Tithing is not the magic key that unlocks all of God’s riches in glory.
Tithing by itself does not test, or prove, God.
Tithing is not a special lever connected to God’s giant slot machine in the sky.
Do I have your attention?
Sure, I’ve heard it, as well as taught it: “Tithing is the only thing we’re to prove God with.” But just because I taught it doesn’t make it right.
(By the way, you can find out a lot more about this subject from my book, “Breaking the Spirit of Poverty with the Spirit of Generosity”. Go to “Our Books” page and click on the appropriate link.)
I didn’t say we shouldn’t tithe. I did say it isn’t something magic. Supernatural yes, magical no.
But a lot people preach it, and believe it, like it’s something mystical.
We’ll get to Malachi three in a moment, but let’s first look at something Paul wrote to Timothy.
“…people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (1 Timothy 6:5 – 6:8 ESV)
Tithing isn’t a fruit of holiness or godliness. Just because someone tithes doesn’t automatically mean they are godly.
They could be a tither and meaner than snot.
Besides, godliness isn’t a means of gain. Neither is tithing.
Sorry if your spiritual bubble is falling apart.
Think about this: if tithing was the key to financial blessing, what would that do to the grace and favor of God?
Okay, on to Malachi three…
“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.” (Malachi 3:10 ESV)
“See? The prophet said to bring the full tithe…”
Yes, but he said some other things before that.
“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?’” (Malachi 3:7 ESV)
God reminded them they had “turned aside” from His statutes. His word to them was “return”, which raised the question in their minds, “How?”.
God responded with a specific. Your tithe.
Why? That’s how they turned aside.
In other words, the Lord was telling them, “Look folks, you’ve stopped obeying My Word and it is not going well with you.”
It may be good to note who the contemporaries of Malachi were: Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah. All of them had a role to play in the reestablishment of Jerusalem and Israel after returning from seventy years of exile.
Haggai focused on a different area, but the main focus was the same as Malachi’s word.
Haggai spoke to the people about ignoring the House of God; building and repairing their own homes while the House of God lay in shambles.
“Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.
“Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.” (Haggai 1:5 – 1:11ESV)
Looks somewhat like Malachi’s word, doesn’t it?
It would have meant the same if Haggai had said, “You have have turned from God by focusing on YOUR needs rather than God’s glory!”
Read the rest of Haggai one, and you’ll notice the governor, priest, and a remnant of the people obeyed the prophet, and God turned things around.
Funny how Haggai’s word isn’t as popular as Malachi’s. Maybe it’s because Malachi’s word looks a little more exciting, and can appeal to our carnal side.
But the focus of both prophets was plain, ordinary, OBEDIENCE.
Obedience opens the windows of heaven. Remember reading Matthew’s account of Jesus’ water baptism?
“And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'” (Matthew 3:16 – 3:17 ESV)
Remember this passage?
“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with wine.” (Proverbs 3:9 – 3:10 ESV)
Honor God with what you have, who you are, and what you get. Then He’ll make certain you are taken care of.
God doesn’t need our money, or anything else we may have. He did quite well before we came along.
But obedience to His will releases our grip on things which hinder our relationship with Him and our trust in His ability to provide.
The clenched fist of greed and selfishness receives nothing from the hand of God. An open hand is in position to be filled by God.
Obedience to God’s word, His will, is the key to understanding Malachi three.
Because it’s obedience to God, obedience born out of a love relationship with God, that opens doors no man can open, and shuts what man can’t shut.
From Genesis, and the Garden of Eden, to Revelation and the church in Philadelphia, obedience has always been the key.
And maybe it’s the key for you. Maybe you’re a very generous person but disobedient in another part of your life.
Like Isaiah wrote, “‘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 1:19 – 1:20 ESV)
Willingness is a start, but obedience is the key. Obedience is the natural response to faith.
Believe? Then act like it.
And watch God do what He said He would!