Nov 8, 2008

Are we limiting God’s blessing to us?

by Dan Grubbs

It is an interesting question taken in light of Malachi’s third chapter. I often think we wish we were blessed by God more than we are. We see fruitful people all around us, many who are not born again. How can that be? That sounds like a question someone once asked Job.

Since I cannot search into another person’s life, I can only search for answers within my own — this most often is through His word. I found my answer in Malachi 3:10.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”

In this single verse I found an important lesson. What do you think it would look like in your own life if God opened up the window of heaven and poured blessings out until they overflowed? Ask yourself if this matches your own current reality.

Was I receiving blessings like this?

Needless to say, that picture of an overflowingly blessed life didn’t match my reality. So, I began to explore the idea of what “tithes” I had been holding back. As I studied a variety of Old and New Testament passages, I learned that tithes are those regular and recurring gifts we give back to God. Now, I don't find a specific commandment for tithing in the Church Age, but there are some principles or guidelines we can adopt for ourselves in our worship of our God.

Under the old Covenant, God commanded the Israelites to “take some of the first of all the produce of the ground which you shall bring in from your land that the Lord your God gives you,” (Deuteronomy 26:2). This leads us to a simple question, how much? Some Bible scholars tell us that the word tithe is based on the same word meaning tenth. This is where many believers establish their regular giving on 10 percent of their income.

But, rather than focus on the amount, I believe it is more important to focus on the reason for giving. Look again at some of the words in the Deuteronomy passage. Several key words to pick out of this passage are “some”, “first”, and “all.” The passage tells us to take “some” of our produce. Some, in this instance, means a portion. So, as a guiding principle, I'm not commanded to give it all to God.

Next is the word “first.” Today, we are compensated somewhat differently for our labor than in Biblical times. Our produce is generally financial compensation (however, it is not limited only to our pay). We are taught by Scripture to take a portion from the first fruits. In today’s terms, for me, this means I am to give the portion to God before I take any other portion out of my compensation. In other words, I believe my worship of God is best demonstrated in this area by giving a portion from my gross income, not my net pay.

The word “all” is probably the most convicting of the key words in the passage. How many of us only think of our wages earned from our jobs when we think of tithing? However, we are taught in Proverbs that we are to give from our wealth. In a chapter discussing how we should trust in God, the inspired words tells us to “Honor the Lord from your wealth, and from the first of all your produce,” (Proverbs 3:9).

Stewardship over more than just money

What God through His word is trying to get us to understand is that He has given us stewardship over a lot more than just our wages. God has given us stewardship over wealth that is measured in more ways than just money.

Are we not stewards of everything that God has given us? Do we not have more than just income that makes up the wealth of our lives. So, if we consider what is truly our wealth, then we see things over which God has given us stewardship. And, it is from this that we must give back to God.

It's not the amount, it's the reason

Now, considering these facts, do we as believers regularly return the first fruits of these blessings from God? Are we holding back because we think we will not be able to make it? Ultimately, are we cheating God? We would not be the first to do it. Look again in the Malachi passage. This must have been a common sin, so God addressed it.

“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed Thee?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!”

Tough words to hear; I know they were for me. But, when I thought about this, I realized that there is another important word I was overlooking. That word was “back.” Was I giving back to God?

That meant that He originally possessed what He had arranged for me to have. I realized there was nothing good that I had that was not from God. I am only to give back a portion of what He has given me. I lie to myself if I think that my salary is mine because I earn it. God has made my talents, my skills, and even my very job possible. He created it, He gave it to me.

This idea takes me back to the original Deuteronomy passage. A careful look in that verse will reveal that God is very aware that He has given us everything. His words are, “... from your land that the Lord your God gives you.”

It's worship, not funding

As if to reinforce this whole concept, the Holy Spirit guided me in my study to Leviticus 23:9-14. This passage is a reinforcement of first-fruits giving as a recognition that what we have is originally from God through His mercy and grace. But, it also teaches us that God places a very high priority on first-fruits giving in our lives. We see this clearly in verse 14.

“... until you have brought in the offering of your God, you shall eat neither bread nor roasted grain nor new growth. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.”

Where does this lead us today as Christians? I believe that we show God how much we trust Him, how much we obey Him, by our tithes and offerings. God challenges us to see what He will do for us, how much He will bless us if we obey Him in this area.

What is holding us back? Do we not believe that the God of the universe is telling the truth that He will take care of us? I know first hand that God will perform miracles in our own personal finances when we are obedient in our tithes and offerings. They are, after all, His anyway!

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