Heart Issue #5; Malachi 3:6-12

In this next passage, we see the people rebuked for turning for God and His statutes. They are also robbing Him.

Heart issue #5 – the people asked: “How have we robbed you?”

They thought they were being obedient because they took their sacrifices into the Temple, but, at the same time, we’ve seen them practising:

  • social injustice (ch3) and
  • offering wrong sacrifices (ch1&2) and
  • not keeping marriage sacred (ch2).

Their heart attitude towards God was wrong! They did not care enough about Him and His ways.

Have you heard Malachi 3:9-10 before? Have you heard this passage just before the offering plate is passed around the church? I have had this especially where the “prosperity gospel” reigns. Regardless of what you’ve heard, let’s remember to be inductive as we look at this passage!

We see that they were called to bring the tithe into the storehouse. Nehemiah (10&13) also called them back to the giving of the tithe.

Let’s look at some background:

Purpose of the tithe:

Deuteronomy 14:23 . . . that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.

Procedure of the tithe:

A portion of all produce from the land went to the Lord as tithe; the tithe was separate to their contributions, offerings, and sacrifices. Two out of three years, the people took their tithe to the Temple and shared it with their household and the ministers of the Temple (Levites). Every third year the tithe was collected and distributed amongst the Levite, sojourner, fatherless, and widow (the poor and needy in society who did not have their own means of provision).

Our original readers?

In light of this, we see the original readers of Malachi were being called out for: “not bringing in food to storehouse”. They were complaining that God was not living up to His proclamations of being a God of Justice and yet they were robbing the poor of God’s provision! This was not a metaphor; they were meant bring in food! Does God need food? Does He get hungry? The tithe was a provision for the poor and Levites – they were hungry! The heart of the tithe was provision.  They were using tough times as an excuse not to give; they weren’t trusting God to provide for them as they provided for others.

Hard hearts withhold wealth

Hard hearts withhold wealth

What of the tithe in the New Testament?

Nowhere is it specifically commanded to bring in a tithe. The New Testament focuses on meeting the needs of the poor, but no amount is set – rather: “everyone must give as they have decided in their hearts” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

The tithe was part of the Law, the same Law that was nailed to the cross to usher in the covenant of grace.  Paul, a devote Jew, never once mentioned tithing in his letters. The tithe was brought to the Temple and the physical Temple meant nothing to Paul after he gave his life to Christ. He began to see the reason behind the Law; that God’s heart was to provide for the poor. We see in Paul’s life that caring for the poor did matter to him! It was the “very thing he was eager to do” (Galatians 2:10). Paul’s heart for giving was massive and we are called to have this same heart to care for the least.

And today?

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.  (James 1:27).

Healthy Heart Habit #5 = Generosity

We are to follow Christ’s example, who gave His life; we are to give as much as we are called to give.  We are called to give to the ministers of the Gospel and to the poor. God’s grace compels us to give without thought of the amount, or the cost to ourselves! We are to give 100% of our lives to God, gladly and in obedience to His call. God demands all we are and all we have.

Giving doesn't have to be money-based. What do you have to give?

Giving doesn’t have to be money-based.
What do you have to give?

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Creative Tithing

Often when we think of tithing, we think of dropping notes and coins into the church offering box on Sundays. Sometimes we also consider financial donations to different ministries, missions, or NGO groups. Yet when we look back at the Old Testament, there was a lot of emphasis placed on sacrificing physical items, or leaving part of the harvest behind in the field for the poor to collect.

Society seems to have become used to financial donations and we often don’t pause to consider what else we could give. Part of this is that, due to the nature of the world’s financially structuring, its often the simplest way. But another part of it is also that we no longer think creatively about how we can give. We also don’t want to donate what is often the most precious commodity in our overly-busy lives – our TIME. Our time to think about how we could give, or our time offered in acts of service.

In the West, we feel burdened and burnt out by the constant requests for money from various charities, but we do not pause to ask “How else can I give?” or “What else could I give?”

Living in Africa, the cry of “But we have no money” is heard far too often. I often attend churches where they profess their greatest need to be a sound system, guitar and drum kit, rather than resources, or items that will enable them to help their community (traditionally, there is a large focus on evangelism in this area, but limited focus on discipleship). Even churches that now have small things that they could give, often keep the mindset of being poor.

It’s time that we start thinking more creatively about how and what we can give; as individuals, missions and businesses! I’ve been encouraged this week by examples of this. A few of us were discussing how we can give to each other’s ministries in physical ways, rather than just financially (a constant struggle). As I began to think of what the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) could give out, we were blessed to be the recipients of such giving.

As the new school on campus (I’m part of the team about to pioneer the School of Biblical Studies here at YWAM Rwanda), we have been the recipients of the creative giving. First, I was delighted to receive an email from a friend who is donating study resources – and a chain of people are donating time to pass it on from one person to the next, until it arrives with the one donating space from her suitcase to fly it over for me. Also tied to the SBS, just this morning, I was given a donation of pencils and other stationary items from a school ministry. What I love about this is that it even looked like the tradition way of thinking of a tithe: they had received a suitcase full of stationary items as a blessing from a visiting team and chose in turn to share their blessing with us.

A few weeks ago I wrote about a small village church in the DRCongo where the poor congregation dropped single coins into the offering box, worth less than 50c. I don’t think I mentioned that some of them, who did not have money to give, gave from their crop. I also don’t think that I mentioned how the pastor has a land plot he has set aside for a church garden to support the needs of his congregation.

I am sure that many of you are already creatively giving and I encourage you to pause and think about the ways you are doing so. I pray that as you think of how you are giving, your heart will be warmed and you will feel a lessening of the burden to “do everything”.

And I also want to encourage you to think of ways that you can give this month that isn’t solely financial. Do you have a lot of old school books at home that you could donate? Do you have clothes you can give away? Could you invite a poor family in your community for dinner, or make a meal for the first-time parents on your street? Is there a charity overseas that you feel connected to that you could write to and see what items you might be able to arrange to be sent for them, or is there a mission group close to home that you could start serving at for two hours each week?

Be blessed, and may you experience the joy of giving.

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Poor and Giving

One image from my recent trip into the DRCongo continues to play before my mind’s eye. The image is of the offering plates of the Sunday service we attended the village.

The church usually places two plates on the front table – one for the minister and one for works of the church. They had asked me to preach this Sunday and so the Reverend gave up his plate, asking the congregation to give to their guest. I was humbled that he would call the congregation to offer a donation to me in an area where they have so little. I was still more humbled as I watched every member come forward gradually during a joyful worship song.

I also went forward to give to the church’s plate. I dropped a 2000 Ugandan shillings note in – worth less than a dollar. From my position at the front of the church, beside the podium, I was looking directly at the offering plate. At the end of the worship time, everyone had contributed to the plates and yet mine was the only note in the bowl – no one else had been able to afford more than a 100 or 200 shillings coin. Some members had no coins and so they wrote notes promising to bring some of their crops – a small bag of beans, or green leaves.

All that I could think of was how pleased God must be with that congregation as two Scriptures came to mind:

Now Jesus looked up and saw rich people dropping their gifts into the offering box. Then he saw a destitute widow drop in two small copper coins.  He said, “I tell you with certainty, this destitute widow has dropped in more than all of them, because all the others contributed to the offering out of their surplus, but she, in her poverty, dropped in everything she had to live on.” ( Luke 21:1-4)

We want you to know, brothers, about God’s grace that was given to the churches of Macedonia. In spite of their terrible ordeal of suffering, their abundant joy and deep poverty have led them to be abundantly generous. I can testify that by their own free will they have given to the utmost of their ability, yes, even beyond their ability. They begged us earnestly for the privilege of participating in this ministry to the saints. We did not expect that! They gave themselves to the Lord first and then to us, since this was God’s will. ( 2 Corinthians 8:1-5)

Even as I think on their sacrificial giving, I ask myself: “What more can I give?”

I think of the times I’ve sat on a bus eating and never offering the person beside with me to share my meal. I think of the books on my bookshelf that I’ve read once and will likely never read again. I think of dusty toys from my childhood I’ve been unable to part with and the excess clothes in my wardrobe.

Are you willing to give when it hurts? How can you give today? Who can you joyously share with from your abundance?

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Get Addicted to Giving

When God first started challenging me to give I placed it down as a seasonal thing; I believed that God was challenging me with living generously for a specific timeframe. Surely, I thought, one could not always live giving above their means, because sooner or later the funds would run out. The thing with God, however, is that He brings wisdom that is above that of our own.

God declared: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

I have seen proof of this declaration as it relates to giving. My resources have never dried up, but neither has His call to give. He continues to challenge me and yet my response has changed. I no longer fear provision for myself because He has proven Himself to be a faithful Provider. In addition, He has stirred up within me a need to give.

I have come to experience what Christ said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35).

And how much do we give? Well, ask God that question as He will tell you what you are personally to give. We no longer live under Law, but under grace. The Law demanded a ten percent tithe, how much do you think grace and love demand that we give? The Law demanded specific tithes of first crops of the harvest and money and livestock, what do you think love and grace demand we give? Think of your resources, time, money, skills and even what you fear being called to do in service.

Do you hold back out of fear? Do you make excuses, thinking that you do not have enough for yourself, let alone anything to spare for others? If this is the case, consider the following Scriptures:

 And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” 

 

And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.'” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah. (1Kings 17:11-16).

 Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4).

 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). 

 There are many things that we can give of: time, money, skills, thoughts, or a listening ear. Pray about what God might be asking you to give.

 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (Matthew 5:42).

 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 

 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. (2 Corinthians 9:7-12).

 

Provision and Giving

The best sermon I have yet heard on giving was one that correlated it with grace. There was no mention of the requirements of the Law. The concept of the 10% tithe was not brought up. The challenge was put forth that one gives when compelled by grace. Having received God’s grace, we are now to give out of a compulsion of love and a spirit of generosity.

God’s grace brings many changes in one’s heart, including ridding it of its self-seeking nature and its earthly-focus. Even more so, when one draws closer to God, they also inevitably come to trust in Him to provide for all their needs. And why hold back when the Spirit lays it on one’s heart to give, for that same Spirit is God who provides for your needs.

I’m not preaching the prosperity Gospel, or saying that those that give won’t face tight times. And yet, God calls the church to look after the present needs of the body of Christ.

If there is $2 in your bank account and all you need to buy today is a 1L bottle of milk that costs $1.19, then God has provided.

If you have a mortgage that requires you to pay $500 by the end of the week and you know that your salary will bring in that much, then God has provided.

If you are at the end of your emotional strength and a song comes on the radio reminding you of God’s love and you are able to find a release in tears, then God has provided.

If you need a friend and find one at your door who comes with arms open for an embrace, then God has provided.

Let God look after your needs. When you grow closer to God, you will see that He has you safe within His care and from this an abundance of love will flow out of you. Give of your time, your smile, your prayers, your blessings, and your money, but most importantly give of your self, give your heart.

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  (2 Corinthians 9:7-8).

Do you know the loving grace of God? Are you compelled to give, secure in the love of God and His provision?