A Relationship Restored

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An old writer tells of two brothers who went out to take a walk in the night, and one of them looked up to the sky and said, “I wish I had a pasture-field as large as the night heavens.” And the other brother looked up into the sky, and said, “I wish I had as many oxen as there are stars in the sky.”

“Well,” said the first, “how would you feed so many oxen?” Said the second, “I would turn them into your pasture.” “What! whether I would or not?” “Yes, whether you would or not.” And there arose a quarrel; and when the quarrel ended one had slain the other.—Walter Baxendale[1]

God has this beautiful plan laid out for how He and His created people live together in community.  God sees His inhabitants in this New Covenant (which is a holy contractual relationship) age, to give, to bring offerings to the Lord.  In reminding the Israelites’ that “You’re robbing me.”  He is informing them that they are breaking their portion of the contract. In loving kindness God offers Israel a solution, “I want you to return to me. I want us to get this relationship right. And the place you need to start is in this matter of giving.”

In Malachi 3:10-12, God is beginning to dominate the conversation in this lover’s quarrel.  God tells them how to solve the problem.

 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. 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. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts. [2]

 What’s the solution to restore this damaged relationship? Look at the solution through the lens of Jesus’ and the apostles’ teaching.  In 2 Corinthians 9:7 the apostle Paul gives the clearest answer in the New Testament to this question of how much we should give to the Lord. Paul says, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

How much should you give?  You should give to God whatever you can give with a joyful spirit.

Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand the relationship they have with God and receive the full benefits of God’s blessings.  Those benefits were being compromised by their attitude about giving.  Paul points to the proper heart response to their generosity.  We should not give reluctantly, or under compulsion, instead we should give as God gives hilariously. That Greek word translated “cheerful” in the text is where we get the English word “hilarious” from.  It would be a better translation that “God loves a hilarious giver.”

God doesn’t care nearly as much about the percentage you give.  He is far more concerned with the attitude at the heart of your giving.  God looks at whether you have been generous. If you’re asking, “Where should I start? What’s the minimum?” Ten percent is a good starting point, a guideline. In some cases, it’s 9 per cent or 8 per cent, but as we grow in our relationship with God through faith we’ll see that amount increase.

God blesses us abundantly when we give.

The people in Malachi 3:10-12 were struggling with some of the same issues you and I struggle with when it comes to giving. They had some of the same factors working against them. In verse 10 God says, “Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” It sounds like the people are scared that if they follow through on their giving commitments, they’re not going to make it.

These people were facing heavy taxation by the Persians. They had been taken into captivity years before by the Babylonians, and many of them were deported to what is modern day Iraq. They lived there for 70 years, and then the Persians living in the area of modern day Iran overthrew the Babylonians. The Persians said, we’ve got these prisoners of war; let’s send them home and let them rebuild the nation and their economy, and we’ll come out better economically by doing that. So, the people of Israel went back, but they were paying heavy taxes to the Persians.

It is natural and expected that some of the Israelite people thought, our budget is so tight, and if we give our tithes and offerings we’re not going to have enough money to pay our taxes. Or if we pay our taxes, we’re not going to have enough money to eat. These people were concerned about pests destroying their crops and whether there would be enough rainfall and enough sunshine so the crops would grow and have a good yield.

God says to them: Trust me in this. If you do your part, I will bless you.

Today we have the same concerns, don’t we? We worry about the local economy and the markets and the price of gasoline. But God said to these people and he says to us today: I challenge you to test me. Follow through on your commitment, and see how I will bless you. Give at a level that will test my ability to bring blessing to your life.

God blessed people in the Old Testament spiritually, and he blesses people today also. But in the first chapter of Ephesians is that wonderful prayer of blessing Paul prays, and we realize God has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing.

As you listen to this lovers’ quarrel, when you get to the end of verse 12 listen for the response of God’s people. God has done a lot of talking here. What do God’s people have to say in response? There’s nothing there, is there? God’s people don’t respond. Could it be that the prophet Malachi didn’t include the people’s response because he wants to let us think about how we would complete this story because he wants us to reflect on how we would respond to God, how we would end this lovers’ quarrel? Are we willing to return to the Lord, the Lord who promises to come back to us? Are you and I prepared to accept God’s challenge to give at a level that tests his ability to bless us? That is the question, and the choice is yours.

Other posts in this series on money.

https://revheadpin.org/2016/11/09/giving-is-matter-of-the-heart/

https://revheadpin.org/2017/01/20/common-misconceptions-about-money-and-wealth/

[1]  Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 1108). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mal 3:10–12). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society

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17 Comments

  1. Such a great and needed read for all of us! Tithing and giving in any sense: spiritually, emotionally, physically, all of it, can be so difficult for us to do sometimes because, naturally, we don’t always want to give because we are selfish creatures. But just as you said, He calls us to give no holds barred with JOY, and to do so with full heart out of a pure will to do so!

    You never just give appreciation to your dad with a simple “Thanks”. No, you hug him, love him with your whole being, and willingly do things and sacrifice for him when he needs to. Just as well, we need to treat our Father with the same fervor that we do on earth, if not MORE so.

    Awesome stuff!

    Like

  2. Thank you so much for this message and you are definitely right. Most of the time we think we need to have it all or our gifts need to be the biggest before we feel recognnized or valid but the truth is, the little things matter the most especially if it comes from the heart. Just like they say about tithes, if a poor man gives his last dime compared to a rich man who gives 10% of his fortune, the dime will mean more to God because that poor man gave his all cuz that’s what he had. We really need to understand as children of God we should come as we are and God will simply hold us under His care. Wow…you really opened my eyes on this one. Thank you very much.

    Like

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