Ever take a picture and accidentally focus on the wrong thing? … Perhaps a leaf, or a stick… something that was in the range of sight, but not the main thing – the thing that really was the intended object of focus. When that happens, the main object is still in the range of sight, but it is slightly out of focus and the photograph isn’t as satisfying or effective as it should have been.
I think that sometimes happens when we read Malachi 3:6-15. We tend to make the passage focus on tithing… but it doesn’t – it focuses on something else (tithing is just the case study – the example – of the real issue, the real problem…
Now, let me quickly say that I believe in tithing – in fact, I practice it! I do NOT, however, practice tithing as “law” – I practice it worshipfully. It is a way I honor God and His claims upon my life! I believe the biblical principle (both Old and New Testament teaching) is that “the sacred portion” (in this case 10%) sanctifies the whole (the 90%). Therefore I offer the 10% to God worshipfully as a witness and declaration of His sovereignty in every aspect of my life… over everything I am, own, possess and gain.
Having said that, let me return to the issue… The main thing – the issue in Malachi 3:6-15 was NOT tithing! It was the fact that God’s people Israel had strayed from the Lord in their heart and lives! Their forefathers had gone astray – and in Malachi’s time they also had gone astray! They were guilty of saying, “It doesn’t pay to serve the Lord!” (And they were acting like it as well!) Their failure to tithe was simply the SYMPTOM of the real problem!
Here’s how the prophet Malachi expressed it…
“I the Lord do not change! Therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts! But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions… Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need (or room for it)! I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts. “Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God.’”
The problem? They had strayed far from God. A symptom of the problem? They no longer honored God with the tithe! They said it didn’t pay to serve God! They had slipped into pattern of life in which they only lived for themselves! God was saying… “Return to Me!
The challenge of this passage? I want to put God first in my life! If I’ll obey His word, do His will and honor Him in everything just see what He will do… consider what will happen… “I will open the windows of heaven or you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need (or room to contain it)!” Gotta tell you… I want to focus on the main thing… serving God with all my heart!