealing from God does not just impact us in the material realm however, the greatest losses are spiritual. Israel had become a “me first” nation, not unlike what we are seeing in our own society today as we move away from God. The more the people kept from God the more God kept from them. They were missing out on great rewards, and not just materially, their nation was missing out on a reputation of being called a “blessed nation” by all the other nations. They were missing out on being a shining lighthouse to the world. In this way they were losing the opportunity to give witness to God’s grace. God’s presence is reflected in the life of givers. When we honor God, our hearts will be full, and the rewards will be greater than just material in scope. Because God will give what money can’t buy or satisfy, God will fill your life. While money can fill the bank it won’t fill your tank because it doesn’t satisfy the soul. Giving to God results in joy, trust, and even the witness of others who find Christ as a result of our gift. Is giving to God a joy or a job for you? Those who give to God for all the rights reasons bring a joy to others as well as themselves. This is illustrated so well in the life of one missionary to Africa. There was a knock on the door of the hut occupied by a missionary in Africa. Answering, the missionary found one of the native boys holding a large fish in his hands. The boy said, “Reverend, you taught us what tithing is, so here–I’ve brought you my tithe.” As the missionary gratefully took the fish, he questioned the young lad. “If this is your tithe, where are the other nine fish?” At this, the boy beamed and said, “Oh, they’re still back in the river. I’m going back to catch them now.” We cannot expect God’s richest blessings on us or our nation if we rob Him of our tithes and offerings. But look at verse 10 and see what God promises to those who trust Him with their tithe” “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in!” You can’t out give God. But we don’t give to get we give because we love God. What about you, does your life reflect one of giving or taking?