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Testing God’s Generosity

Malachi 3:7-12

In Christianity, tithing moves from a transactional requirement to a transformational life that results in a generous heart.


Malachi 3:7-12: 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?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 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[a] 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. (ESV)


Have you ever felt that your generosity was being tested? When I was just starting out in New York City, a homeless person asked me for food. I took him to a nearby McDonald’s, and as I stood there the guy ordered the most expensive items on the menu. Now I will not tell you the exact bill, but I tell you this, never had I ever paid such an amount at McDonald’s or any fast-food place. Clearly, he took advantage of my generosity, and my money was the means by which my generosity was tested.


If I ask by what means has your generosity been tested, I believe most of you will say money. Money is a universally accepted measuring tool to test one’s generosity. That is why we use the idiom, “put your money where your mouth is.” Words are not enough. They require action to show your support for what you believe in.


The people in Malachi’s time were testing God’s generosity, and, in so many words, they were telling God to put his money where his mouth is. First, they asked if God really loved them. Because if He did, He would have made them prosperous.


I remember in my foolishness as a young kid living in what could be described as the slums of Pakistan, I told my parents the same: if you loved us, you would have given us nicer things.


Then, the people questioned, where is the God of Justice? It was not that they were concerned about evil and injustice in the world, it was that they were just jealous of the prosperity of others. Since their objective was prosperity, power, and prestige, the means by which Malachi’s people were testing God’s generosity was money.


Have you ever tested God’s generosity? Have you provoked God by asking why you don’t have what others do?


As we continue through the book of Malachi, today we have arrived at a text that addresses the problem with money because it restricts us from experiencing God’s generosity, which is much more than just money. It saturates every aspect of our lives. This liberates us from the power of money by showing how one can experience God’s generosity and become more like our generous God.


Turn to God


First, we experience God’s generosity when we turn to Him. Verse 7 says, “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?’”


God directly goes to the root cause of why they were not experiencing God’s generosity in their personal, marital, and communal lives. The text says they had not been obeying God’s commands from the days of their fathers. It is a generational issue. For this disobedience, they were warned over and over again throughout the Old Testament and gradually they were stripped of their national pride, prestige, and power but when they refused to turn away from their evil ways. God had enough, and He uprooted them from their land and sent them into captivity in Babylon for 70 years. Nothing changed, for as the Old Testament comes to an end, God once more tells them, “Return to me and I will return to you.”


This is the idea of confession and repentance. All they needed was to return to Him and show their repentance in their actions. He had always been there even when He chose to be silent. Last month, Arius did something that I was not pleased with. My silence was devastating for him. So, he asked, do you still love me? I broke my silence and assured Him He can never do anything that can stop me from loving Him. Israel could never do anything to stop God from loving them and caring for them. They only needed to return to Him.


So, what is the application? God is always for His elected and never against them. He chose you to experience His generosity through eternal life in Christ. So, if you are a believer, all you need is to return to Him and repent. However, if you are not a believer, turn to Him and He will turn to you.


Do Not Rob God


Second, we experience God’s generosity when we do not rob God. Verse 8 says, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.”


Verse 7 stated the problem of personal and national disobedience. The solution God offered was, “Return to me and I will return to you.” Notice their response at the end of verse 7 was, ‘How shall we return?” To this end, verses 8-9 demand God’s people to stop robbing God of tithes and contributions. If they did this, it would prove that they had returned with repentant hearts free of the love of money.


The Bible sees money very differently from how we see money. The negative and positive aspects of money are both amplified and magnified in the Bible. When it is good it is godly, which grows more through acts of generosity toward God’s creation, but when it is bad, it is dangerous for the community and for an individual’s own soul. Let me share how it works so that you can watch out because robbing God has a pattern of denial, delusion, and deception.


Denial: The people in Malachi’s time asked, “How have we robbed you?” That’s their denial of the reality of their hearts from which they were offering discarded stuff that no one really wanted, not even themselves. Are we giving God the very best of the best? If not, and we think we are not robbing God, then we are in denial and delusion is only a step behind.


Delusion: Their denial led to the delusion that they were not as bad as others. They were probably comparing themselves with each other but also with other nations and thought God could not treat them the way He would treat the wicked who offer God nothing. God disagreed. In verse 9, He said, “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.” The curse here is God’s unwillingness to bless them and protect them.


Deception: Their denial of the reality of robbing God led to delusion that led to self-deception that their half-hearted sacrifices must be pleasing to God. The mindset that I give more than most people, or at least I give something which is better than nothing, or I am not greedy I just have too many needs, or surely God understands and probably does not need my finances—all of these and more is nothing but deception that comes from delusion, which comes from the denial of robbing God. Do you see this pattern in your life?


Once I was raising funds for missions and a believer asked me to pray for him. If God gave him money, then he would give it to back to God. I thought to myself knowing how blessed the person was that God has already given him everything that he needs and more but in return, all he was giving God was excuses and even if he got more, he would find new excuses. If you are feeling the pull to make more and have more, so that you can give to God you will never have enough and you will never be satisfied no matter how much you have. That is the power of money in the absence of the Spirit.


What is the application for us? If someone says that they are not robbing God, and yet is not offering the very best to God, they are in the denial stage and soon will come delusion and deception. So, the first step toward recovery for you is to recognize that you have a problem, and this starts with accepting the reality that we often do not give what we ought to give to God.


Give Generously


We experience God’s generosity when we give generously. This whole section of our text has been used by preachers to guilt people into giving money for personal gain. While an over-emphasis on testing God through tithing is a dangerous weapon in the hands of false prosperity preachers that rob people, an under-emphasis on tithing is also a terrible practice that robs God when faithful preachers of the word shy away from adequately teaching the precious godly discipline of giving to God generously.


Since the priests in Malachi’s time were not faithful to the Word of God, they were not teaching the discipline of tithing. In verse 10 God commanded, “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.”


The Hebrew word for tithe simply means “a tenth” and Israel was commanded to give a tenth of everything. For Israel, God had a transactional deal: if they brought their full tithe to God’s storehouse, God promised to bless them until there is no more need. He promised to provide and protect their storehouse. Verses 11-12 say, “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.”


Jesus never denied the ten percent demand of tithing but intensified it by connecting it to the condition of one’s heart. Take the example of Zacchaeus. In Luke 19:8 he said, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” Jesus in Luke 19:9, seeing the stains of greed removed from Zacchaeus’s heart evident in his active generosity said, “Today salvation has come to this house.” In Christianity, tithing moves from a transactional requirement to a transformational life that results in a generous heart.


What is the application?


First, the New Testament teaches giving generously and cheerfully and this should start in your local church. If this is your church, you are supposed to bring your tithing here. If this is not your church, take your tithing to your church and if you do not have a church, you had better find one and commit to it.


Second, ten percent of your income as tithing is a good baseline, and if you already give ten percent, don’t pat your back yet because you hardly fulfilled the requirement of the Old Testament. The New Testament encourages sacrificial generous giving because Christ did not shed ten percent of His blood, He did not hang on the cross only for ten percent of the people and He did not offer us only ten percent of salvation. He gave it all to offer us complete and absolute salvation, therefore we should give our all to Him.


What if I came to you and told you that you are going to receive 10 million dollars? I can imagine how excited you would be. Now what if I say, you will receive the money, but you won’t wake up tomorrow morning? Would you take it? No, of course not. Waking up tomorrow morning is worth more to us than 10 million dollars. Every breath and every aspect of our lives is evidence of God’s generosity and yet we dare to rob Him.


All studies on giving and charity say when we make less, we give a higher percentage to charity and tithing but the higher the salary the less we give by percentage. If God is blessing us in our finances and other aspects of life, why are we failing to bless His name by giving to Him generously?


If you feel you are not experiencing God’s generosity, our text says, put God to the test and experience His generosity but the conditions are a). turn to Him; b). stop robbing God; and c). start giving to Him generously.


Here are two action steps that you can take today: First, go home, talk to your family, look into how much you give, and decide how much you want to give. I am not asking you to do something that I haven’t done. This past week my wife Sarah and I did exactly that. Second, examine your motive behind giving. If it is out of guilt or pride so that you may feel better or generous, do not do it. Do it to see people coming to Christ through your local church.


Your generosity is tested every time you are not willing to give or lend something to someone in their time of need, but the currency for testing generosity depends on what it is that you are unwilling to give or lend, whether that is tithing, treasure, or time. To test one’s generosity is to test one’s heart and money seems to exert tremendous power over our hearts. Jesus in Matthew 6:21 said, “Wherever your treasure is there is your heart.”


My appeal to you is to give your heart to God and God will make it generous through gospel transformation. In and of itself money has no power. We allow money its power by desiring it more, and in return, money intensifies whatever is in our hearts. If we are generous, it will magnify that, if we are greedy, it will amplify that, but if it is God on hearts, money will glorify Him.


For the full sermon, click here.

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