How many times a day do you think about money?
Whether it is the lack thereof, or the abundance of money, both can be a snare.
In Malachi 3:6-12, God rebukes the nation of Israel because of their lack of faith with their finances. God had blessed the nation and things were going well, but there was a problem. The people had become complacent and their true devotion and worship of God had become mere religious activity.
In verse 6, God declares his immutability. The Immutability of God means that God is unchanging in his character, will, and covenant promises
God then pleads with the people to repent (see Malachi 3:7). The biggest problem was not that the people were needing to repent, but that they didn’t even know they were outside of the will of God. This is sadly the state of much of the church in the 21st century. It is exceedingly difficult to convince someone that they need to repent when they think that what they are doing is okay with God.
People can even do good things “for God”, but without a personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ, they are destined to spend eternity separated from God in Hell.
Being a Christian is not about the things that we do for God. It is everything about what Jesus has already done for us when he died and rose again.
The key issue that God is dealing with in the nation of Israel in these verses is their finances. As we see in verse 8, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.”
Our finances are a big deal to God. Of all that we have recorded of what Jesus taught, 15% of was related to money. The foundation of our understanding is that God owns everything (see Psalm 24:1). Everything we have comes from God and we are called to be stewards of God’s wealth. The dictionary defines stewardship as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care”
In verse 9 of Malachi 3, God not only rebukes the nation, He actually says that they are under a curse because of their lack of stewardship.
You may argue that we are under the New Covenant and we are under grace, so this principle does not apply to us today. You would be right that we are under the New Covenant, but remember the words of Jesus in Mathew 5:17 where he says that he did not come to abolish the Law, but rather to fulfill the Law. Jesus took the law and raised the bar. He made what was a legal system of rules and regulations and turned it into something so much more significant, a personal relationship.
In verse 10 God challenges the people to test him. This is the only time in the Bible where testing God is seen as a positive action. God is challenging the people to step out in faith.
As a church we rely on the gifts and tithes of attendees to maintain the budget. But what if we didn’t focus on meeting a budget, rather we were giving so that the church could advance the Kingdom of God, reaching the lost and setting the captives free.
One of the lessons Jesus taught on money is recorded in Mark 10:17-25. As Jesus was walking a man ran up to him and fell on his knees, crying out, “what must I do to inherit eternal life”. This man claimed that he had kept all the commandments, he was living a holy life, the Bible even says Jesus looked at him and loved him. But then Jesus pressed to the heart and told him to, “go and sell everything he had and give it to the poor, then you will have treasure in heaven.”
Sadly, the man couldn’t do it, he was tied to his wealth and he got up and walked away broken. Jesus went on to teach how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
The rich man was looking for a set of rules. He was looking for a checkbox that he could tick off to say that his eternal salvation is secure, but Jesus saw deep into his heart and knew that he was seeking rules rather than a relationship. This is still the situation that so many people find themselves in today. We don’t give to God because the law requires it, we give because He has already given us His only Son. Jesus Christ gave everything to purchase our salvation.
When Jesus taught, he always raised the bar of the law, and made it clear that our response to the Gospel is much more than 10% of our income or following a set of rules. The truth is that God doesn’t need your money, He already owns it, He wants your heart.
The challenge for us today is not if we should be giving 10% of our income, that is a given, the real challenge is what about the other 90%? How do we steward the money that God has given us? You may not be wasting money on lottery tickets or cigarettes, but what about things like cable tv or high interest rates on debt. Living according to and within a strict budget is the very definition of what it means to be a good steward.
During the year, I frequently challenge the church to give over and above their regular giving to the church. Right now, we are raising money for the end of the year mission offering, going to support international missionaries. From time to time we have a visiting missionary or a team heading on a mission trip. All these special offerings are times when we pray and ask the Lord how much we should give, but this is not out of the 10%, this is out of the 90%, this is trusting God for the supply. Giving in faith deepens our walk with the Lord and we are blessed as we do.
This is not a prosperity gospel teaching. God doesn’t promise wealth, he promises a blessing and a lack of need (see Malachi 3:10). God promises to meet our every need, and that is a blessing.
This Thanksgiving week, demonstrate your faith in God by giving, testing the goodness and faithfulness of God.