Will A Man Rob God?

8 “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.
9 You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me.
10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put ME to the test!
11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

INTRODUCTION

I was raised on the King James which states the Jews sin a little differently…“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.”

So the question is: will a man rob God? And the answer is yes, he will: as a matter of fact over 80% of Baptist do it weekly. Jack Taylor was fond of saying, “I would pray with a man who robs God. I wouldn’t close my eyes in his presence: a man who will rob God, will rob anyone.” I think Jack was using the hyperbole but his point is well taken. Something is not right when a man robs God.

I suppose the second question is: how can a man rob God? Malachi gives us the answer, by withholding our tithes and offerings. The Levitical or Temple Ministry was supported by tithes and offerings. Today the ministry of the church, the body of Christ, is supported by tithes and offerings. Why do people feel entitled to a free ride? I don’t get it. Joe Wheeler does not give us electricity and they don’t take faith as payment for their services either. Ministry is expensive and it cannot be done without financial support.

The third question is WHY? Why don’t professing believers tithe?

Today, I am going to suggest four reasons or excuses why many church members do not tithe…

I. GOD HAS NO NEEDS. 

The gold is His, the silver is His, the cattle on a thousand hills are his. The earth is the LORD’s and everything on it. God has infinite wealth. His resources cannot be exhausted. All of this is true. God is not in a financial bind. He does not need a bail out. Many people reason to themselves: God doesn’t need my money.

I had to borrow money from an individual to go to school and when I went to pay him back, he opened his ledger and I saw another name, someone is my family, who owed him money and had made no effort to pay him back. This man was a relative and he did not charge us interest. But this particular person had made no attempt to pay the principal. I confronted him and he didn’t like it but I pressed for an answer: “Why are you not paying this debt?” I will never forget what he said, “He has ten times as much money as I have, he doesn’t need the money.” I think my response was, “That has nothing to do with it.” I guarantee you when he asked for the loan, he did not tell the man, “You are rich and I have no intention of paying you back.” Had he been honest, the man would not have loaned him the money and neither would I.

A debt is a debt is a debt. By the way, poor people don’t loan money. Only rich people loan money. If you owe someone, their financial status has nothing to do with your moral obligation to pay the debt.

NO, God does not need your money but that has nothing to do with your obligation.


II. MISTRUST FOR THE MINISTRY

The second excuse that I know is real has to do with people mistrust of preachers. They assume incorrectly that a preacher who preaches on stewardship [the use of material wealth] is greedy and working toward a raise. Be honest: How many Baptist churches do you know where the preacher sets the budget and determines his own salary.

I’ll go one step further, if you have a preacher and he never preaches on giving, he is probably not giving himself. We need to be thankful that your pastor tells you the truth. My grandmother on the Bailey side was horrible about judging preachers on this issue. She told me more than once, “There is plenty in the bible for you to preach without you begging for money.” First of all, I have never begged and secondly, I can’t allow my grandmother or anyone else to tell me what and what not to preach.

I knew a man some 35 years ago who claimed to be a deacon but believed like my grandmother. He rode a Greyhound to Arkansas to see a doctor and he sat beside a retired Baptist preacher. He was so proud to tell me, a young preacher at the time that this older preacher made a comment that “he had never preached on tithing, too much other there to get on money.” He wanted to know what I thought, I was a young man but I gave him the proper answer: I said, “I think you sat beside a preacher who never tithed.” I know several preachers who never mention tithing. They also borrow money and don’t pay it back. A bad steward is a bad steward, doesn’t matter if he is a preacher.

I am telling you the truth as I understand it about TITHING and it has nothing today with a salary. There will be no financial profit by what I am doing. I have never preached on giving and gotten a raise because of it.

III. I GIVE OTHER THINGS LIKE MY TALENT AND TIME

The next time you get a bill from Joe Wheeler, throw it in the trash and take them your talent. What a crock! I know this excuse is alive and well because I have family members that give this excuse. Your talent is God’s. It is a gift from Him; you have control of it but it’s on loan and so it your time. God wants more than your time and talent: actually, He wants more than your money. He wants you to trust Him for every need and He wants you to obey His word.

IV. TITHING IS OT/LAW: JESUS FREED US FROM ITS MORAL OBLIGATION

Tithing was practiced in the OT but not as a part of the LAW. The Patriarchs Abraham and Jacob tithed over 400 years before the law was given. “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple…” is an imperative command. Those who claim that GRACE has set them free from the law of tithing are full of mush. Jesus taught us in the sermon on the mount that GRACE goes beyond the law. In other words, those who truly believe in GRACE give more than a tithe. Grace or love goes for beyond the expected. Try treating your wife the way you treat God in the matter of giving.

A man who is living with his wife as a moral obligation may give what is expected but a man who is head over hills in love with his wife will give her much more than expected. Do you get my drift?

V. I CAN’T AFFORD TO TITHE

Mrs. Lillie Mae Thompson of Cherokee, Alabama would say, “You can’t afford not to tithe.” She said, “If you are a child of God, you owe it and you better pay it or else he will get it another way.” I heard her say once, “If you don’t give it to the church, the doctor or the auto mechanic will get it.”

I can assure you, tithing is not a financial problem, it is a spiritual problem. Yes there are people who budget and the tithe is not in the budget but that’s because they have bought things they didn’t need. If I had a new boat, a new camper, a new tractor, UTV and took eight vacations a year, I would be able to tithe either. People spend selfishly on themselves, get over extended and then claim they cannot afford to give. Truth is, they are doing too much frivolous spending.

I have told you about the old boy who began making $300 per week and tithing $30. He kept getting promoted until he was making $3000 per week and his tithe was $300. The greed bug bit him and he went to his preacher and said, “Preacher, $300 is a lot of money to be giving to the church, I don’t think I can continue to tithe that amount. I don’t know what to do, would you please pray for me?” “Yes, be glad to said his pastor.” They got on their knees and the preacher began…”Lord, Jim had no problem tithing when he made $300 per week so I pray you will give him his old job back so he makes only $300….” Jim interrupted him, “That’s OK preacher, strike that prayer, I will give the $300.”

Robby Gallaty tells of a man in the church where he served who volunteered to do sheet rock work because he could not afford to tithe. He confessed this to the pastor who seized the day. “Since you have confessed to me that you do not tithe, do you mind if I share one passage of scripture with you?” The man agreed and Pastor Robby shared Malachi 3:10 which is a unique verse.

It is the only verse in the bible where God puts us to the dare. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If  you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!

God is saying, “Try Me, put Me to the test…I dare you.” See if I will not open up the windows of heaven and bless you, overwhelm you with blessing. Give you more blessings than you know what to do with!

The Pastor said to the man: “You don’t have a financial problem, you have a faith problem. You don’t believe God will do what He says He will do. You do not believe in your heart that God will flood you with blessing if you tithe do you? The man looked at his pastor and said, “You are right preacher, I have a faith problem.”

By the way, the word ‘rob’ translated ‘cheat’ in the NLT is used on three times in the O.T. and twice in this passage, verses 8,9. The other is Proverbs 22:23 where Solomon said, “Do not rob the poor or God will rob you.” The Hebrew word for rob or cheat is ‘aqob’ and its original meaning was to cover. Thus the word came to mean defraud: cheating others by deception. The word is so close to the OT name Jacob who was a cheater. Jacob deceived his father by covering up the truth. Some would say he out smarted his brother Esau but this is inaccurate, he cheated his brother. Some have even translated this verse, “Will a man jacob God?”

My challenge to you today is not to tithe, my challenge is for you to come clean, be honest, tell the truth. Stop covering the truth with your lame excuses. Call it what it is: ROBBING/CHEATING GOD. [Sounds bad, “cheating God,” because it is bad]

TITHING

  1. Practiced by the Patriarchs [Abraham and Jacob]
  2. Instituted as a means of provision for Levite and Temple ministry.
  3. Endorsed by Jesus
  4. Standard method of providing for the maintainance and ministry of the church.
  5. In the context of scripture, especially Malachi 3:10– it is a moral imperative.

BUT

Don’t tithe unless…

  1. You do it–As an act of obedience

  2. You do it–As a gesture of faith

  3. You do it–As an expression of love

The Money is not the main thing: your heart being right with God is the main thing.

The KING ‘Is’ Coming

Scripture: Malachi 3:1-5

1 “Look! I am sending My messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
2“But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes.
3 He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the LORD .
4 Then once more the LORD will accept the offerings brought to him by the people of Judah and Jerusalem, as he did in the past.
5 “At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

INTRODUCTION

If you recall last weeks message, we mentioned the five prophecies that the Jews were hanging their hat on…

  • They would return to the homeland
  • The temple would be rebuilt
  • The LORD Himself would visit the Temple
  • Israel would have a time of prosperity and peace
  • Israel would have prominence in the world

Two of the five prophecies had been fulfilled: [1] The Jews were freed from captivity to return home and [2] the Temple had been rebuilt BUT…

  • Where was the glory? “I will fill this place with glory.”
  • Where was the LORD?
  • Where was the prosperity?
  • Where was the prominence?

In response to the Jews question in Malachi 2:17, “Where is the God of Justice?” Malachi said, “He is coming, the LORD you seek is coming. He will show up suddenly at His Temple. The Messenger and Mediator to the covenant that you eagerly seek is coming.” 

Malachi goes on to say in verse 2…”He is coming but you will not like it when He gets here. Who will be able to stand and face Him when He comes? He’ll be like white-hot fire from the smelter’s furnace. He’ll be like the strongest lye soap at the laundry. He’ll take his place as a refiner of silver, as a cleanser of dirty clothes. He’ll scrub the Levite priests clean, refine them like gold and silver, until they’re fit for God, fit to present offerings of righteousness. Then, and only then, will Judah and Jerusalem be fit and pleasing to God, as they used to be in the years long ago.

I want to say three things to you tonight in regards to our text:

I. GOD KEEPS HIS PROMISES

Whatever we find in scripture by way of prophecy has either been fulfilled or will be fulfilled. Lets look at one example:

Haggai 2:6-9

6 “For this is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: In just a little while I will again shake the heavens and the earth, the oceans and the dry land.

7 I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will be brought to this Temple. I will fill this place with glory, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

9 The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. And in this place I will bring peace. I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!”


You can see for yourself that Jesus has already fulfilled most of these prophecies.

  • He filled the Temple with Glory
  • The glory of Christ {the Temple} is greater than the glory of Solomon’s Temple
  • Jesus has already given us peace with God and someday He will establish peace on earth.

But you and I have the advantage, we are looking back through the lens of history. This prophecy in Malachi 3 was not fulfilled for 400 years, that is 20 generations. I never knew any of my great grand parents so three generations is as far as I can span. Thus 400 years is a long time to us but not to God. My point is: if God says it, it is history, it is going to happen.

One other example: Jeremiah 29:10…This is what the LORD says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.

Guess how long the Jews were held captive in Babylon? Seventy years to the day. This is an amazing prophecy.

II. GOD GOES BY HIS OWN CALENDAR

The problem with a promise is that we humans expect immediately fulfillment and that is not how it works. In Genesis 3:15, we have the first Messianic prophecy…

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”

The Messiah would come from the woman’s seed but biologically, the woman does not carry the seed, the male does. So this prophecy of an offspring from the woman giving victory over the serpent is also a prophecy of the virgin birth. Incredible! How in the world could this be done? Well 4,000 years later, God did it: a virgin gave birth to a son and they called His name Emanuel, God with us. If God says it, it is so. You might say it is so simply because He said so.

Eve got excited every time she got pregnant thinking, this may be the one. This Messianic expectation was strong among the Hebrews, then the Israelites and eventually the Jews.

III. GOD DOES EXCEEDING ABUNDANTLY MORE THAN WE HAVE IMAGINED

Ironically, when Christ did appear, His presence went unnoticed by the entire Jewish religious establishment. All those years of waiting and then they missed it. This is why Malachi warns them about His coming. He coming but will you be able to endure it when He does? He could have said, “Will you recognize Him when He comes?”

God is not a predictable God. He rarely does the same thing twice. He is the God of wondrous variety and He is full of surprises. Jesus was nothing like what the Jews expected. The last thing in the world they were looking for was a suffering servant or a man of sorrows. Malachi’s prophecy is right on but they didn’t interpret him accurately. 

Malachi used two metaphors to describe the coming Messiah: He will be like a REFINER and like a FULLER. In other words, an intense heat and a powerful detergent. Both the refiner and fuller work to purify and cleanse the product; they just do it in different ways.

The refiner works via the process of heat. The ore goes into the melting pot and the heat is intensified until the ore melts into a liquid. At this point the alloys separate from the pure product {Gold or Silver}and the impurities come to the surface. Once this happens the refiner skims them off and throws them away.

None of us like the heat. We do not enjoy trials. We have been going through a bit of one this week but God has a purpose in it. I know there have been things in my life that I saw no harm in until the Refiner turned up the heat. Under this intense heat, the impure motives came to the surface. I saw them clearly for what they were. I would have never seen them otherwise.

In relationship to verse 3b, we are all Levites, we are all God’s servants. Christ has obliterated the distinction between those who can offer sacrifice and those who cannot. He has made us a kingdom of priest and we can present our own offerings but they will never be acceptable until we give them for the right reasons. Christ purifies our motives to the point that we offer praise for the right reason. We sing for the right reason. We give for the right reason. We do deeds of kindness for the right reason.

But for those who do not fear the LORD [verse 5], there is judgment…


“At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear Me,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

The Invisible God

Scripture: Malachi 2:17

17 You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. You have wearied him by saying that all who do evil are good in the LORD ’s sight, and he is pleased with them. You have wearied him by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

 INTRODUCTION

I like the GWT version of verse 17, I think it puts everything in perspective…You have tried the patience of the LORD with your words. But you ask, “How have we tried his patience?” When you say, “Everyone who does evil is considered good by the LORD. He is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?”

This brings up an age-old argument: Can God’s patience be exhausted? Does God get tired of our constant complaining? Before we attempt to answer these questions, let’s establish some fundamental things that we do know about God.
  1. God is not Apathetic. He is im·pas·si·ble in the sense that our emotions do not rule Him nor change His essential nature but at the same time, He does feel our pain. At Laarus tomb, Jesus wept with Mary and Martha. Isaiah said of Jesus, “He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with our grief.” The word acquainted means to know or learn by experience. Impassibility means to be incapable of suffering or feeling pain. Jesus laid this myth to rest. God does feel our pain but don’t ask me to explain, I can’t explain it and yet I believe it. This is what I call the paradox of faith.
  2. So we can say with confidence, God is not Apathetic but neither is He pathetic or at the mercy of man’s emotions. In other words, our emotions do not rule Him. We are sinners in the hand of an angry God, not the other way around…God in the hands of angry sinners. We are at His mercy.

So the same paradox exist when it comes to God’s patience. God can not run out of patience because He is infinite and there is no end to His resources. Surly you do not believe that God is limited in any capacitySo in one sense, the answer is no, God doesn’t run out of patience. In other words, our constant complaining will never transform God into an impatient God. But when we flip the coin to the other side, God does have an allotted degree of patience for each one of us. In this sense, His patience can be exhausted as it was with Sodom and Gomorrah and the children of Israel in the wilderness

This fact makes it unwise to presume on God’s patience or mercy. God did grow weary of the Israelites incessant complaining and He sentenced them to 40 years of futility in the wilderness. So, there is a line that can be crossed and once it is crossed, there is nothing but judgment.

In today’s text, the Israelites are making the same mistake that their forefathers made in the Wilderness, they are trying God’s patience, which is never wise.

The situation reminds me of a story told by Bill Patterson. It is the story of Robert Shelton. Robert Shelton lost his job but only after he had exhausted the patience of his employer. Robert had been warned repeatedly about being late for work and about his lack of productivity when he was at work. His boss even enrolled Robert in a program to improve his job performance but Robert made no attempt to learn from the training. He continued to do what he had always done until the day he was called into the office and handed a pink slip. Robert went ballistic. He was outraged. He began a tirade of complaints beginning with his supervisor whom Robert said, “Had been unclear on instructions.” Then Robert lashed out t his co-workers, accusing them of conspiring against him. Then he made excuses…his assigned task was beyond his abilities and training. Robert blamed everyone except the guilty party, Robert.

The Jews of Malachi’s day were a lot like Robert…they blamed everyone except themselves. The truth is, they brought much of their suffering upon themselves. They were their own worst enemy but would not confess it and for such people there is no help.

The Jewish Problem

  1. Oppression from foreign domination

  2. Surrounded by hostile neighbors

  3. Injustice and exploitation {Economic}

  4. Skepticism and indifference {Spiritual}

Three Areas Where We Have To Be Careful of Exhausting God’s Patience

I. NUMBER ONE IS ATTITUDE

Irresponsible people believe that bad circumstances validate a bad attitude but nothing could be further from the truth. God expects each of us to have a good attitude no matter what our circumstances. Joseph had a good attitude in bad circumstances and so did Daniel and Nehemiah. How would you like to be a slave? Those three handled in pretty well, did they not.

Circumstances on this earth are never going to be ideal. I am a fan of the Jesse Stone murder mysteries. Jesse Stone is the police chief of Paradise, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. Actually Paridise, Massachusetts is is fictional. It does not exist. The definition of Paradise is an ideal place of extreme beauty, delight, or happiness where everything goes beyond expectation. We are not going to find that here on earth. We must do the best we can in less than ideal circumstances. As Erma Boombeck was fond of saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonaid.”

The Jews had a bad attitude not because circumstances were bad but because their thinking was bad. They had some stinking thinking. They were blaming God. They accused Him of being partial to the wicked. Their complaint was that He was not holy, that He was lacking in moral judgment. When our attitude is bad, it is the result of bad thinking or theology.

God is holy, moral and good. He is not the enemy. When we reach the point where we accuse Him of being the problem, we have a problem.

II. THE SECOND PROBLEM IS OUR TONGUE

Complainers are vocal by necessity. People who complain are outspoken. Do you remember the Israelites in the wilderness–they murmured and complained constantly. They grumbled in their tents…

Exodus 16:2…I have heard the Israelites’ complaints. Now tell them, ‘In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will have all the bread you want. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’”

Number 14:27…“How long must I put up with this wicked community and its complaints about me? Yes, I have heard the complaints the Israelites are making against Me.”

What was the result of their complaining in Numbers 14….The Lord told Moses to tell them...”I am going to do just as you have suggested, you will die in the wilderness.” Be careful what you say, the LORD is listening.

III. THE THIRD PROBLEM IS THEIR SIGHT OR INSIGHT

They have not acknowledged what God has already done. They refuse to see His goodness and mercy. They were released from Babylon by a miracle of grace. They did not gain their independence via a war, it was given to them and yet they could not see God’s goodness.

God had made the Jews some precious promises through the prophets.

  1. They would return to the homeland and the temple be rebuilt
  2. The LORD Himself would visit the Temple
  3. Israel would have a time of prosperity and peace
  4. Israel would have promonence in the world

The first promise had been fulfilled but they were waiting impatiently on the others. Malachi’s word to them in chapter 3 is…God is going to keep His promises, He will come to His Temple but when He does, you will not recognize Him and they didn’t. So we are talking about spiritual blindness, a sight problem.

Conclusion

“Where is the God of justice?” The Jews were asking. Sounds exactly like their forefathers who is Exodus 17:7 said, “Is the LORD among us or not.” The Israelites craved a God they could see, they wanted a visible manifestation. Yahweh cannot be seen. We don’t have a lens or scope big enough to see Him. He is the invisible God. I think it was Josie who asked about this a few days ago. Christ is the image of the invisible God. [Colossians 1:15]  Paul said to Timothy, Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever.

We are not to question God’s presence merely because we do not feel it, sense it, or see it. Jeremiah 23:23-24…. “I am a God who is everywhere and not in one place only. No one can hide where I cannot see them. Do you not know that I am everywhere in heaven and on earth?” You don’t have to feel His presence, or sense His presence–you simply have to believe the truth–He is present. It is impossible for Him not to be present.

Growing up in church, I never go to go out to the bathroom during a service. Once the service started, we were planted. If we moved, there were consequences. One Sunday night mother had a headache and so she stayed behind, the rest of us went on the church. My daddy slept soundly once the preacher got started and since mother was not there, I seized the opportunity to go out during a service. I eased out and daddy never opened his eyes so I head for the foyer. Our building had those saloon doors that open both ways and I hit them almost on a run, but there sitting behind them was mother. I did a quick 360. She was there all the time but I didn’t know it.

Bottom line: Jesus said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” It is a simple matter of faith–do you believe what Jesus said?