Sunday, August 8, 2010

Will a Man Rob God?

How many of us know that passage? Yep, you know it--the good ole Malachi 3:8. Many a sermon has included this scripture to guilt people into giving. I've heard a few of those myself. Tied to this, was the "look at what all Jesus has done for you, couldn't you at least pay your tithes like you should? He only asks for 10%." and so it goes.

However, these past couple of weeks have been a real eye opener for me. When we read the book of Malachi, in context, and in the full confidence of the the finality of the cross, there's a different perspective. Great messages from a friend of mine. Have a listen if you get a chance.

The writer of this book, Malachi, simply means, "The messenger". Malachi was giving a message to a certain group of people, from God. He was speaking to Israel, and admonishing them for their behavior. People were bringing less-than-perfect offerings and sacrifices to the alter to be given on their behalf. The animals were blinded, lame, blemished, and other things. According to the Law, the Israelites were supposed to bring perfect animals--unblemished. What happened? Why the laxity in the giving? People claimed they were going to give their best, but when it came right down to it, they would only bring a less-than-acceptable animal. In this manner, the people were robbing God. There was this whole rules and regulations to following the tithing procedure. The purpose of the tithes were to bring food to the storehouse, so that there would be food for the people of Israel. A very good plan of action of how God provided for His people. The people decided to not follow plan, and really, had no desire. They were really tired of it all. There was no profit for them.

Why was it so important that the sacrifice be without blemish? The sacrifice represented the true sacrifice to come--that is, Christ Jesus. Spotless lamb Who became sin for us. Everything points to Jesus. God commanded the Israelites to provide a perfect animal for the sacrifice as a picture of what's to come. They didn't understand this. They couldn't look years into the future to see Jesus coming and dying for the sins of humanity. The Israelites could only see right then and there. There was no Shekinah glory in their tabernacle as there was in Solomon's temple, so the Jews were having to walk by faith, not by sight. As we all do, they grew weary, and as a result, weren't quite as enthusiastic in keeping the Sacrificial Law as perhaps they were in the beginning, when the Law was given.

So, one might ask, doesn't this prove that we should bring our tithes to the storehouse? Not really. This was to the children of Israel, only. One could read the book of Hebrews as a reminder that we are no longer under the Law. How then, should we give or pay tithes? After all, our churches today DO need to have some sort of income. They have their mortgages, light bill, paychecks to staff... what does God expect of us?

Read II Corinthians 8. The first few verses are of Paul encouraging the saints at Corinth to EXCEL in the grace of GIVING. Notice it's not in the grace of paying, but rather, giving.  In Malachi, God was admonishing the people in the first half, because they would not do as they were commanded (pay the tithe, according to the Law, not according to convenience) Paul commends the church for their gift, and convey how much he and his fellow travelers appreciate the gift. They appreciate the gift so much, they make sure that they do no ill with the gift, neither in God's eyes, nor in the eyes of the people. In verse 10, Paul encourages them to give in accordance to what they do have, no with what they don't have.

In chapter 9 of II Corinthians, Paul continues the letter by saying he's sending some people to help the Corinthians finish assembling the gift. This way, the gift would be given as a generous gift, and not as one grudgingly given. By giving to the apostles, the saints in the different locations are helping spur the Good News message on to others. As with any person, Paul needed to have his needs met as well. He needed food, lodging, clothes, perhaps the parchment with which to pen the letters on? It's no different from today. Do you have a ministry that's determined to share the good news of Christ? A ministry that's determined to NOT try and put you back under the yolk of slavery? Give and watch God---oops!

Out of habit, I almost included another phrase I have heard time and time again, "Give, and watch God bless you," as if God wouldn't bless you unless you gave, first. This always felt like I was trying to 'buy a blessing" from God. No... God has blessed me in spite of myself. I had a friend who had this as her status message in one of the social networks: can see God's Awesomeness in every major event in my life. The VERY BEST things in my life have happened right after I questioned why things didn't go the way I wanted them to, and then I have to thank Him for unanswered prayers! This is sort of my thoughts, as well. Often times, when I'll have just displayed the SADDEST act of faith, God turns around and blesses me in spite of myself. Then, like my friend, I humbly thank him for NOT doing things like I'd wished for. 

So, be of good cheer. God's not after your money--He'd rather have YOU! God can impress on different people as to how much of what they should give (it can be money, time or talent), and He'll see that His indescribable gift of Eternal Life is shared!

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