Show me the money!

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When I am making a major purchase, I check on the consumer report. Does the product work as advertised? Does it have a good service quality?  My hope is that the testing will prove the maker’s claims.  I have paid more for a product that has a significantly higher rating, believing that the quality is worth the expense.

We are discouraged from testing the Lord! He does not subject Himself to our proofs and standards, except in one instance. HE invites you and me to put Him to the test in the area of giving, for He knows that generosity always ultimately enriches the giver. “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” (Malachi 3:10-11, NLT)

Preacher Malachi urged the people of God to put Him first; in their worship, in their personal lives, and in their practice of tithing. Do you know what a ‘tithe’ is?  It is the first 10% of our income. An ancient principle found in Scripture teaches those of us who love Him to set aside that portion of our stuff for God’s work in this world. IF we will faithfully put Him first, He will care for us. And, He invites us to take note of His performance.

I realize that writing this invites abuse. Some pastors turn this into a kind of game … “You give God a hundred dollars and He’ll give you back a thousand!” they loudly proclaim, all the while enriching themselves by playing to people’s greed! That is not what that passage means, at all. The Lord calls us to be a people who get our lives in proper order; putting Him first in all things. If we do, He says that He will see to it that we are cared for, that He will make a clear distinction of blessing in our lives. The tithe is just one way, among many, that professed devotion turns into true worship.

Let me offer this personal testimony.  I have always tithed my income. When I made very little, God got the first 10%. When I had more, I rejoiced that I could give more. Writing those checks over the years has given such great joy. I support ministries and missions with regular, faithful, and sometimes sacrificial giving and that makes me a partner in that work. I have not researched the actual amount I invested in the Lord’s work over 5 decades of life but I am sure it is in excess of $200,000. (That’s not a boast. That’s a testimony to God’s goodness as I am not rich man.) Have I ever given those offerings expecting to get rich? Not for a moment.

Giving is a tangible act of worship, a spiritual discipline that keeps material things in their proper place.  Has God been faithful?  Well, of course.  Do I have everything my heart craves? No, and for good reason.  Are there things He has allowed into my life that seem less than fair? Of course, but He is God and I am not.   What I can say with deep conviction is that He has turned little into much, kept me heart steady in stormy times.  Yes, I can say that He has passed the test.

Disciple, is He first in your life? Does your commitment show in your use of time, in your daily choices, and in your checkbook?  God says, “Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams.” (Malachi 3:10, The Message)

Actually, that is not an isolated text in the Scripture. Malachi most succinctly summarizes a principle that is woven throughout the Word.  We are urged to “love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”  The result is that we live in Him, not exempt from the trials of life, but guided and sustained by Him through them.  In our devotion, we find grace that teaches us the disciplines that allow us to enjoy abundant lives marked by the fruit of the Spirit which includes all the best qualities – “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.” (Galatians 5:22-23, KJV)

Remember, disciple;  the promised harvest does not show up the day after the seed is planted, nor is there abundance that comes from a single choice. A rich harvest grows up from a steady cultivation of the soul, as maturity develops over time.  So, I urge you to consistently and faithfully do His will, accept His grace, and obey His commands.  Prove Him!  My report is:  “He is faithful!”

Here is a word from the Word, not just about church offerings, but about a way of life.  “Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-9, NLT)

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