“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?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 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. 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. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 3:7-12 ESV)
What a wonderful passage of scripture! However, it can be a bit challenging at times.
Many people take this passage as an automatic blessing for the tither; those who regularly give 10% of their income to their local church.
A lot of people “try” tithing and get frustrated because “it doesn’t work!” God gets blamed for holding out, running off with their money, and all sorts of other things.
What about the guy who tithes regularly but beats his wife, ignores his kids, cheats on his taxes, and sings off key? Does the fact he tithes automatically open the windows of Heaven for him? Can the blessings of God be purchased with only 10% of someone’s income? Not even for 100%!
Notice the Israelites were asking, “How shall we return?”, like they really didn’t know what they had done wrong. So God told them. “You’ve turned aside from My instructions, My commands.” They responded, “How, in what way? We’ve kept the Sabbath, welcomed the stranger, didn’t steal from anyone. Murder hasn’t even entered into our minds! What do You mean, ‘you’ve turned aside’”?
God answers, “tithes and offerings”. They had disobeyed by holding back their tithe. So God’s remedy, His instruction to the people, was “enter back through the door of obedience. You left Me by disobeying My instructions to tithe, so that is how you return, or reenter. Obedience, not sacrifice.”
It’s obedience to His known will that allows Him to open His windows and pour out the blessing. It’s obedience that promises the devourer will be rebuked and stopped!
God loves obedience!
A contemporary of Malachi’s, a prophet by the name of Haggai, had a message from God for this same group: “Consider your ways! You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.” (Haggai 1:5,6) Basically, the rebuke stemmed from the people’s disobedience in taking care of Kingdom issues before their own. Sort of like the Word Jesus spoke in Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things (food, clothing, shelter) will be given to you.”
God in NOT against the tither! I’ll say it again. GOD IS NOT AGAINST THE TITHER!
But He won’t be manipulated with it, either. He can’t be bought!
King Saul thought he was doing Samuel and God a huge favor. But Samuel and God saw things differently.
Samuel gave Saul the Word of the Lord: “Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” 1 Samuel 15:3
“And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.” (verses 7-9)
Notice the “incomplete” obedience”. God calls it “disobedience”.
“Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.” …So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel? Now the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the Lord?” And Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” So Samuel said: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He also has rejected you from being king.” (verses 13-15, 17-23 NKJV
Words like “disobey” “rebellion” “witchcraft” “rejected” certainly don’t carry with them a sound of victory, do they? They are not the kinds of things that open “heaven’s windows”.
To obey is BETTER than sacrifice – and to obey is better than tithing!
I am NOT saying to quit tithing! Actually, I believe in tithing – it’s a great place to START exercising trust in the Lord. It’s a great tool to help each of us live a disciplined, Christ-like life.
What I AM saying is stop looking at the act of tithing as a special way to manipulate the hand of God. He desires to bless us, in spite of our self! “He sent Jesus to bless us by turning each of us from our sins”, Acts 3:26. We don’t tithe so He will bless us – we tithe because we want to honor Him, assist in the work of His kingdom, and guard against developing a love for money and things.
And, keep this thought in mind…one cannot regain through sacrifice what they have lost through disobedience.
Tithing is an awesome, spiritual discipline. God has wonderful promises for the tither such as – “Honor the Lord with your substance (what you already have) and with the first fruits of all your increase (what you receive). So shall your storehouses be overflowing and your vats, your presses, the fruit of your labor, shall spill over to those around you.” Proverbs 3:9,10
But tithing will not undo disobedience in other areas of life.
God’s blessing is upon those who will OBEY Him! Not just with their tithe, but with all their life! “We know that ALL THINGS work together for the good of those who love God and are the called according to His purpose(s).” Romans 8:28
Obey the big things, the little things, the Handwriting in the sky and the small, quiet voice of the Spirit.
“Prove Me, He says, in this (this obedience, this returning to the Lord); see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 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. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.”
The prophet Isaiah had a Word from the Lord, as well: “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 1:18-20 ESV)
The Lord wants us to take the discipline of tithing to a higher level, the level of obedience. We turn our hearts to Him to understand and do His will. And we rejoice, because He takes care of us according to His riches in glory, by Christ Jesus.