Giving Matters: Contending With Giving

Giving Matters: Contending With Giving

Opening Illustration: Something Cheap
A husband on a business trip decided to buy a gift to take home for his wife. He asked the store clerk, "How much does this perfume cost?"

"This bottle costs $30," she answered.

"Thirty dollars!  For that little bottle?" he exclaimed in disbelief. "Can you show me something cheap?"

"Sure," she replied. 

She handed him a mirror.

When You Give, Are You Grumbling or Glad?

Background Of Malachi
The final book of the Old Testament, Malachi received its name from its author (Malachi 1:1). In Hebrew, the name comes from a word meaning “messenger,” which points to Malachi’s role as a prophet of the Lord, delivering God’s message to God’s people.1 Malachi offered no other identifying information about himself, leaving out markers typical of other prophets such as his father’s name or the current leader of Israel.

However, based on the content of the book, it becomes clear that Malachi delivered his message of judgment to a Judean audience familiar with worshipping at the temple in Jerusalem (2:11). The people of Judah had turned away from the true worship of the Lord, leaving themselves under judgment and in need of salvation.

The people of Judah began to be exiled from the Promised Land in 605 BC, returning from Babylon seventy years later. By the time of Malachi, they had been back in the land for more than a hundred years and were looking for the blessings they expected to receive when they returned. Though the temple had been rebuilt, the fervor of those early returning Israelites gave way to a thorough apathy for the things of God. This led to rampant corruption among the priesthood and a spiritual lethargy among the people.

Malachi came along at a time when the people were struggling to believe that God loved them (Malachi 3:10). The people focused on their unfortunate circumstances and refused to account for their own sinful deeds. So God pointed the finger back at them, and through Malachi, God told the people where they had fallen short of their covenant with Him. If they hoped to see changes, they needed to take responsibility for their own actions and serve God faithfully according to the promise their fathers had made to God on Mount Sinai all those years before.

Malachi 3:6-12 NIV
6 “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.

“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’

8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.

3 Lessons From Malachi

I. The Difficulty of Giving vs. 6-8
Malachi 3:6-8
6 “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.

“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’

8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings

Illustration: Two Pigs
A missionary once asked a new convert, “Pablo, if you had a hundred sheep, would you give fifty of them to the Lord’s work?”

He answered, “You know I would gladly give them.”

“Pablo, if you had fifty cows, would you give twenty-five to the Lord’s work?”

“Yes, you know I would be more than happy to do that.”

Again the missionary asked, “Pablo, if you had two pigs, would you give one of them to the Lord’s work?”

“That’s not fair,” Pablo replied. “You know I have two pigs.”

Many people are extremely generous in theory but not in practice. They say, “If I only had a million dollars, I would give half of it away.” This is simply not true. If we aren’t faithfully giving even ten percent of our money right now, we wouldn’t give away half a million dollars if we had it. 

A. The Conflict In Giving

Point:
Friends, giving is difficult.  If you struggle in the area of financial giving, you are not alone.  This struggle has been going on for thousands of years.  Even people in Malachi’s day did not fully grasp what it meant to give back to God.  If you really look at the text, it is not even that they did not want to give, they had no idea of their personal responsibility to give their tithes and offerings.  So, this struggle to give is as old as time.  

Furthermore, when you deploy the discipline of giving in your life, it doesn’t get any easier.  The Lord even claims the activity of a giver to be a test.  Tests are rarely easy.  When you give, you will still have challenging expenses.  You will still have to keep tires on your car, the lights on at the house, food in the refrigerator, and you will still have to pay for college.  God does not promise that as you give to Him that your other expenses will melt away.  However, He does promise to meet your most important needs.  We will cover that in a moment.  

B. The Complaint In Giving

Point:
Not only is the struggle to give old, but there is apparently an order to give.  Notice that God tells the people that they are robbing Him of their tithes and offerings.  Those are two different things.  Oh, if only we could just give tithes.  A tithe, as we have discussed in earlier sermons is literally a tenth of one’s income.  God is speaking directly to our finances.  Money.  Pesos.  Dollar bills y’all.  That’s right, God wants you to volunteer your time and your talents, but He also wants you to give your treasures back to Him.  Yet, giving money is not where most people complain.  

Now, let’s talk about offerings.  An offering is different than a tithe.  In the Old Testament, a tithe was a monetary gift given to the temple to support the priest and services that the temple offered.  Essentially, the tithe was used to help people and support the religious leaders of the day.  An offering was much more personal.  An offering was usually an animal.  Not just any animal.  It was a prized animal.  It was an animal without defect.  It would be an animal that would provide for the overall family like a sheep, goat, or calf.  Placing this animal on the alter as an offering would come a great sacrifice.  Giving up this animal took a great deal of obedience.  You see, when God says He wants your tithe, He wants your finances.  When He says that He wants your offerings, He wants your obedience.  Friends, let me tell you something, stoking a check is easy but giving God your full obedience is the most costly of all.  

Jesus talks about the cost of obedience often.  Do you remember His words in Luke 14:25-27?

Luke 14:25-27 NIV
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.   

That’s the type of obedience that we are talking about here.  It is a totally sold out commitment to God and His calling.  This type of obedience is costly.  So costly that it may cost you your comfort and your comrades.  Frankly, we have to many Christians who are not willing to pay the price.  Friends, the world needs to see what real Christianity looks like now more than ever.  Are you today struggling today with total obedience to God.  

We should be obedient to God in our actions, in our words, in our sacrificial giving and so much more.  We should be obedient to God in what we listen to, view and how we parent our children.  

Friends, we must remember that when we give to God, a small sinful part of ourselves is put to death.  We must remember that when we give, we look a little more like Jesus.  Even if God did not give us any other blessing than that, it would be more than enough reason to long to give to God.  It should be the desire of ever Christian to look more like Jesus and when we accomplish this goal, we should be joyful

Deuteronomy 15:10 NIV
Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.


3 Lessons From Malachi

I. The Difficulty of Giving vs. 6-8
II. The Destruction of Greed vs. 9
Malachi 3:9-10 NIV
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 

Illustration: A Box of Chocolates
A man is walking down the beach and comes across an old bottle. He picks it up, pulls out the cork and out pops a genie!
      
The genie says, "Thank you for freeing me from the bottle. In return I will grant you three wishes."
      
The man says "Great! I always dreamed of this and I know exactly what I want. First, I want one billion dollars in a Swiss bank account."
       
Poof! There is a flash of light and a piece of paper with account numbers appears in his hand!
      
He continues, "Next, I want a brand new red Ferrari right here."
      
Poof! There is a flash of light and a bright red, brand-new Ferrari appears right next to him!
      
He continues, "Finally, I want to be irresistible to women."
      
Poof! There is a flash of light and he turns into a box of chocolates.

A. God’s Curse For Greed Is Personal

Point:
Scripture is pretty clear hear.  Generally preachers will only read verse 10 of Malachi 3.  Why? Well because verse 10 is really positive.  God makes some great promises to the generous giver.  We will cover those in just a moment.  However, God makes a pretty significant promise in Malachi 3:9.  God tells the people that they are under a curse.  This is a personal promise.  This is a promise made to the individual.  You!  That could be me and you.  

“Well, preacher, you are reading from the Old Testament.  Jesus would never curse me for not giving.  Jesus is full of love and compassion.  You are using a scare tactic.  That’s not fair. “

Ok, let’s talk Jesus for a moment.  Flip in your Bibles to the New Testament book of Matthew.  Specifically Matthew 21:18-22.  Let’s read it together.  

Matthew 21:18-22 NIV
18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.

21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” 

Point:
Ok, so what just happened here.  I will explain it to you.  First Jesus is needy.  He was hungry.  He sees a fig tree that has leaves.  It has the visual appearance of a productive tree.  From the outside, we are looking at a healthy tree full of life.  In the middle east, fig trees are common.  The type of fig tree that Jesus would have seen would have produced the fig and then the leaves would blossom.  If leaves were on the tree, then figs should have been present.  However, when the hungry Jesus arrives at the tree, He sees leaves but no fruit.  Essentially, the tree which was meant to give, to produce and be productive did nothing.  It looked good, but it did not fulfill it’s purpose as a tree giving figs.  So, what does Jesus do?  He CURSES it and it dies.  

Friend, this is a parallel to our lives today.  We are like the fig tree.  Some of have all the trappings of the fig tree.  We have leaves of good works.  We have leaves of nice talk.  We have leaves going to Sunday School and church.  However, when God comes to our tree and shakes our branches, will we give Him what He is asking for?  Will we give Him our fruit, our produce, our productivity?

Malachi tells the people that God will curse them personally for not giving.  Jesus curses the tree for not producing.  Don’t think for a second that we are somehow above that curse.  What does that curse look like for you and me?  I have no idea but I know that curses lead to death.  

B. God’s Curse For Greed Is For All People

Point:
The curse was personal but Malachi goes further.  Malachi extends the curse to all people.  Because of their greed, the entire nation is cursed.  Friends, I believe that our nation is traveling down the road of cursing and not blessing.  Look around, churches are shrinking and having to close their doors.  Instead of reaching people, we complain about carpet, chairs, music and ministers.  We hold tight to our dollars in quiet protest while people around the globe die and go to heal.  As morality erodes around us, as the family falls apart, we hold on to our pocketbooks refusing to give to Kingdom works that could prevent the very thing we hate.  

Friends, I believe in our country and do not believe that the United States of America is to far gone.  The Christian faith is interwoven into the fabric of our society.  We should pray for our country.  We should serve our country.  Do you not see the benefit of churches in this country and how churches can impact our society?  Friends, you serve the country when we keep the doors of this place open.  We serve the world when we give so that missionaries can go and spread the Gospel.  If you are tired of our country heading down a road to cursing, then turn the tide by blessing a local congregation with fund and resources to make a difference.  

“Pastor, I only have a little money, it won’t make a difference.”  

Friend, the size of the gift is meaningless, it is the attitude that counts.  Jesus loved the widow that gave her little mite.  If you have a little, give a little.  If you have a lot, then give what God has put in your heart to give.  The point is not to give, but give with an attitude to love and respect.  If you love yourselves and this country, then you should give.  More important than that, if you love God, then giving is the ultimate act of that love.  

Deuteronomy 16:17 NLT
All must give as they are able, according to the blessings given to them by the LORD your God.

3 Lessons From Malachi

I. The Difficulty of Giving vs. 6-8
II. The Destruction of Greed vs. 9
III. The Dividend of Giving vs. 10-12
Malachi 3:10-12
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.

Illustration: Sell The Home
Spurgeon was once invited by a wealthy man to come down and preach in a country church in order to help them raise funds to pay a debt. The man told Spurgeon he was free to use his country house, his town house, or his seaside home. Spurgeon wrote back and declined coming and said, ‘Sell one of your homes and pay the debt yourself’.

Point:
Friend, remember every time we give we become a bit more like Jesus.  That’s enough.  Even if there are no other promises attached with becoming a generous giver, that would be promise enough.  Oh, to be more like Jesus.  

However, Malachi transitions from negative promises to positives promises.  

God’s Promises To The Generous Giver…

A. Provision vs. 10
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

B. Protection vs. 11
“I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty”

C. Prosperity vs. 12
““Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.”

Point:
Now we need to understand these promises.  First, we need to understand that these promises were made to the Israelites.  They were made to them in their context.  However, even though this promises must be kept in the context in which they were given, the principles behind the promises are still very applicable to us today.  Friends, when we give, I believe that God will meet our temporal or daily needs.  Have you ever heard that “you can’t out give God”?  I have and I believe it.  

I also believe that God will protect me.  I am reminded of Jesus’s words captured in Matthew 6:25-26. 

Matthew 6:25-26 NIV
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 

Friend, if God provides and protects the birds of the air, then I believe that He will do the same for me.  After all, He loves me more than them.  Malachi tells the listeners that He will shield us and shelter us.  

Psalm 91:2 NIV
I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."

Lastly, God promises that the people will be prosperous and be the talk of the globe.  People will marvel at the stunning brilliance of God’s blessing on the nation.  

Friends, it is within God’s power to do these things.  I am not preaching a prosperity Gospel to you this morning.  The Christian life is a balance between suffering and sanctification.  Yet, throughout the pages of the Bible we meet obedient characters who were blessed spiritually, physically, emotionally and materially.  God does not have to bless us with anything but He will bless us with joy when we tell God, it’s all yours.  Take it, take me and use me today.  

Closing Illustration:
The offering plate is a powerful tool.  Most of us let it pass by and don’t give a thorough to what it really symbolizes.  The offering plate is symbolic of an alter.  At this alter I lay down my sacrifice to God in obedience to Him.  In this offering plate I give God my best, my most, my all.  I give Him my tithe but I am also commanded to give Him my offering.  If I simply give him my tithe, it is not enough.  For in this offering plate, I place myself.  I step into it and cloth myself in humble reverence.  

This is not a suggest box.  

This is not a place to make change.

This is not a thing or object.  

It is a tool that helps me look more like Jesus.  So, what will you place in the offering plate this morning?  Will you let it pass by? Will you give your minimum and expect God’s maximum?  Will you put yourself, your whole self into it and say “Lord, all I am, everything that I have, it belongs to you”?


Will You Give Yourself Away…So God Can Use You?

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