30 Days in the Bible, Day 13: Malachi 3:8-12
There are several times in the Bible when God Himself tells us to test Him. Here in Malachi 3 we find one of these passages. The Lord specifically tells Israel to put Him to the test. In this case, He wants Israel to test His faithfulness to them when they are obeying one of His specific commands, the command to bring in the “full” tithe that was prescribed by the law.
The Lord begins His dialogue with Israel here by telling them bluntly that they are under a curse for “robbing” Him by taking what He has commanded them to give and keeping it for themselves. While there is no curse pronounced specifically for violating this command, throughout the Old Testament God warns Israel that if they do not follow Him and keep His commandments they will be cursed with a variety of judgments.
By the time of Malachi’s ministry (about 450 BC) Israel had been back in the land for about 80 years, but they certainly were not seeing prosperity around them. Malachi prophesied around the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, between the rebuilding of the Temple and the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall. The returning Jews were poor and struggling, and probably wondered why God had left them in this condition. The withholding of the tithe is one of the reasons the Lord states that He has not yet poured out His blessing on them.
Malachi’s prophecy was a challenge to Israel. Where was their faith: in what they could see, or in their God? Did they find their comfort in whatever possessions they had, or in the Lord who promised to bless them? The Lord tells them to try Him by bringing their tithes to the Temple in obedience to His law. He then promises them that they will see a return of His blessing, as their actions demonstrate the presence of genuine faith in their hearts.
Since we are no longer bound by the law, how does this apply to us today? Some argue that we are free from the law, so our giving should be whatever we believe is right. Others counter that if the law called for 10%, we who are under grace should go beyond that. Tithing has been a longstanding practice in the Christian church, and I think it is a good idea to at least work our way toward that standard.
I think that there is more fundamental question when it comes to tithing. This is the question I posed above: Where is your faith? When our bills are many and our cash flow is small, we are tempted to hold on to what we know we have, since we can see the money and make those payments. But when we do this, we show that our faith is in our possessions, not in the Lord. If we are afraid to trust the Lord to bless us when we give freely to Him, our faith needs some serious work.
The Lord asked the Israelites to try Him, and I think He asks the same of us today. He wants to see by our actions where our faith is. Whatever we believe the Lord is calling us to give, we should give without reservation, and expect Him to bless our obedience. This doesn’t mean to give in a foolish or selfish way, throwing away what the Lord has given us in the expectation of some miraculous windfall to make up for our thoughtless waste. It does mean that when we give freely, generously, and faithfully, the Lord will meet our needs. Try Him, and see what He does!