By Kevin Ivy
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Tullahoma
During Malachi’s day, the people of God were under the dominion of the Persians. This was a time when God’s people were doubting His love for them, treating one another treacherously, and even questioning God’s justice. They were going through the motions of their religion, half-heartedly at best. In the midst of this spiritual drought, God sends Malachi to call them to repentance. One of the issues Malachi dealt with was their robbing of God.
The Lord tells the people through Malachi, return to me and I will return to you (Malachi 3:7). This leads to the obvious question: How shall we return? He answers that they should return by bringing the whole tithe, into the storehouse (vv. 8-10). The word tithe is a translation of the Hebrew “tenth part.” They were robbing God of the tithe that He required of them. He also points out the fact that they had been withholding the offerings. The burnt offering, grain offering, peace offering, sin offering, and guilt offering are offerings that the people were expected to give (Leviticus Ch. 1-7). Combined with the tithe, the total offerings expected from the people equaled roughly 23 percent of their income. In essence, God is saying through Malachi, release back to me what I have given to you. Don’t clench your hand. Release, not just the tithe, but the offerings as well. Release all 23 percent to me. Anything less is robbery.
In light of this, let us consider what the New Testament teaches concerning giving? The Jews who made up the first church knew about the tithe and the offerings (Matthew 23:23, Luke 18:9-12). Out of those first century Jews came the first church. We saw how they stewarded their property in a recent lesson on Acts 2. They surrendered everything to God (Acts 2:44-45, 4:34-37). This sounds a lot like what Jesus told the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-23). Giving a tithe and offering, even if it is 23 percent is insufficient. God wants everything. As we look at how the New Testament believers applied the Old Testament to their stewardship, we see grace never expects less; it always demands more. Release to God ALL that He has given you and watch Him use it for His glory.
God said, test me in this and see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour out on you a blessing until it overflows (Malachi 3:10b-11). The words “windows of heaven” are the same words used in Genesis 7:11 to describe God opening the sky to release the floodwaters that covered the earth. Open up to me the resources I have given you and I will bless you abundantly. This is a promise. Sow bountifully and reap bountifully. But why? To get rich? No, but that you might have an abundance for every good work (II Corinthians 9:6-10). Return to God, release all to Him, and you will receive seed from Him for sowing so that you can see an increase in the harvest. Notice the end result “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land” (Malachi 3:12).
As believers, we make every gift of God to us available to Him. We release it all back to Him so that He might use whatever He chooses to pour out His blessings on the nations through us for His glory. This is our responsibility before our gracious God.