PIOUS THIEVES by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: A $1 bill met a $20 bill. He hadn’t seen him in a while and he said – “Hey! Where have you been? Haven’t seen you in years.” The $20 replied – “I’ve been doing a lot of travelling. I’ve been to the casino, went on a cruise, went to a baseball game, to the mall for Christmas shopping, fancy restaurants, beach, mountains. I’ve been living the high life. How about you?” The $1 replied with a sigh, “Me? Same old stuff…church, church, church.” Today’s message in our series on Malachi is called “PIOUS THIEVES.” Hopefully, it’ll do more than figure out where the $20 bill has been hiding. It’s about the state of the heart.
Malachi 3 6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. 7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the Lord of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’ 8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.
Question: I know that some of you have already made your assumptions about this message – “Here we go…Pastor Shah is gonna hammer on money since the new building has to be paid for.” Not really. We grew the most through the worst financial crisis this nation has ever faced. I’m not a least bit worried about money. The message is not about what you give. The message is about what you believe God has done for you. What has God done for you? How much you have belongs to God? Are you saved? This message is for you not from you.
Context: As I mentioned last weekend, the Book of Malachi is written like a courtroom drama where the people of Israel were on trial and God was their judge, their prosecuting attorney, their witness, and their executioner. But don’t think that all this was only one-sided and negative because God was also their public defender who was trying to negotiate a plea bargain that would greatly benefit them. Listen again to verse 6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change…” When God said “I am Yahweh,” he was reminding them of his covenant name. In other words, God was showing them the old contract papers to remind them that the agreement he had made with them had not changed. Which agreement? 6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” This is the 4th time God mentioned Jacob. Why didn’t God say “O sons of Abraham?” Because Abraham was also the father of the Ishmaelites. Why didn’t God say “O sons of Isaac?” Because Isaac was also the father of the Edomites. God was telling them that unlike the Ishmaelites and the Edomites who had perished or vanished, they were still alive because he had kept his covenant. Their entire existence was because of him.
Application: I mentioned to you a few minutes ago, the message is not about what you give but what you believe about God. The message is not about how much you give but how much you believe belongs to God? Do you believe that everything you are and everything you have is because of God? If you have reservations there, of course, you will have reservations about how much you give. It will be like tipping after a meal. Imagine if I were to tip Nicole after a meal!
Here comes the plea bargain. 7 “‘Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,’ Says the Lord of hosts.” In other words, admit that you messed up and come back. God is not finished with you. Repent. Refusal would be the unpardonable sin. This is the main message of all the prophets in the OT. Listen to their response – “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?” God answers – 8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” Background: Many of us know that tithe means “ten percent.” The word tithe is an Old English word that means “tenth.” Where does it originally come from? From the Bible, from the Old Testament. Actually, there were 3 kinds of tithes:
- First, the general tithe of the land. Leviticus 27:30 “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord.” Where do you give it? Numbers 18:21“Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting.”
- Second, the eating of a portion of the tithe at the sacred meal when the first/general tithe was given. Deuteronomy 14 22 “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. 23 And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, (Jerusalem) the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.”
- Third, the tithe collected every three years for the poor. Deuteronomy 14 28 “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”
Why were the people keeping back their tithes and their offerings? Think about it. It was an agro-pastoral economy. Most people were poor farmers. This was not by choice but by necessity. They had just returned from exile, maybe a generation or two. We’re not even talking about drought, locust infestation, and neighbors who were angry that the original inhabitants were back. Life was very tough for them. Many were also shepherds. Again, not by choice. Then there were those working for the imperial bureaucracy (the Persian empire) who were doing very well. They were wealthy landowners. So also, the priests appeared to be doing well. The lending and borrowing system made life very difficult for the common person. Usury (lending money at excessively high interest rates) was also being practiced at the time. This was debt slavery. Fraud, bribery, and corruption were also prevalent. Bottom line: Most people felt entitled not to give.
Some people think that all that is in the OT Mosaic Law and we’re no longer under it. Who came first Abraham or Moses? Genesis 14 18 “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him (Abraham)…” And what did Abraham do? 20 “…And he gave him a tithe of all. Another question: Who came first Jacob or Moses? Genesis 28:20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” I believe that the idea of giving a tithe was only ratified in the Mosaic law but it was established since the beginning of time. Does the New Testament obligate us to tithe? Some people bring up Romans 10:4 that “Christ is the end of the law” and Galatians 3:13 “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law…” Yes, we are no longer under the obligation of the traditions and rituals in the law but the principle of the law still stands. By the way, tithing is just the starting point. We are really under grace giving, which is much more. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”
Question: Are you tithing? $20/month implies that you are making $200/month; $50/month implies that you are making $500/month; $100/month implies that you are making $1000/month.
Now listen to what God said: 9 “You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.” 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try 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 such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. 11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the Lord of hosts; 12 And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the Lord of hosts.
Personal Testimony: When I first came, I didn’t have anything but I remember my parents telling me to give and I did. God has done above and beyond for me. I don’t give because he gives back. I give because it’s all his.
Are you tithing? Are you grace giving? Start giving like you are supposed to and you’ll start caring about this place. Whatever you buy stock in, you’ll care about. Start giving and you’ll see God open the windows of heaven for you. Start giving like you are supposed to and you’ll look forward to giving more. If you question my motives, give to another church!
For some reason God has decided to use money as the acid test of our faith. He’s asking us – “How much of what you have do you think belongs to you?” It’s really a matter of the heart.
Are you saved?