|Vol. 15 No. 4 April 2013||
“Will a man rob God?” These words were asked by Malachi to the people of Israel (3:8). Malachi charged Israel with the sin of robbing God. I am sure the Israelites did not think they were actually robbing God. In fact, the very idea of robbing God would have undoubtedly been appalling for Israel. After all, one of the Ten Commandments was “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). Yet, that is exactly what Malachi said they had done.
How had they robbed God? Malachi answered they had robbed God in tithes and offerings (3:8-9). They had not brought the tithes that God had commanded. Even while giving offerings to God, Israel had robbed God by offering the lame and sick (1:8). He charged them with offering God things that they would not offer a secular ruler (1:8). When they refused to offer what rightfully belonged to God, they were robbing God. Malachi further reminded them of God’s promise to bless them materially if they would only first give to God (3:10-12).
We need to consider this same question. Will a man rob God? It is common to hear Christians justify their lack of generosity to God by saying that Jesus or the apostles never commanded us to tithe. That is true, but that does not mean that we are not commanded to give. “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2).
Christ has much to say concerning possessions. Close to half of Jesus’ recorded sayings concern man and his possessions. In Luke 21 Jesus observed some rich men giving their offerings to the Lord. He also saw a poor widow who contributed two mites. A mite was the smallest Jewish coin in circulation and was worth very little. In comparison to the relatively large amounts contributed by the rich, it was insignificant. Yet, Jesus commended her by saying that she had given more than everyone, because she gave all she had (21:3-4). Why was she willing to give so much? Obviously it was given out of love. Her gift was small, but her love was great.
The poor widow is not the only liberal giver in the New Testament. In 2 Corinthians 8 the apostle Paul commended the Macedonia Christians for generously giving to help the afflicted Christians in Jerusalem. These Macedonians were described by Paul as being in affliction and deep poverty (8:2). Those words carry the idea of being about as deep in poverty as you can get. One commentator described it as “rock bottom poverty.” Yet in spite of their poverty they gave liberally. Paul even thought they had given too much! Imagine this! These Gentiles gave generously to help some poor Jews, most of whom initially did not want to even accept them! Why did they give so generously? They gave because of their great love for God and appreciation for what He had done for them. They gave generously because they “…first gave their own selves to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5).
Why do we give? We do not give to accomplish a great work. If that was true, most of us would not give anything, because we cannot give enough by ourselves to accomplish very much. We give for the glory and honor of God. We give because of our great love for God, and we simply express that love in our giving. If we give little, then our love and trust in God is correspondingly small. God’s love for us is greater than we can comprehend; therefore, how can we stand before God having little love in our hearts?
How much should we give? The Jews gave more than 10%. That was really just the starting point. Most Christians think they are poor. Of course, that is a very relative term. The amount we give is dependent upon how God has prospered us. The poor widow had nothing left after she gave. The Macedonians gave even while in deep poverty. We should never use the excuse of being poor to justify our lack of generosity. God looks upon the heart and judges us, not just on the size of our gift, but on how we have been blessed. Paul aptly stated this principle in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7: “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
When we give ourselves to the Lord, how much we should give is not a big question. We give all we can, sometimes even more than others might think we should. After all, if we have really given ourselves, then God already has everything anyway. God has promised to bless us if we first give to Him. Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). This is not a promise of prosperity, but simply trusting in God to bless us with the things we need in this life.
Will a man rob God? That is a serious question, and the answer is just as relevant today as it was in Malachi’s day. I doubt that any Christian consciously thinks he is robbing God. However, when we fail to give as God intended, that is exactly what we are doing. Don’t be guilty of robbing God!
The frustrating thing is that everyone understands what authority is. We do not go behind doors that say “Authorized Personnel Only” if we know we are not authorized to do so. If our doctor prescribes us medicine, we expect the pharmacy to fill that prescription and do nothing else, except perhaps make sure that it will not cause any problems with any other medicine we take. The simple fact is that authority is a very simple concept to understand. What makes this all frustrating is that it is easy to understand, and we all follow it (for the most part) – except when it comes to matters of religion. When it comes to matters of the Bible, we no longer need a “Thus says the Lord.” It has come to the point, even within the Lord’s church, that we are guided more by what we think, feel and want than what God has spoken. Brethren, God is a Spirit, and those who worship Him must do so in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). This means that there is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things. There is only one way to know what that truth is, and it is His Word (John 17:17). The Bible, and the Bible alone, is our guide, and let anyone be cursed who teaches anything other than what has been written (Galatians 1:8-9; Revelation 22:18-19).