Putting God to the Test with Money
Giving is an important part of the Christian life, but statistics show that on the regular, as few as 5% of American Christians give 10% or more of their income to the local church. Most Christians give around 2.5% of their income to the local church, and close to 40% don’t give at all!
There have been many stories in the media in recent years of pastors fleecing their congregations and using the church’s money to buy expensive homes, vacations, or private jets…which discourages Christians from trusting where their money is going. On the other hand, givers themselves can often be the problem by living beyond their means.
Giving may seem scary, but it is not optional for Christians.
If You Aren’t Giving, You’re Robbing God
Tithing in ancient Israel was about supplying the physical needs of the priests and Levites who served the nation. On occasion, this extended to the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). Tithing had to do with the upkeep and management of the Tabernacle and later the Temple. Tithes provided for the Levites and priests, who performed religious rituals and cared for the Tabernacle/Temple. An Israelites who gave all their tithes donated somewhere around 20% of their crops and farm animals.
For those Israelites who lived under the Old Covenant, tithing was not optional. When the Jews of the Prophet Malachi’s day ignored God and his covenant laws (Malachi 1:6-8, 12-14; 2:8-17; 3:5, 7-10, 13-15) they violated their relationship with God.
Malachi 3:8: “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me…”
After all God had done for Israel by restoring them to their homeland, they chose to “rob” him of what he commanded they give. One of the ways in which God called Israel back to faithfulness through Malachi was the reinstitution of tithing.
Similarly, Jesus said that where our treasure is, our hearts will be also (Matthew 6:19-21). For a lot of Christians, their greatest treasure is in their bank account or invested in their property, and that means their hearts are right here on earth! This is not what God wants.
If You Don’t Give, You May Experience Severe Consequences
When God made his covenant with Israel, he promised to bless them for their faithfulness. He also promised to curse them for their unfaithfulness (Deuteronomy 26-29). When the Jews refused to honor their covenant with God, they put themselves under these very curses.
Malachi 3:9: You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me.
The people’s unfaithfulness toward God was not limited to a few individuals or families, but the entire nation! For Israel, national sin meant national consequences – seen all throughout the Old Testament (OT), especially when the Jews were exiled to Assyria and later Babylon. In Malachi, the people seemed to be experiencing low crop yields and pestilence (3:11). There were direct consequences from God himself for their law-breaking.
Like all sin, greed is deceptive. It tells us that by holding on more tightly, we can keep what the world says is ours by right. Yet nothing is really ours, and the mantra that “He who dies with the most toys wins” couldn’t be further from the truth. Greed will poison our relationships with God and others. It will keep us from honoring God and doing the things he has created us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
1 Timothy 3:7-10 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
Like Ananias and Saphira, who died because of their greed (Acts 5:1-10), parts of us die when we worship little “gods” instead of the actual God. We think we are securing our future, protecting our family, or living the good life, but we are actually piercing ourselves with many sorrows. And if God wills it, we will suffer direct consequences for our greed.
God Rewards His Givers
While Christians today are not under the Old Covenant, studies show that many of us are “robbing God” by choosing not to give. We spend money we don’t have on stuff that doesn’t matter to impress people we don’t like. Meanwhile, God’s people are in need (1 John 3:17-18). The elderly, poor, sick, widows, and orphans among us struggle to scrape by. Missionaries go unsupported, outreaches go unfunded, and some pastors minister part-time or for free, working several jobs to support their families.
Malachi 3:10: Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!
Today, Christians can be confident that God will provide us a “harvest” for the sacrifices we make in giving…though it may not manifest in ways we expect.
2 Corinthians 9:6, 10 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop… For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
The greatest reward of giving is not that God will give us a return on our investment, but that giving teaches us to trust him. Not only this, but we get to partner with God in ministry. Our giving causes people to praise God for his goodness and provision (2 Corinthians 9:12-15).
Make a budget to manage your finances and seek God in prayer to help determine what is appropriately “proportionate” for your family so you can give generously and with a clear conscience to support your church, Christian missionaries and ministries, and needy Christians at home and abroad. As you do, remember that everything we have is a gift from God above, who provides all of our needs (Deuteronomy 26:8-11; Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:19).