Our Scripture reading this morning is Malachi 3:6-11.

Sir Alfred Beit was one of the wealthiest men in Ireland and a former member of the British Parliament. In 1974 a gang broke into his home and stole nineteen paintings valued at the time to be 20.4 million dollars, which would be 99.5 million today. It was the largest robbery in history at the time. The paintings were recovered and the thieves arrested. In 1986 his house was robbed again. This time, the robbers took 18 paintings valued at the time to be 44.1 million dollars, which would be 96.8 million today. Amazingly, he was robbed again in 2001 and yet again in 2002, although those two were much smaller. The paintings that were stolen were all recovered.  

Just last year, in Ft Worth Texas, an elderly man who was a Korean War veteran was robbed five times in one year in his own home! His name was John McAnally. (Hmm…another Irish person.) The police felt sorry for him so they bought him a $100 gift card. Neither Sir Alfred Beit nor John McAnally has the record for the either the most robbed nor the most often robbed. That record is held by God. Yes, God has been robbed of the most and he has been robbed the most often.

Let me say at the outset that tithing, the giving of 10% of one’s gross income to God first and foremost, is not mandated upon God’s people under the new covenant as it was under the old covenant. Even though we are not required to give 10% to God in the present age, we are required to give! God still directs us to give money to Him through the church. We will look at a few passages this morning that will show this.

If we are not required to give 10%, how much are we to give? Three principles in the NT direct us in our giving:

•    (1) We are to give as we purpose in our hearts. (This means we must intentionally contribute to God’s cause on earth. It will not do to just haphazardly give at the spur of the moment.) (2 Cor 9:7)
•    (2) We ought to give cheerfully. (2 Cor 9:7)
•    (3) Our giving must be commensurate both with the benefits we have received and the duties that God has entrusted to the church. (2 Cor 9:12-14; 10:4-6; 14-16)
•    The benefits that we have received are greater than the benefits that the OT saint has received.
•    The duties of the church are greater and more important than the duties of Israel. 
•    Therefore, as New Testament disciples, we must give more than 10%.

Put another way, we ought to purpose in our hearts to give more than 10%. What that is should be between you and the Lord. It should be purposeful. It should be greater than a tithe.

Put still another way, God is expecting you to give more than 10% back to Him and this would be primarily through the church for the church is not a man-made institution. It has been created and ordained by God, under the headship of Christ. It is held up by God and His presence is found there. The church is the house of the Living God and the pillar and base of the truth (I Tim 3:15).

The greatest robbery in all the earth is against God and the people who are robbing him are his own people! The average giving in the church in the U.S. is 2.5% per member. It has been this way for many decades. During the Great Depression, even though people were suffering and in great privation, they gave an average of 3.3%. This means that our grandparents and great-grandparents gave 32% more while they were in privation than we are giving now in plenty. This is a sad and sinful state of affairs.

On average, each member of the church is giving, at least, 7.5% less than what God intends for them to give. In terms of dollars stolen from God, this comes to 165 billion dollars per year. That is enough money to print and have a someone personally deliver a Bible to every person on earth and, if they could not read, to even give them a six-month training in order to bring them to literacy! What has been stolen from God? During my lifetime 10 trillion, 230 billion dollars has been stolen from God! If we combined that amount of money for the kingdom of God with love and a godly zeal of his people for both the gospel and the help of the less fortunate, what a tremendous difference would have been made! The church would not be the weak church it is today and even America itself would have a completely different moral landscape. 

In the 1930’s there was one church where every single member tithed. It was in Thailand and it had 400 members. What we may see as a problem is that the average weekly wage was only $6.86. That is adjusted for inflation. That was not the hourly wage. That was not the daily wage. It was $6.86 per week! But every member gave 10%. One of the leading missionaries to Thailand during that time, Dr. Hugh McKean, reported that that church did more work for the Lord than any other church in Thailand. They paid their own pastor and supported two missionary families that went to a remote part of the country where Western missionaries would never have gone. They also helped the poor, of which there were many in their area. They were a shining testimony of the love of Christ in their land. And every single member was a leper. Sadly, churches like that are a rare exception.

John McAnally was robbed five times in one year and it made the news. God was robbed 52 times this past year and the year before that. He is robbed every Sunday, for this is the day that the church has traditionally met and has taken the offering. 

What are the consequences of this robbery? I have already alluded to how it weakens the church, diminishes the good that could be done in our communities, and lessens the moral influence in society. But robbing God also adversely affects us as individuals.

[II] We should give to the Lord the full amount of what he expects so that we will not be cursed. We have already established that we are still under obligation to give to God and that His intention is that we are to give according to three principles: purposefully (intentionally, not on the spur of the moment), cheerfully, and in accordance with blessing received and duty engendered. 

Look again at what the Lord says in Malachi 3:8,9. 

    Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. (ESV)

God's people were not giving the full tithe nor the additional offerings. Therefore, they were cursed. God's curse is not like the curse of some witch or some wizard in a work of fiction. In those stories, curses come because the witch is vindictive against the hero or heroine. One of Genevieve's favorite movies is the Wizard of Oz. It's amazing how well that movie holds up even though it is over 75 years old! The wicked witch of the West is out to get Dorothy because she has killed her sister when her house fell on her. So she throws fireballs from the tinman's rooftop and sends flying monkeys to kidnap Dorothy. She curses the poppy fields so that they cause Dorothy and the lion to go into a deep slumber. She is vindictive. God is not vindictive. His curses are for the purposes of training his people on what is right, training them on what things to avoid. His curses are his discipline because he loves us. Most often his curses are mild: a lack of productivity in the fields of his people; in modern times – a lack of success at our jobs; a lack of money because expenditures come up seemingly from nowhere. Although, when God's people persist in disobedience, the curses can be severe. This is the testimony of the entire history of Israel.

Some of you are experiencing the mild discipline of the Lord right now. Things are not going as good as they might at your job. Your money seems to always be short. I tell you, if God’s word is true (and it is!), it may very well be because you are robbing God.

Nancy was a single mother with young children. When she was married, she and her husband were always short on money, but at least there was food on the table. After a divorce, things got worse. Her ex-husband sent her only a small amount of grocery money every week--so small it couldn’t even feed 1 person, much less her family of 4. Things were not going well for Nancy but she decided to begin giving to God from her little bit of grocery money and trust Him to provide. Shortly after, she got a job with a cookbook company. The company paid Nancy to go grocery shopping and prepare meals so they could take photographs for their cookbooks. When they were done taking pictures, Nancy could keep the food she had purchased and prepared. Isn’t that an amazing story of God’s goodness? Nancy learned that even if you’re poor, you still need to learn to give from whatever you have.

Stories such as Nancy’s could be multiplied thousands of time over, for there are that many testimonies of how curses have been lifted when one of God’s children begins obeying in the area of giving.

One man of God wrote this:

“Our forefathers abounded in plenty because they gave God the tithe and to Caesar the tribute. But now, because our devotion has receded, the imposition of taxes has advanced. We are unwilling to share with God, giving him the tenth, and now, behold…the tax collector takes from us that which God is not receiving.”  

This man of God is saying that one reason our taxes are so high (by the way, in case you are not aware, high taxes are a curse!) is because we are not giving God his due. Do you know who wrote that? St. Augustine in the fourth century! I’m not saying that Augustine is always right but he is one of the shining beacons in the history of the church and I think he is on to something here. It’s also interesting that high taxes have been a problem for the last 1500 years!

[III] We should give to the Lord the full amount of what he expects so that the windows of heaven will be opened for us. In verses 10 and 11 we read:

 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. 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.

The Israelites were not bringing a full tithe to God’s storehouse. They were bringing something but it was less than 10%. This is precisely the situation that the church finds itself in today. Yes, we as individuals and families are giving, but it is less than the full amount. God is not less gracious today than he was in Old Testament times. He is more gracious! God is not less giving today than he was in prior eras. He is more giving! His promise stands! He desires to open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings to you. You are the one who is keeping the window shut, not God.

Trivia question: who is the wealthiest man in the world today? Ans: Bill Gates. In the latest assessment of his worth, which just came out this week, he is worth 90 billion dollars. Another question: who was the wealthiest man in American history? Ans: John D. Rockefeller Sr. Adjusted for inflation, he was worth 392 billion dollars! Here is what he wrote:

   “Yes, I tithe, and I would like to tell you how it all came about. I had to begin work as a small boy to help support my mother. My first wage amounted to $1.50 per week ($48 dollars per week adjusted for inflation). The first week after I went to work I took the $1.50 home to my mother and she held the money in her lap and explained to me that she would be happy if I would give a tenth of it to the Lord.
   I did, and from that week to this day I have tithed every dollar God has entrusted to me. And I want to say if I had not tithed the first dollar I made I would not have tithed the first million dollars I made. Tell your readers to train their children to tithe, and they will grow up faithful stewards of the Lord."

He was a faithful follower of Christ his whole life, a lifelong member of the Baptist Church, married to the same lady, Laura Spelman, his whole life and had five children who all became successful in life.

I am not saying that if you are faithful in giving to the Lord then you will amass 392 billion dollars. I am not saying that if you are faithful in giving to the Lord then you will be rich. (Actually, if you are living in America and, even if you are in a lower income bracket, you are rich compared to most people in the world.) I am saying that if you are faithful in giving to the Lord then he will open the windows of heaven for you and he will pour out blessings. And those blessings will include prosperity because, from the context of our passage, it is clear that God is talking about material prosperity.

[IV.] We should give to the Lord the full amount of what he expects so that we will receive a reward. Did you know that the amount of money that you give to the Lord’s work will be one of the things that the Lord considers when rewards are given in the next age? It is. When the rich young ruler comes to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life Jesus answers that he must keep the commandments of God. The man thought that he was and Jesus would gently show him that he wasn’t. In Matthew 19:21 we read this:

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (ESV)

If the man had given money to the poor then he would have treasure in heaven. How we use our money on earth determines our treasure, our reward, in heaven.

In 2 Corinthians 9, where the apostle Paul is encouraging the Corinthians to give generously, he makes this statement in verse 10:

    He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

Paul is saying that in the same way that God provides seed to the farmer and bread for those who are hungry so will he multiply your own resources in this life so that you can continue to bless God’s people if you do so now. This is a restatement, is it not, of the promise that God gives through Malachi? Having one’s resources multiplied is another way of saying that blessings are going to be poured out!

But notice what Paul says next: God will increase the harvest of your righteousness. The harvest does not come until the Lord returns. Then there will be a harvest and, with the harvest, a reward.

I tell you, every dollar that you give to the Lord’s work is accounted for and noticed by the Lord in the same way that he observed those who gave in the temple and took note of the widow’s two coins (Mark 12:41-44). He is still observing and he is still noticing. And, his reward is with him (Rev. 22:12).

We should give to the Lord the full amount of what he expects so that we will receive a reward.

[V. Conclusion and Application] We have been robbing God. Our “receding devotion,” as Augustine called it, has impacted the success of the church’s calling. But it has also affected us as individuals. God knows human nature because he created human nature. Therefore, he has made certain promises (and he always fulfills his promises!) in order to motivate us into the right ways. It is the same in the matter of giving.

•    We should give to the Lord the full amount of what he expects so that we will not be cursed.
•    We should give to the Lord the full amount of what he expects so that the windows of heaven will be opened for us.
•    We should give to the Lord the full amount of what he expects so that we will receive a reward in the next age.

What are we to do? A few of you are already giving 10% and more. But, if our church is like most churches, then many of you are not. There are three short and simple things that you can do.

1.    Commit to giving a certain amount of your income as soon as you receive it. It should be at least ten percent for the reasons we spoke about. You decide what it will be and write it down. It also must be as soon as we receive it, meaning, take it and put it aside as soon as you receive it. Why is that a wise course? Because it may very well be spent before Sunday!
2.    Be specific in your commitment. After you have purposed what percentage you will give, calculate what that amount is on your gross income (before taxes) and write that amount down.
3.    Give it. Like the Nike slogan – just do it.

What God is asking you to do is put him to the test. That is what he says in verse 10: “put me to the test…”