Reverend Anthony R. Locke
February 06rd, 2011 www.FirstPresTucker.org
at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker
Malachi 3:6-12 A Sermon on Stewardship English Standard Version
6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.
7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’
8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.
9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.
10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts.
12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.
A Prayer of Confession out of John Calvin’s Commentary on Malachi 3:10-12:
Grant, Almighty God, that since we continue to provide many and various reasons to provoke you to withdraw Your blessing, and to show Yourself displeased with us, — O grant, that we may patiently bear Your rebukes, through which You chastise us, and may we profit under them, and so learn to do battle with all our depraved affections and the corruptions of the flesh, so that we may become partakers of Your paternal kindness, which You offer to us, and also taste of Your goodness, which in innumerable ways is manifested towards us, that it may keep us in the pursuit of true religion; finally, may our tongues be consecrated to magnify Your judgment and to celebrate Your justice, that whatever happens to us, we may always serve You through our whole life as our Father, and declare also Your goodness towards us, and confess that we are justly punished whenever You visit us with severity, until we shall at length reach that blessed rest, which is to be the end of all our suffering, and an entrance, not only into life, but also into that full glory and happiness, which has been procured for us by the blood of Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. — Amen.
I am preaching this morning against the sin of not worshipping with a monetary gift in hand.
I picked this passage in Malachi because it is a classic. It’s the only place in the Bible that God taunts us, better said, He challenges us to obey against our gut feelings and logic.
It is counter intuitive to our logic that giving money to God’s house will help us pay our bills during the rest of the month. But that’s the promise and God wishes that we test His faithfulness in this matter. God’s that confident in His own power to bless us.
Tithing isn’t an Old Testament idea lost on New Testament saints.
- Jesus very seldom handed out compliments and one of the few compliments Jesus ever gave to the Pharisees was for their tithing. (Matthew 23)
- The Apostle’s referenced Abraham’s tithing as a model of Christian commitment in Hebrews chapter seven.
Through out the dispensations of the people of God, from Genesis to Revelation, tithing is a common denominator of all generations of the people of God.
Tithing is one of our strongest testimonies of public faith that Jesus means more to us than the things of this world.
Tithing strongly testifies that this world is not our home, that our treasure is in heaven and not this earth, that we trust God to provide and that we are living for something bigger than ourselves.
There is possibly no Christian discipline more authenticating to our faith than consistent financial giving to God during worship. Tithing comforts our own soul that we are indeed apart of God’s family. We know that faith without works is dead. Tithing is a strong work of God’s grace in our life that proves our faith is more than words. Tithing is one of our top works of faith.
Which is why God has this family chat with us in Malachi.
I get nervous when my wife begins a conversation with these terms. When she says, “Honey, you know I love you and that’s never going to change . . . but right now I could just clobber you.”
Verse 6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. God reminds His people that He gave promises of protection from His wrath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We are safe in those covenant promises. God will not change His disposition of love.
God gives a history of this family offense. Verse 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them.
This sin of not worshipping with a monetary gift in hand is not a newly formed sin habit by God’s people. Your parents probably didn’t do this too well. Your grandparents probably didn’t follow this commandment of God to the letter of the law. We all have room to grow.
Now, let’s put some perspective on this. We aren’t talking about the sin of murder or adultery. We are talking about a family offense to the Father by His children. Tithing is a family rule and here in Malachi God tells us how He fells about our failure to obey the family rules.
God feels that not tithing creates a wall between you and Him. We might not link our feelings of distance between us and God to our lack of tithing, but God says that the link is there.
I remember feeling this link very keenly while in college. I was working to pay bills and decided I didn’t have money to give to God. I was a ministerial student with nothing extra. Surely God would give me a pass and allow me to worship weekly without bringing a financial gift.
One afternoon a car bumped my car and bent my back bumper a little. Insurance gave me $4,000. God impressed upon me that I could fix my car or use that money to play catch-up with my church responsibilities. The damage was barely noticeable.
The next Sunday I put the money in the offering plate. When my best friend, David Schindel, asked me why I didn’t fix my car, since he was my best friend I told him.
He marveled that I gave the money to the church and gave me a impassioned speech about how much God would bless me. I didn’t feel like I deserved a blessing. I felt like I had done what was required of me. Nothing special. Nothing laudatory. If anything, I felt like I had kept myself from God’s displeasure. God didn’t owe me a 10 fold blessing for my gift.
We don’t give to God to get from God. We give so we can obey and enjoy His fellowship.
Verse 7 Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’
We are so dull to the distance that forms between us and God that we don’t understand our need to repent.
Imagine I become insensitive to my wife’s needs and my wife and I grow distant. And one evening after we put the kids to bed, my wife says, ‘honey, I sure feel lonely in our marriage.”
About the worst thing I could say is, “Huh, I fell as close as I ever wanted to feel, what’s wrong with you?”
God is opening up His heart to share His thoughts and feelings about our lack of fellowship.
Verse 8 shows the average response from most Christians. It isn’t pretty.
God says, Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ Then God responds back, In your tithes and contributions.
So God lays it all on the table for a family discussion. God puts it out there. He doesn’t want to hold it against us any longer. He wants the distance bridged and the offense removed.
It really bothers God that we are not enjoying His sweet fellowship. Our heavenly Father wishes nothing but the best for us, but because of our slowness to obey there are good things from His hand that we are missing.
Verse 9 is a little more blunt. Most ministers would sugar coat verse 9. I don’t want to do that, yet I am not really sure how to apply it.
Verse 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. It’s a little worst than our missing out on God’s goodness. God says we are cursed.
To keep myself from messing this up, I am going to quote three commentators.
Martin Luther explains our curse this way. “You have been cursed with a curse, a wasting away. Because you have committed sacrilege against Me, I will see to it that all your possessions waste away. You will not rejoice in your possessions, because there is no benediction there; or, more accurately, because you suffer poverty and put the blame back on Me, you are stealing from Me what belongs to Me.”
John Calvin explains the curse this way. “The meaning then is this — that it was indeed true that the Jews lamented that they were under a curse, but that the cause ought to have been searched out. They indeed wished their rapines and sacrileges to be forgiven, by which they defrauded God; but God declares that he punished them justly in consuming them with poverty and want, since they so sparingly rendered to him what they owed.”
Moore says, “In trying to defraud God we only defraud ourselves. Men who retain God’s money in their treasuries will find it a losing possession. No man ever yet lost by serving God with a whole heart, nor gained by serving Him with a half one. Like Ananias and Sapphira, we shall lose not only what we thought we had purchased so cheaply, but also the price we paid for it. If we would have God “open” His treasury, we must open ours. One cause of the barrenness of the Church is the tightfistedness of its members.
So God offers a solution to our trouble. 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.
That just means to give the tithe to the church where you attend. Don’t give to the Salvation Army first. Don’t give to United Way and the Red Cross first. We should give what we owe to God.
And the goal isn’t meeting budget, but to have enough food for the community to be fed.
Still verse 10, And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
Do you think God has the power to do this? Would He bate you with this kind of taunting language if He didn’t have absolute resolve to prove His faithfulness in this matter?
God explains how He will remove part of our curse in verse 11, I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts.
You won’t have the same trouble that nickel and dimed you to death. The places in your life that should provide income will not be barren. Strange circumstances will not devour your financial reserves over and over again.
Verse 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.
Part of our public testimony as an organized church family is not living in the red. It would surprise most people to know, that in most churches, if everyone tithed on a social security check, that it would be enough to make budget. I haven’t run the numbers to know if that is true for our church, but it was true in the last two churches I served.
And as our church increases with resources to do God’s work, the world will see our good works and glorify God and thank God that a church like ours in in their midst. Verse 12.
Here’s the commitment we must make. We must make our habit on the first day of every week to put something aside and store it up as we have prospered. We need to make up our mind what we should give. Not reluctantly or under compulsion. For God loves a cheerful giver. We should give in secret, knowing that our Father who sees in secret will reward us.
We must live like our life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions. Knowing that He who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. For it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Sit down with your spouse or children and say, “Our family has not given to the church like we ought. We are going to do better.”
Ask God’s forgiveness. Look at your budget. Make the greatest faith commitment to God you can make. Keep that commitment for a year. Next year reassess your commitment.
God promises to do two things for you.
- Verse 10 God will increase your resources.
- Verse 11 God will help decrease your expenditures.
We will not be blessed to be a blessing until we are faithful in our family commitments to our heavenly Father.
May God give us grace to grow in our faith in His faithfulness. Amen.
 The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.