Dear brothers and sisters,
The preaching series Next STEPS is about following Jesus – and the promise that taking one of these steps will make your life better. Remember we heard in the beginning of the series, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). The step this week is no doubt the scariest for most people to take, but it also can yield the greatest fruit in our lives – Tithing or giving. The Book of the Prophet Malachi is composed around 450 BC, at a time in the history of Israel when the people had become somewhat complacent. We hear in Malachi 3:6-12:
For I, the LORD, do not change, and you, sons of Jacob, do not cease to be. Since the days of your ancestors you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, that I may return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, “Why should we return?” Can anyone rob God? But you are robbing me! And you say, “How have we robbed you?” Of tithes and contributions! You are indeed accursed, for you, the whole nation, rob me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, and see if I do not open the floodgates of heaven for you, and pour down upon you blessing without measure! I will rebuke the locust for you so that it will not destroy your crops, and the vine in the field will not be barren, says the LORD of hosts. All the nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land, says the LORD of hosts.
A few things strike me about this passage. First, the LORD claims through the Prophet that the people are robbing Him, not because they are stealing from the collection basket, but because of their passive neglect of the ancient Biblical command to tithe. Second, the LORD calls the people to “put me to the test” and see both blessings poured out upon the people, and protection over their livelihood as well.
A simple Google search will show that so many Christians who take this step have experienced these things in their lives – things like gaining control of one’s finances, elimination of student loans and credit card debt, and new financial peace and security. Maybe this is the step God is calling you to take right now – maybe even to try it out for a short period of time, say three months. Remember that it doesn’t have to be 10% right away, and ultimately it is about worshiping God! The following questions can be used as a reflection for small groups:
When it comes to money and finances, what are your hopes, dreams and goals? Where do you want to be with your finances?
Do you like talking about it or avoid it? Are you a saver or a spender? How would you describe your attitude towards money? How was that attitude formed?
The tithing and giving step can be the scariest step to take and yet do the most to grow our faith. What are your thoughts on that statement?
Read Malachi 3:10. What tone of voice do you imagine God saying those words?
What are your thoughts on the statement: Prayer does not invite God into our finances; giving does.
What is the greatest obstacle to you to giving as described in Malachi 3?