“Simplify” Doing What Matters Most
“The Heart of Giving”
One Sunday morning because the mother was sick she sent her son on to the country church without her. The said now “You go straight to church.” Before the small boy left his mother gave him two quarters. She said “One quarter is for you to get some ice cream on the way home and one quarter is for God.”
So putting the quarters in his pocket, he left for church. On the way he stopped momentarily at a bridge on leaned over the side to see the water. When he did this one of the quarters fell out of his pocket and fell into the river below. He jumped down and checked for the other quarter. Having found it he said “which I sure am glad I didn’t lose my quarter for ice cream!”
Often times we have the same attitude toward giving as the little boy. When we have gotten what we wanted we have nothing left to give. God is warning the Israelites through the prophet Malachi that they should prepare because a king was coming who would judge them on how they worshiped God, specifically on how they worshiped Him with their giving. This morning I want you to understand that this is not a message on tithing, but a message on how we are to worship and show loyalty to our Lord.
In terms of the number of verses on a topic, the subject of money and wealth is the second most dominant theme in the Bible, second only to idolatry. The Bible has 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2000 verses on money and possessions. Jesus talked more on money than heaven and hell combined.
Why? Because we hold money very close to our hearts. God knows that money is the chief rival for our heart’s affection. Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
This is an Old Testament passage, aren’t we under grace now? First tithing was done before Moses and the Law. In Genesis 4:1-8 Cain and Abel tithe off of their first fruits. In Genesis 14:20 Abraham tithes to Melchizedek, the priest of God. This was before the Law was given.
Secondly, in the New Testament Christ had the perfect opportunity to do away with the tithe when talking with the Pharisees. Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” Jesus encourages us to continue to tithe, but with the right heart.
I. Our Hearts as it Relates to Worship (vv. 1-5)
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years. 5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.”
(v. 1) “my messenger” is a reference to John the Baptist. Jesus 400 years later referring to John the Baptist says in Matthew 11:10 “For this reason is he of whom it is written:‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’
“prepare the way” It was custom of the Near Eastern kings to send messengers before them to remove obstacles to their visit. He would go through the towns and the people would fill in any holes In the road, clean up, etc…
God is giving the people a warning, to get their lives right, to repent and turn from their evil ways before the king comes in judgment. He had sent messengers like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. God had sent many messengers, but now the king was coming Himself.
“suddenly” does not mean immediately, but instantaneously and unannounced. When all things have been prepared Jesus will return to rule (Matt. 24:40-42).
We are now in between the messenger of the covenant, and His second coming in judgment. We are in a state of grace. It is a day for repentance (or turning from our sin) and salvation.
“whom you desire” is likely sarcastic. They are saying that they are seeking him but in reality this is shown to be false because of their actions. According to the prophet, the people were guilty of many serious sins. The priests were offering blemished animals in a formal but insincere religious ritualism. They were going through the motions.
Many were divorcing their wives to marry unbelieving women. Most had been disobeying God’s laws by withholding tithes of their harvest. And they were accusing God of loving them only halfheartedly and of being unjust in his dealings with them – because he had had not prospered them adequately.
In essence they were saying “God look at all this we are doing for you, what have you done for us lately? We believe that we should have much more material possessions for as much as we serve you.” (Do you see the irony? They were doing nothing that pleased Him.)
(v. 3) “a refiners fire” and “a launderer’s soup” — fire is a reference to burning off dross of silver or impurities and launderer’s soup is a reference to alkali that whitens fabrics. When a silver smith would work silver he would heat up the metal to a boiling point where the impurities would rise to the surface. He would then skim off the impurities. He would do this until all the impurities were gone and he could see a perfect reflection of himself in the silver.
If God is not pleased with our worship of Him he will heat up our lives to remove the impurities until he can see His Son in us. A launderer would use the harsh and abrasive alkali to whiten cloth. When we go to heaven we will wear white because we have been cleansed by Jesus’ death on the cross.
It is only when those who present the offering have been cleansed that the offering would be acceptable. This is also a reference to the motive behind the offerings. Simply presenting the offering to God is not enough. It must be done with a clean heart, a pure motive, and obedience to God.
Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”
The Pharisees would bring their tithe of everything down to the spices in their cabinets, but their motives were so that people would see them and say “wow aren’t they religious!” They did it for the glory it gave them from others.
“swiftly” Jesus second coming will happen suddenly in “the twinkling of an eye.” His judgment will be quick as well. He will testify against “I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, . . . and do not fear me” In other words those that do not respect or fear the Lord.
Malachi is saying that Jesus will return and He will sit in judgment of those who do not fear the Lord. The Israelites did not fear God because they gave with wrong motives, they gave their second best, and they were unconcerned about their sin. While the Lord is a God of wrath he is also a God of mercy, longsuffering and grace. The Lord’s response to the people’s rebellion and sin was to say that he does not change.
Our Hearts as it Relates to Money (vv. 6-12)
6 “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 7 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?’ 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 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. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts”.
“I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed Genesis 15:9 ff. God made a promise to Abraham and to his descendants that they would be His people. It is because of this promise that no matter what Abraham’s family did God would still keep his promise. It was because of this promise they had not been destroyed because of their sin long ago.
In theology this doctrine is called immutability. It means that, being perfect, God cannot and does not change. God cannot get any better nor can he get any worse, either would mean that he was not God to begin with. It is therefore we who change. It was because of this character of God that the people were not destroyed.
They thought that God was not being faithful to them, even tough it was them who had changed, showing disrespect and sin toward God. There is a pattern all throughout the Old Testament. God will bless the nation, and they love God. Over time they grow complacent and forget God and that it is He who had given them all that they had.
They then become involved in any number of sins and after warnings from various prophets they are judged by God. The people would then repent and turn back to God who would then forgive them and bless them, and they would follow His ways again.
“Return to me, and I will return to you,” The people have always had the option of returning to Him through repentance and renewed obedience. God’s people asked what have they done that they needed to return from. Did they not know what they were doing wrong? They ask “How are we to return, we haven’t done anything wrong?” “You are the one who has been unfaithful.”
God says that they were robbing Him “In tithes and offerings.”
What is a tithe? An offering? The meaning of the word ‘tithe’ is 10%. God says that we are to bring the whole 10% of their income into the storehouse. The storehouse was a section of the temple where the agrarian Israel would give their grain, animals, etc… It therefore is a reference to the Church. Tithes are to go to the local church. Offerings are what we give above and beyond the tithe.
The reason for the tithe is so that “there may be food in my house.” Ministries within the Church are dependant upon the faithful giving of each member. God has not designed any other way for fund raising than the tithe and offerings. The financial stability of the church is dependent upon the member’s hearts being right with the Lord.
God promises that if we will tithe, we will be blessed. How are we blessed? (v. 11) “I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts.”
(1) protection from destruction – plagues have throughout the Bible been a way that God would judge Israel. Lev. 26:24, 25; Deut. 28:21; Egypt 12:29, 30. When we choose to be disobedient we step out of God’s protective circle. But if we are obedient we remain within God’s protective graces.
A curse therefore may be that our possessions or what we depend on for our income may be destroyed. He would do this to strip us of what we idolize so that all that would be left is God – because He is faithful to discipline us as his children. Discipline hurts.
(2) productivity in labor — “fields will not cast their fruit.” Our work will yield a harvest. When we are obedient to God our efforts will be multiplied because God is directing it instead of us.
A curse therefore would be that no matter how hard we toil we can never seem to get ahead. We sink deeper and deeper in debt. We become anxious and worried because we are depending on ourselves instead of trusting in God to provide.
(3) popularity – when we are obedient to God will bless us because it is His desire that His name be lifted up. We can say when I added up all that I owe (to God and the world) and the money that I am taking in I would not have enough. God provided the money that I needed to do both. The blessing is that we will be able to be a witness of what God as done with our lives. There will also be joy in your household because of your relationship with the Lord.
A curse therefore would be that we have robbed ourselves of the blessing that comes from giving. We have no testimony of how God has done the impossible with our finances and lives. People will not call us blessed but instead will know that we have done it our way and in our own strength.
Still not convinced about this whole tithing thing? This is the only place in the Bible where man can test God. “Test me in this.”
Another reason God requires a whole tithe is that tithing ultimately is a test to determine if we trust God. It reveals the reality of whom we love more God or money.