Malachi Week 4: (3:6-12): The Results of Repentance—Generosity.
One of the most comforting statements by God in all of Scripture is contained in this week’s passage. “For I the LORD do not change . . . Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts.” God has called us to repentance. When we respond to His call with humble and contrite hearts, He returns to us, and we have the restoration of relationship that we all long for. But that is not the end of the story; once we have a restored relationship with God, that restoration should impact every facet of our lives. And, a key indicator of repentance and restoration is generosity.
We as a church believe that tithing is a Biblical principle that is as integral in our lives as believers as honoring the Sabbath. If you’re not familiar with tithing, it is giving back to God the first 10% of everything we earn. Though some try to associate it with legalism or the Mosaic Law, tithing and first fruits giving pre-dated Moses by hundreds, if not thousands of years. Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek, King of Salem and high priest of God, in Genesis 14. In Genesis 4, God honors Abel’s offering but has no regard for Cain’s. Why? Though tithing is not mentioned, Scripture does say that Abel brought the first fruits of his increase, while Cain just brought an offering.
So, why is tithing so important? Why would God call the failure to tithe “robbing Him?” If you look at this passage, Go does something quite extraordinary—He promises a spiritual quid pro quo. The God who says, “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test” (Deut. 6:16) literally instructs us to put Him to the test. Though it is not uncommon for people to view tithing as a legalistic burden, I truly believe God means for tithing to be a gift to His people. Let’s look at a couple of ways tithing can be viewed as a gift:
Tithing reminds us that we are stewards, not owners. All too often, we live our lives like the seagulls from Finding Nemo, running around screaming, “Mine! Mine! Mine!” But nothing we have is ours. It is all God’s. As stewards, we are to care for God’s possessions as He desires. God created us to be His image-bearers, reflecting His character in His creation. When we lose sight of this concept, when we view ourselves as owners rather than stewards, our relationship with God suffers, and we become mired in self-sufficiency. We work desperately to accumulate things we can never hold onto, all the while finding less and less satisfaction. Tithing is one of God’s mechanisms to save us from such a fate.
Tithing is an exercise in trusting God. Let’s be honest—it doesn’t matter whether we make $10,000 or $10 million, we can all think of many different ways we could spend the 10% of our income God calls us to return to Him. No matter our income, tithing requires us to step out in faith and trust God to take care of us. Though it can be scary, we need to remember this is one area where God has instructed us to put Him to the test. We trust Him with our eternity. Shouldn’t we be able to trust Him with our present?
This list could go on and on. The bottom line is this: tithing is a gift from God that re-orientates our hearts from ourselves to Him, which in turn frees us to live lives of generosity. Tithing is not the end; it is merely the starting point in our growth in understanding and trusting God. The more we understand and trust God, the more generous we will be with others. And, the more generous we are with others, the more we reflect His character.
1. What is your experience with tithing? Is this a new concept to you? If you are familiar with tithing, what has been your experience?
2. We listed 2 ways tithing can be considered a gift. Can you think of other ways tithing could be considered a gift or blessing?
3. Take a moment to consider your own life and attitudes. Do you think you manage your things as an owner or as a steward? Why? What attitudes or actions need correcting in your life? Do you consider yourself generous or withholding?