One of the biggest indicators of the health of my relationship with Jesus is in the area of finances. God wants our heart, plain and simple and it’s like the old saying – “put your money where your mouth is” which is absolutely true. If we truly believe, love and trust Jesus then that trust is going to lead to obedience in all areas of our lives, especially in the way we deal with our money.
The Jews that the prophet Malachi was talking too (last book of the old testament) were in the midst of a drought which means that nothing was going right and it was hard for them to provide for their families. They were dumbfounded because to them their spiritual lives were just fine, but was it really? or was it simply a facade? That’s when God raised up a prophet (Malachi) to speak truth to His people – truth that would surely be unpopular as it always is, even nowadays. Apparently, Jewish men were having sex with prostitutes in temples, not offering sacrifices in the temple, or half-heartedly doing so (which to God is even worse), and they were withholding all, or part of the tithe of their harvest (again, giving only half-heartedly when God gives with the whole heart is even worse than not giving at all). As you can see they were blinded to their sin because they thought they were meeting their “religious expectations or duties” (nowadays this might be equated to going to church once a week, giving a little bit at church, reading a little Bible everyday…you know what I mean?). I think we can easily get complacent and blinded to our own shortcomings and sin because we think we are doing the bare minimum and we got no issues with God. But Malachi slaps them on the face and says “NO!’ and especially hits home that they are ROBBING GOD! Still naive the Jewish people ask him how they are robbing God…and to that Malachi says, by not tithing and especially by withholding the full tithe.
Think about the situation the families back then were in. (And as I hope you will see the situation is not much different for us and the way the economy is in our generation.) The families were in the midst of drought which means less harvest, maybe even no harvest by the time they weed out the bad stuff and are left with scraps that they might be able to ration throughout the year. This meant that in order to tithe and give the whole tithe, they would have to trust God with all of their heart to provide enough leftover for the entire year. They didn’t and it is entirely understandable from a human perspective. When the going gets rough, even with me, the easiest (heartbreakingly so) thing to skimp on is the tithe. We make excuses like oh “God doesn’t need my money”, “God will understand because I have bills to pay”, “I just can’t afford it but as soon as I’m in a better situation I’ll give it all back”….what other excuses do you make?
But that’s not what God asks. He asks for the whole tithe. He asks for us to trust him with our whole heart and if we really do truly trust Him then we will obey Him in all things. See, it becomes a worship issue. When I’m not giving my all to God (time, treasure, and talent) and especially when I’m not giving the whole tithe then I am no longer worshiping God – I am now worshiping whatever “priority” I just put ahead of God (my rent, car payment, insurance premium, cell phone bill, on and on and on). Whatever it is that gets firstfruits and my best (which belongs to God and He doesn’t ask for much since all that we have belong to Him already!) now becomes my God – scary, eh?
I personally have the desire, as all believers united by the bonds of the Holy Spirit should and will have, to give my tithe as the first priority as soon as that money touches my hands and when I don’t I really do have a heavy heart and a burden that isn’t lifted until I finally give in and surrender it (at that point it’s not really firstfruits because you already put something ahead of it but it’s repentance and we should be repenting on a daily basis and God will honor our repentance!) and God is faithful and just to forgive!
So who do you give your tithe to? What if you feel like the church misuses your money? Well if that’s the way you feel then you obviously don’t trust yor community, it is not family to you and you’re not intimately connected there. To that I say, either start plugging in and getting to know your leadership (which will usually clear up any mistrust you may have had) or find a community of faith that you can trust and become intimately connected to it so you can share your time, treasure and talent with the people there. We were created for community and to have all things in common (including our money) so that we can see God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven! I love the community I am a part of because we are known in our city as the church the poor and needy can come to (whether that be someone in our community or someone on the outside) in order to receive the help. My community feeds about a thousand people every week, gives groceries to countless more and it all comes from the generous giving of those who are a part of our community.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, acknowledge Him in all your ways, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). May that be my prayer and your prayer that we trust God in all things and fall more in love with Jesus everyday, amen.