We are in a series entitled "One Church". When leading any type of an organization, there are truths that we value and these values help create culture. One of the values we have as a Church is faith. We discover and engage God by faith that He exists and that He loves and cares for us. Another value is Service. We are not consumers, but contributors..The church doesn’t exist simply for us, but we are the church and we exist for the world to know Christ. Last week we talked about the value we share – “the value of giving” and the generous heart of God that is within every believer. Sometimes, buried deep within, but non the less there.
This week’s subject is one that involves all three of these values.
Anyone remember back to your school days, walking into class and finding that everyone has their book open intently studying. Your friend looks up and sees you sit down and asks "Are you ready?" "Ready for what?" "The test!" And then you say "What test?
You might not know it, but you and I take a test every time we get paid. We do. How many of you get paid every week? Twice a month? How many get paid monthly? How many of you never get paid enough?
If you ever do, if you ever do get paid, you take a test. The test is this: "Who are you going to thank for your income? Who are you going to worship for your income? And this is how you know whom it is you're thanking: and that is, where does the first dollar go?
According to the Bible, where do your first fruits from every paycheck go? Some people thank Visa every month. Some people thank Honda Credit corporation. The problem is that visa, American Express, Honda Credit, do not have the power to bless your finances, develop your faith, allow you to help others. But God does.
Find your place with me in Malachi Chapter 3, beginning in verse 6. "For I am the Lord, I Do not change." "I the Lord do not change". I don't think there is a clearer statement that can be made. God does not change. God did not change between the Old Testament and the New Testament. God did not change from the time of creation, to today. "I the Lord do not change. So you,O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed." In other words, I've not killed you because I am merciful. I was merciful then and I am merciful today. "Yet from the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you. But you ask, 'How are we to return?' Now, this is God's answer, verse 8. A preacher did not make this up. This is God. The God who doesn't change. He's the one speaking. Verse 8. "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me."
Would you rob God? Would you steal from God? No, you wouldn't do that! Right
So God says to them, "You have robbed me." and they ask "In what way have we robbed you? How have we stolen from you God? And here is His answer: "In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse - the whole nation of you - because you are robbing me." "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse (the church), 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 you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit." Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land."
God, who never changes, God who is the same yesterday today and forever, says: "You have not kept my decrees." What is a decree? It is a command, a principle to live by, a value of ordinary behavior that we are to have and to keep. In other words, it is ordinary for the people of God to recognize God and bring to Him the first of everything, even in a time of recession because they know God is the one who can turn that around. God is their source. It's an ordinary principle.
Tithing is an ordinary principle of behavior for the believer. And there are consequences in our life connected to our engaging or not engaging this command..
Tithing is a test. Every time you get paid, are you going to believe that everything you have comes from God? Are you going to believe that 90% of your paycheck with God's blessing goes farther than 100% without it? It is a test of our faith. It is a test of our heart.
I also want us to notice that this is a two way test.It is the only time we are told we can test God. God says in verse 10 "Test me!" "Test me in this. Test me and see if I will not be faithful." Test me...and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it......"
There are positive consequences, the bible calls them blessings, to living according to God's principles, valuing what God values. What are some of those blessings? Peace of mind that God will provide. We talked about this some last weekend. We are a conduit of all that God owns and scripture says "the earth is the Lords and everything in it". He gives to us so that we can fulfill His purpose and mission on earth. Miraculous provision that comes in the strangest of ways - a meal purchased, numbers that just don't add up, there is peace, there is confidence, there is hope because we learn that we can trust God with everything, there is change of heart.
Just as there are positive consequences to tithing, there are negative consequences. Verse 9 that the Israelites were under a curse because they didn't live by this value. A curse is a consequence for behavior. The consequence of not giving the first fruits to God is to have the flood gates of heaven closed. to have pests devour your crops, and vines that won't hold fruit. How does that translate into your life and mine today? It means we experience worry and fear... every dime we make seems to be consumed. No matter how hard we scrimp and save, we can't seem to hold on to it.....
Now some want to argue that Christians aren't commanded to tithe, that this is just an “old testament” thing, that is was part of the law and we aren’t under the law. We can go back to the very beginning, Cain and Abel - the sons of Adam and Eve. Genesis Chapter 4. 2500 years before the law, Cain brought the first fruits of the soil as an offering to God. Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. In Genesis 14, verses 18-20 500 years before the law, Abraham brought a 10th of everything to the priest Melchizedek. Jacob in Genesis 28:22 promised God "and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth."
But what about Jesus... Did he confirm the tithe in the New Testament. He did. Matthew chapter 23, verse 23 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices - mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law - justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former." (Matthew 23:23)(NIV)
Jesus point is that these people were tithing, but there was a gap in the other principles for living that God has for their lives. Principles like fairness, mercy, faithfulness.. So Jesus tells them they should fix those issues and then says that at the same time they should not neglect the tithe. The command to tithe is still on the books today.
Now, let’s look at 2 Chronicles Chapter 31, verse 4.Tithing is a test of the heart. Tithing is Biblical. And Tithing opens the floodgates of God's physical blessing.
Remember, it was God who said "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse (into the church)..and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."
2 Chronicles 31, beginning in verse 4: "He (King Hezekiah) ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the Lord."
Let me give you a little background. Hezekiah became king at the age of 25 and God allowed him to reign 29 years. In the very first month of his reign as King, he reopened the doors of the temple of The Lord in Jerusalem. The temple that had fallen into disrepair, just as the lives of God's people had. If you read back through Chapter 29 and 30 you will see him lead the people back to the values that God has for their lives, for their community. Just like the Prophet Malachi wrote about. You also need to understand that during this period the nation is in the middle of an economic recession. Sound familiar to what we just read in Malachi 3, they were living under a curse, consequences of their choices, they’re not valuing what God values. And so what does Hezekiah do next? He puts out a command for everyone to bring 10%, the tithe into the house of God, the storehouse. That's what he does. And he gives this reason - "that the priests and Levites may devote themselves to the Law of the Lord.”
Remember, Malachi 3 says: "Listen, bring the tithe into my storehouse that there may be food in my house."
Please think about this with me for a minute. When you attend church, what are you receiving? Spiritual food; right? Do you like the food that you receive? Here at MCC, Jordan does a great job leading us in our time together. Some have shared with me how much they enjoy David and Brandon preaching on rotation with me. They do a great job sharing biblical truths! The children's ministry – what great partners this ministry is to us as parents.
Someone's paying for all of this. Right? All of the programs like Dugout that feeds 100 of our family members and friends every Wednesday night (not just fried chicken), but spiritual food to this up and coming generation. Collide on Saturday nights that feeds our teens truth about their identity in Christ. Who pays for that? All of the counseling, all of the groups, all of the ministries that reach hundreds of lives every year. Someone is paying for the priests to devote themselves to the Word of God..
Now, I have a question for you. You wouldn’t go to a nice restaurant, eat a good meal and then skip out on the check?(no) Ever skip out on the tithe? Ever come and eat a meal that someone else paid for. You see there is food in this house because a percentage of you do engage this value that is important to God and because you do there is food in God's house. And you who do understand the blessing – you experience it every day. Those of you who aren’t, you are living in the consequence that the Israelites were experiencing. Please hear me, I'm concerned about you.
Same thing here in 2 Chronicles. Hezekiah becomes concerned about the people. Look at verse 5. "As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the first fruits of their grain, new wine, oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything. The men of Israel and Judah who lived in the towns of Judah also brought a tithe of their herds and flocks and a tithe of the holy things dedicated to the Lord their God, and they piled them in heaps. Vs 8, When Hezekiah and his officials came and saw the heaps, they praised the Lord and blessed his people Israel. Then, now watch this, Then Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites about the heaps; and Azariaah the chief priests answered, "Since the people began to bring their contributions to the temple of the Lord, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the Lord has blessed his people, and this great amount is left over."
Hezekiah puts out the command, the people start bringing the tithe, it actually takes them four months to do this because they do it in conjunction with harvest time, So Hezekiah goes to the temple and there are heaps of stuff that people have given and he says - "How are the people doing?" If they have given this much, do they have enough?" And the chief priest says "Hezekiah, since people started - when they began to bring the tithe, to do what God said, as soon as they began, God broke the recession. What you see here in these heaps is just 10%. If you really want to see some heaps, go look at the 90%".
I've heard two testimonies over my 20 years in ministry from tithers and non-tithers. Every one of them - tithers, here is what they say "I am so blessed". You can't get a tither to say differently. Here's what the non-tithers say, "I can't afford to tithe."
We take a test every time we are paid, every time we harvest, every time we are given what we receive. Who are you worshiping? Who are you thanking for this? The writer of Proverbs says "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." (proverbs 14:12) But there is a way that is right. It's an ordinary principle in God's kingdom. And if you do it according to the word, He will open the floodgates of heaven over you.