A Contradiction? (Part 1)

Not long ago, a man said to me, “We have consistently paid our tithes and given considerably large offerings over the years.  Yet, we recently lost our home to foreclosure, because I lost my job.  Can you help me understand this apparent contradiction in what we were taught regarding giving to God?

I began by saying, “First, let me say how sorry I am you’re going through this time of loss. My heart goes out to you and your family. I will pray for you.”   Given this scenario, let’s turn our attention toward the purpose of giving tithes and offerings:  Tithing reminds us that everything we have belongs to God, and keeps our affections turned toward eternal, not earthly things.  We simply steward what God gives us!

Material losses appear to defy God’s promise in Malachi 3:8-11 regarding the tithe; however, before we become too cynical, let’s explore what the text is really saying.

“You are cursed with a curse: for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.  Bring all your tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in My house, and prove me says the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open before you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be enough room to contain it.  And I will rebuke the devourer for your sake…”

May I direct your attention away from what you’ve done to what God does?  He says in verse 11, “I will rebuke the devourer…” I must be honest and admit that I, too, have wrestled with this passage of Scripture.  In my opinion, I think that perhaps we have misapplied what the minor prophet is really saying.  

Early in our marriage, my wife and I suffered the loss of earthly possessions and a good credit score due to financial lack in our home.  However, because I believe the credit industry in this country operates according to demonic principles, maintaining a high credit score is not the goal of my life.  It may give me lower interest rates when I go to borrow money, but it is not an idol in my life.  That’s not to say we shouldn’t pay our bills on time; it simply overrides the condemnation, shame and guilt the credit industry places upon us when, for reasons beyond our control, we’re not able to meet our financial obligations in a timely manner.

Luke 6:38 remains another verse that also throws earnest believers into a quandary.  “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.  For with the same measure you give out, it shall be given back to you.”  I refuse to defend God in either one of these verses.  They appear to be ironclad principles, but sometimes things happen to us in life that beckon us to re-consider he deeper messages of these verses.  Let’s rightfully divide the Word!

Malachi 3 was written to the nation of Israel who had become arrogant and rebellious toward God.  Their open defiance took them from blessings to curses.  In Luke 6:38, Jesus is not talking about money.  If you look at verse 37, you find that the subject of His discourse is judging and criticizing others.  When we judge and criticize others, it comes back to us many times over–always more severely.

In Malachi, the prophet does not suggest that tithing and giving offerings insures a never-ending supply of money or a problem-free financial existence.  I’ve seen people who faithfully tithed, and then mishandled the other 90 percent.  Psalm 23:1 reminds us that, “The Lord is our shepherd, and we shall not lack” [what we need].  However, I think we need to re-define “needs versus wants.”  In the original Hebrew, the words, “there shall not be room enough to receive it” do not appear in the original manuscripts (Malachi 3:10).  This possibility certainly confuses those who wrestle with greed and get-rich-quick schemes.

The real emphasis lies in verse 11: “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes…” Some years ago, the Lord gave me insight into this portion:  If a dog attacks you, and sinks his teeth into your leg, he may badly hurt you, but he can’t wholly devour you.  In the same way, if the devourer (Satan) tries to devour you, God will not let him completely destroy you.  You may suffer loss, but you still come out on top!  In 1 Peter 5:8 it says, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour.”

Personally, I tire of the imbalanced preaching I hear regarding the giving of tithes and offerings.  I’m upset with the crowd who teaches that God blesses according to how much we give.  In other words, the size and amount of your blessings are determined by how much you give.  While I believe the Bible supports tithing, I equally believe that God looks at the motivation behind giving. 2 Corinthians 9 is the New Testament correlation to Malachi 3.

I’ll continue this discussion in the next post.



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