Focal Passages: Malachi 2:17 – 3:12
At age 7, I had become a Christian. At age 9, I made about $5.00 per week selling newspapers. I didn’t get an allowance or ask my folks for money. Each Sunday I would put my dime in the offering envelope. In time, Mother found a quiet time to ask me, “Would you like to start tithing?”
Though I was raised in the First Baptist Church and chose to become a Christian at 7, I didn’t know what tithing was. Mother explained that a tithe was ten cents on a dollar; and the Bible taught a tithe belonged to God. Well, 50 cents from $5.00 didn’t seem like much. Since it belonged to God anyway, I decided to start tithing. I never thought my tithe would get based on a six-figure salary. But it did. Though I got downsized from that salary to fixed income, the tithe is still the Lord’s. Offerings over the tithe are a joy to give.
God doesn’t like to be mistreated. Tiresome Israelites wearied God with their accusing attitudes and words. They judged God to be indifferent or absent. In their own indifference, they failed to see their own sins. They looked outside themselves instead of inside. God identified their sins. He told how He felt, why He hadn’t destroyed Israel; judgment coming; and purifying results.
“Payday Some Day.” The late R.G. Lee preached this sermon often. He would sometimes take a revival only if he could preach every sermon on tithing. He said evangelistic results often were greater than when he preached on other subjects. Why? Because withholding God’s tithe is one evidence of the larger context of sin that calls for repentance. Some preachers used to say the last thing to get baptized was the billfold. Israel robbed God. Times were hard then — as now — but keeping God’s money for self wasn’t the answer. We are saved only by grace through faith, but glad tithing helps identify we’re saved.
Judgment’s purpose is positive. God compared His coming judgment to a refining fire or lye soap for the purpose of gold and purity. Israelites couldn’t continue endlessly in their chronic sins God listed. The word deadline came about to refer to a person who would be killed if he stepped across a line. No unrepentant person could withstand God’s deadline and judgment. But God wants repentance and awe-filled obedience rather than destruction (II Peter 3:8-9). Arrogant Israelites wondered where God’s justice was. And God said judgment was on its way and would include them — unless they repented.
God is unchanging in both love and judgment. The North Star changes. Our current North Star is Polaris. In 2700 BC it was Thuban. In AD 14000 it will be Vega unless the Lord returns first. But God is unchanging eternally. His loving endurance was why He had not destroyed Israel (Malachi 3:6). God still wants us to repent by turning back to Him in awesome worship and obedience, which includes tithes and offerings. God has not moved. He awaits our return.
Restitution and blessings go together. As an example of repentance, God told the farming Israelites to turn back to Him with full tithes; and He would fully bless them and their crops (3:7-12). Do you understand the context? A whole lot was wrong with Israel. But God used their full tithing to wrap up a repentance that would remove Israel’s curse and renew blessings.
If we worship and obey God, He will once again accept our offerings — which is a blessing. God always loves us and treats us right. Let’s do the same for Him.
— Godwin, a retired pastor and publisher, is a member of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville.