Listen - I am Calling you to Stewardship

Bible Book: Malachi  3 : 7-12
Subject: Stewardship; Tithing; Giving; Faithfulness of God
Series: Listen Up - God is Speaking - 8 Sermons
Introduction

God's call to stewardship is a call to OPEN UP! We shall see that as we look at the text for today.

There are many people who will say, “I just don’t like to hear money talked about in church.” If you don’t want to hear about money in church, you must get rid of your Bible, because the Bible is filled with stories about finances, possessions and money. Also, you are not going to be able to talk about Jesus, because Jesus talked about money over and over as recorded in the New Testament. On one occasion, Jesus talked about a woman who had ten coins and lost one of them. That story was about money. Jesus told about a man who had two sons, and one of them came and asked for his inheritance. That story was about money. Then when the son who received his inheritance and wasted it in riotous living, he came home. His older brother complained because his brother had wasted the inheritance. That was about money. Jesus told about a man who found a treasure in a field and went to buy it so he could own the treasure. That story was about money. Jesus told about a man who was going away on a journey and he gave money to three men and told them that when he returned he wanted to see what profit they had gained. That story was clearly about money. So, you see, if you don’t want to talk about money in church, you are asking that we throw out the Bible and that we don’t talk about Jesus. In truth, Jesus talked about money and possessions more than he talked about heaven and hell. In fact, money is important to God and it ought to important to every child of God

I love a cartoon I saw in a newspaper some years ago. It was a Dennis the Menace cartoon. I must say that Dennis the Menace sounds a lot like Dennis the Minnix and that worries me a bit, but in the cartoon a preacher is shown shaking hands with Dennis’ father outside the church. The preacher is smiling but the father appears to be troubled. The words of Dennis are, “Preacher, what are you going to do with that dollar my daddy gave in church today?” The father was embarrassed that the preacher knew how little he had given in the offering.

John Broadus was a great Baptist leader from the past. One Sunday, as the offering was being received, Broadus stepped out of the pulpit and walked down the aisle of the church. He watched each person as they placed their offerings in the offering plates. It was easy to see that the members were not too happy about it. Broadus walked back up to the pulpit and reminded the people that the Lord sees what is given by each person every week. He then added that God also knows exactly what you have left after you have given.

That reminds me of the story from the Gospel of Luke where Jesus was with the disciples at the Temple watching what the people gave as they brought their offerings to God. In those days, large vessels set outside the Temple and people placed their tithes and offerings into those vessels. The sound of the coins dropping into the vessels made a loud noise as some of the large gifts were given. People would often stand and watch to see the people place their gifts into the vessels and to hear the sound when someone dropped in a very large gift. If I may summarize in my own words, let me tell you what happened. Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “Did you see that?” They had been watching the process but they didn’t know which event had impressed the Lord. Jesus said, “That woman, walking away, she just gave a wonderful offering.” The disciples had not seen anything outstanding and must have looked surprised. Jesus said, “That woman gave two mites.” Now the disciples were truly baffled. Two mites! The International Bible Encyclopedia states that two mites is equal to about ½ cent in today’s money. Why had such a small gift impressed Jesus so greatly that he was pointing it out to them? We learn the answer from the words of Jesus found in Luke 21:4, “...for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had. (NKJV)” You see, Jesus not only saw what people were giving, but He knew exactly what they had left after they had given. This poor woman had given all she had. We learn here that Jesus is concerned about our finances, what we give and what we have left after we give. If Jesus is that concerned with what we give and what we have remaining after we give, we are foolish not to care as well.

So, I want us to want to talk to you about this issue of money and to do so I am going to share three things from the passage we read from Malachi, chapter 3.

I. The Open Heart

The first thing we need to consider is the open heart. Notice that in verse 6 of Malachi, chapter 3 that God says, “I do not change!” The Hebrew word used here means, “I do not double up.” In other words, God does not go back on His Word. He does what He says He will do – He never breaks a promise! The Lord had kept His promise to His people, but He was telling the people in that day that they promised to follow Him but they were not being true to their word.

Also, in that same verse, the Lord told them that the only reason they were not consumed by His anger was because of His promise to them. In Malachi 1:2 we read, “’I have loved you,’ says the Lord…” The only reason the people were not consumed was because of God’s grace and love. We can say today that the only thing that keeps God from consuming us today here and now is that He loves us and He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. God keeps His word - but, sadly, we often fail to keep our promises to Him or to obey Him.

The Lord continued speaking to the people saying, “From the days of your fathers, you have gone away from me.” He calls on them to return to Him and promises if that do so that He will return to them. He is telling the people that the problems they are having are not financial in nature but rather are a caused by a problem of the heart!

I want to share an important fact with you regarding money. We see if clearly in this passage from Malachi. The failure of giving correctly to God is not an issue of a closed wallet, a closed purse or a closed checkbook. My friend, the problem of not giving correctly to the Lord is due to a closed heart! No one will do what he or she should financial for God unless there is an open heart to Him.

A. Fellowship with God

The problem of being unfaithful in giving to God is a fellowship problem. I read a story some years ago that was told by a congressman. He took his son to a fast food restaurant and bought the lad a hamburger and an order of french fries. As his son began to eat, the congressman reached over to get one of the fries. The little boy pushed his father’s hand back and said, “No, daddy, don’t eat my fries.” The congressman said that incident gave him pause. He said that his son made five mistakes in pushing his hand away from those fries.

1. First, the boy did not know that his father was the source of those fries.

2. Second, the boy did not realize that his father could bury him in fries, if he wanted to.

3. Third, the boy did not realize his father could just take the fries, if he wished.

4. Fourth, the boy didn’t realize that his father could buy his own fries.

5. Fifth, the boy did not realize that the reason the father reached for a french fry was just to fellowship with his son while he ate.

Do you realize today that everything you have comes from the Lord? God does not need my finances to do His work. He owns it all. He can take it all when He desires to do so. By requiring and asking that I give to His work, He is allowing me to have fellowship with Him in all that He is doing. In fact, when I was saved, God paid for it all. He brought me into fellowship with Himself when I accepted Jesus as my Savior. He loves me and called me into fellowship with Him. He is likely calling someone today, in this very service, to make that decision to turn from you sin and accept His Son. God loves you and wants to have fellowship with you. He doesn’t love you because you are lovely, but because He has a heart of love big enough to love someone like you and someone like me.

There are many things involved in walking in true fellowship with God after one is saved, and one of those is our finances. All of us who are saved have a responsibility to be faithful in fellowship with God through finances.

B. Ownership by God

In regard to the open heart, we must also consider God’s ownership. God owns everything.

There was a young preacher who delivered a sermon one Sunday morning on the fact that God owns everything. After the service, a wealthy farmer invited the young preacher to come out to his ranch that afternoon. The preacher rode out the ranch and sat down to drank iced tea with the rancher. After a while, the ranched said, “Come with me.” He took the young preacher out and showed him all his beautiful barns, his large herd of cattle and the beautifully cultivated land. Then the farmer said, “Young man, as far as you can see to the north, south, east and west is my land. It was nothing but scrub brush when I started here. I worked with land with my hands and the sweat of my brow. I added acre upon acre with hard earned money. I heard you say this morning that we don’t own anything and that God owns it all. Are you telling me that I don’t own this property” The young thought for only a moment and responded wisely by saying, “Ask me that question a hundred years from now!” I promise you that one hundred years from now you will not own one thing that you possess today.

I drove to church this morning in a car that my wife and I saved to purchase. We saved a long time in order to buy it on our fiftieth wedding anniversary. But, let me tell you something important. If we are killed on the way home from church today, whose car will it be? I can tell you this for sure – it will not be mine or hers. I have never seen a U-Haul trailer behind a hearse! God owns it all. He owned it before we got here and He will own it when we are gone.

C. Stewardship for God

The third thing we see about the open heart is stewardship. Since God owns everything and He desires to have fellowship with me, what does He do? He gives me a portion of that which He owns and asks me to be a steward of it for Him. I don’t own it, I just take care of it for Him. Yes, I work to have these things that I call mine; however, I cannot work unless God gives me lungs to breathe, hands to work, feet to walk, eyes to see and a mind to think. It doesn’t matter if you are a congressman or you pick up the trash from homes beginning tomorrow morning – if you are a Christian, you are a steward over something which God has given you. Your stewardship is just as important as that of any other Christian on earth. You are no less important or more important than any other Christian. You are to be a steward over that which God has given you.

When my wife and I were young, we had very little. We owned a 1955 used Ford automobile. It was nothing but a wreck of a car. The heater stopped working and the air vent was stuck in the open position all the time. We drove it home from Alabama, where I was stationed in the Army, one Christmas. We drove back to North Carolina during the evening and it was extremely cold. The air coming through the vent was icy and bitter. We had to stop every hour or so and go into a laundry mat of service station just to thaw out our feet. But, I want you to know, my wife took care of that car like it was one of our children. She cleaned it and never left a single piece of paper in it when we got out of it. She would always say, “God gave this to us and if we don’t take care of it, why should He ever give us anything better?” Exactly! We are stewards of all that God grants us to have. And we are responsible to Him in possessions and finances. We are to honor Him in how we care for what He provides and to give to Him that which belongs to Him.

So, we have seen the Open Heart, let’s look at the second part of the financial equation.

II. The Open Hand

If my heart is open to God, honestly open to God, my hand will be open to God. I will not be like the congressman’s son and push God’s hand away. My hand will open for God to have anything He asks of me and to do with as He sees fit.

The Lord said to the people, in essence, “Come back to me with your heart because you have been robbing me.” They asked exactly how they had been robbing God. He responded, “You have robbed me in tithes and offerings.”

Someone here today is going to say, “Now, wait just a minute preacher, that is an Old Testament text and we aren’t living under the law.” You are right about that. But, let me ask you a question. Do you believe that the people living under that Law of the Old Testament should have been required to give more to God out of a heart of love than those of us living in the New Testament age? Look at us, we are saved through the blood of Jesus. We are redeemed and have been given eternal life. We have the presence of God within us in the person of the Holy Spirit. Are you telling me that you want to be relieved of stewardship because you are living in the New Testament age? Shame on you! If anyone ought to give more to God, it is those of us who are living in this wonderful and amazing day of grace.

Actually, tithing is not about the Law. You can read in the Old Testament about Abraham giving tithes to Melchizedek. Melchizedek was a type of Christ, which we read in the New Testament. Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek four-hundred years before the Law was given to Moses. The tithe is not about the Law – the tithe is about being faithful to God in stewardship. Also, in Matthew 23:23 Jesus upheld the tithe. He pointed out to the Pharisees that they should tithe, but that they should add to it a heart of love.

I want to share something with you that the Lord taught me long ago. You can give without loving but you cannot love without giving. If you love God properly, you will give to God properly.

Let’s look at a few things that are important about tithing:

A. The Plan of the Tithe

The plan of the tithe is that God’s people will tithe their income and earnings to His glory and for His work. Why did God do it this way? Tithing keeps us in submission to God. It teaches us how to love Him more than loving what He gives us. It causes us to remain in fellowship with Him. It is part of His plan for His people to walk with Him and share in His wonderful work throughout the world.

B. The People of the Tithe

It is not God’s will for the world to pay for God’s work. Visitors here in this service today, those who do not belong to God, the Lord doesn't ask you to sustain His work and give to His causes. Giving is the work of those who have received the ultimate gift from God - His Son and, thus, His salvation.

I read a story about two ladies discussing their church. One said, “I don’t know what we going to do about the shortage of money in our church. We just can't seem to meet the requirements of our budget. We tried bake sales, church bazaars, barbeque sales and we are still short of the money we need.” The other lady said, “Well, maybe we are going to have to try tithing!”

Friends, churches don’t need to sale things to the world to do God’s work. We are to tithe to do God’s work. Tithing works every time. It is God’s way and God’s plan.

C. The Proportion of the Tithe

The tithe is ten percent of our first fruits. That is, we are to bring first ten percent of all we earn and give to God. Some people say that ten percent is a lot of money to give. Well, that is God’s plan and it is reasonable. Just think what it would be like if He asked you to give ninety percent and only keep ten. He could have done that, if He wished to. It all belongs to Him. The fact is that ten percent is a generous plan toward us. We get to keep the ninety percent for our livelihood. Any offering we give to special causes is to be above that percent that is called a tithe.

D. The Place of the Tithe

The place of the tithe is the storehouse – which is the place where you worship. How do I know that? I know that because the Bible says we are to “bring” the tithe. You “bring” it to the place where you worship and serve God – in the local church of which you are a part. You can’t send your tithe to a television preacher. After you tithe to your church, if God so leads you, you can and should give to other ministries, but the tithe belongs in the local place of worship.

I saw a cartoon the other day that showed a man standing before the judgment at the gates of heaven. Saint Peter said to the man, "No, you can't get into heaven because you watched a preacher on television every week, but we are going to allow you to watch heaven on a television from where you will be!"

I don't have anything against using television to present the message of the Lord. I was on television for several years through some churches I pastored. I'm glad we can present sermons and Bible studies through the internet. But, I can tell you that the tithe belongs in your local church. That is God's plan and God's will.

Why does God tell us to bring the tithe? He tells us that because no Christian should be a “freeloader”. You know what a freeloader is, don’t you? That is someone who wants the benefits without paying the cost. Just think of the building we are in today. Who pays for it? Who keeps the lights on and the heat and air conditioning working? Who pays for the materials that are used and the upkeep of the facilities? Who pays for the staff and workers who minister the Word, minister to the church family, and plan and lead the activities? Who gives to do the mission work of the local church, the mission work in our state, the mission work in America and around the world? The tithers are the ones who do that. Those who want to part of the blessing and the ministry without paying for it are freeloaders. They want the benefits without paying a price. David once said, “I will not give to God that which cost me nothing!” That ought to be the attitude of every child of God.

Don't be disturbed by hearing this word today. It is the truth. I am sharing it with you so that you can be in the will of God. It you don't want the Word of God to hurt you, get in line with it and the hurt will go away!

E. The Purpose of the Tithe

The purpose of the tithe is to allow us to share in all that God is doing. The purpose is for us to show our love to Him. Look back to Calvary and see what God gave us. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…” God is a giver. We enter into fellowship with Him when we give. We become like Him when we give. The purpose is not just to do the work of God but to really and truly be the people of God.

Now, we have looked at an Open Heart and an Open Hand. When those two are combined they create something else. What is it?

III. The Open Heaven

I want to be under the windows of heaven when they are open, don’t you? I like to be under the spout where the glory comes out! What must we do in order to be under the open windows of heaven?

A. The Test

God says, “Test me!” He desires that we test Him to see what He will do. He calls on us to try Him and see the results.

There are three types of promises in the Bible.

1. Absolute Promises

These are promises that God will keep and you can’t make them happen or keep them from happening. God promised to send His Son and in the fullness of time He did just that. That was an absolute promise from God.

2. Future Promises

Some of God’s promise are in the future. You can be assured that everything He said He will do, He will fulfill in due time. Those promises are fixed and we can’t stop them from happening or make them happen.

3. Conditional Promises.

But, some of God’s promises are conditional. They are conditioned on man’s response. Let’s take salvation as an example. Salvation is conditioned upon our response to God’s call. He tell us to believe upon Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and He will save us. Salvation is a promise, but only if we meet the condition.

I like to picture salvation like a marriage ceremony. Think of the minister in a wedding as being God. Then, picture in your mind that Jesus is the groom. The Father says to the groom, “Will you take Mike Minnix to be part of the Bride?” Jesus answers, “Yes.” Then the Father turns to me, “Mike Minnix, will you receive Jesus to be the Bridegroom of the Bride of Christ?” Now, it is up to me. I have done many weddings in my day and seen many things happen. I have done very small family weddings and large, elaborate weddings. Once I was performing large wedding and one of the brides maids backed up to allow the bride and groom to light the unity candle. At that moment, the bridesmaid got too close to one of the candelabras and her hair caught on fire. Too much hair spray, I presumed. I had to put out the fire with my hands. I mean, there I stood, holding a bridesmaid by the hair of her head in the middle of a large, elaborate wedding. I’ve seen groomsmen fall over on the floor like a rock. Sometimes they simply pass out. I don’t know if it is because they fear they are going to be next in marriage or not, but I do know that strange things happen at weddings. There is one thing, however, I have never seen happen in a wedding. I have never heard a bride say, “No,” when asked if she would accept the groom as her husband. Not once has that happened in my forty-five years of ministry. I want to say to any person who does not know Jesus as your Savior, He has said “Yes” to loving you. It is up to you to say “Yes” to loving Him. Sadly, many have said, “No,” to loving Jesus and receiving Him as the great Bridegroom of the Church. You can receive Him today and you should. But, your salvation is conditional upon you accepting the gift of God in Christ and the promise that He will save those who believe.

For the Christian, God has made a promise to those who will tithe and be faithful stewards toward God in your finances. He will bless those who tithe. He has done that in my life and many of you in this worship service today can give the same testimony. If we allowed everyone here to tell how God has blessed you through tithing, we would be here for a week. Every blessing God has given to me through tithing has not been financial. He has taught me many lessons through tithing. He has taught me how to be careful with the money He gives me. He has taught me the principles of possessions, and that has made me a better man to my family. When you give ten percent of your income to God, and then give offerings above His tithe, you have to be very careful with what is left over. This makes you a thoughtful person with money. It causes you to budget carefully. Few tithers get in trouble with debt. Why? They don't get in trouble because the issue of tithing makes them operate on a fixed budget. It teaches a person how to manage money. But, the promise is that God will bless you as you test Him and try Him in this matter.

B. The Time

God says to test me NOW! There is a time involved in this matter of tithing. Almost everyone who reads this text from Malachi about tithing misses the word “now” that is part of the text. Why does God say, “Test me NOW”? He says that because all the promises of God have a timetable. Every conditional promise has a time in which it is effective. For example, you have to come to God when the Spirit of God is calling you. You cannot wait for a more convenient season. Now is time for salvation. Today is the day of salvation. If God is calling you to His Son, you must come now! There may not be another time when He is calling you as clearly as He is today.

God tells us that we cannot wait till everything is perfect in our financial lives before we begin to tithe. My wife and I started tithing when it appeared to be impossible for us to do so. I really mean that. I could not figure out on paper how on earth we could tithe. We just bowed down and said, “Lord, we are going to obey you.” Amazingly, God provided. If you wait till you feel it is easy, you will never, ever do it. Now is the time.

In the days of Malachi, the people did not listen to the Word of God. They rejected the call of the Lord. What happened? The Lord withdrew His call from them. For the next four-hundred years there was not a prophet in Israel. Not one word of scripture was added to the Bible between Malachi and Matthew. Most people don’t know this, but between Malachi and Matthew four-hundred years passed by without a single Bible book being written. “Where there is no vision (word from God) the people perish.”

What if God stopped speaking to us today? Think of this great church. You have a storied history. God has blessed you and used you to touch the world. But, are  you assured that God will continue to do that? No! We must remain faithful to Him if we expect Him to be faithful to us. Tithing is part of that faithfulness. We are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. But, what about tomorrow? Will we leave behind a heritage like that which they left to us? Only if we are faithful. Now! Now! Now is the time to be faithful and now is the time to tithe and give offerings as God has clearly stated.

C. The Triumph

The last thing God said in His Word regarding His promise was that victory (triumph) was certain. You will be victorious. He promised to rebuke the devourer. He promised to bless the Land. He told them that people would call them blessed. What promises God made.

Conclusion

A man named Underwood wrote a book some years ago entitled, “By Love Compelled.” I don't remember every detail of the story I'm going to share, but I remember enough to make the clear the implications of it. He told of a missionary in a foreign country who had been witnessing to a woman who worshiped in a pagan religion. Her efforts had not been fruitful, but she continued when possible to press the claims of Christ. One day the missionary lady saw this woman with her two children. The woman had one child that was mentally and physically challenged. The other child was a beautiful, little girl. The missionary stopped the woman and tried to speak with her but the woman refused to listen, instead telling the missionary that she was going to sacrifice one of her children by throwing the child in the river. The missionary did all she could to dissuade the woman from that act, but alas the woman went on her way toward the terrible act.

A few days later the missionary saw the woman with her mentally and physically challenged child walking in the street. The missionary when up to the woman and said, “Oh, I’m so glad that you have not sacrificed this child to your god.” The woman replied, “I did sacrifice my child.” The missionary heart sank and she asked, “Why did you throw you beautiful daughter into the river?” The implications were clear. The question was, if she was going to sacrifice a child then why not the weaker one? The woman answered, “I don’t know about your religion, but in my religion we give our best to God?” The missionary was stunned. She could not help but think of all those Christians back home who give so little to take the gospel of Christ to the whole world.

God does not call on us to give our children in sacrifice. He simply calls on us to be faithful in giving. Some of you have done so. You have been blessed. Many of you in this worship service have been tithers for years, and God has kept His word to you. You ought to be the first ones down the aisle this morning. You ought to stand or bow here and thank God that He kept His word to you. He has not failed you. Would you thank Him today? Would you rededicate your life and finances to Him today?

Some of you need to come to Jesus. You need to listen to His voice and come today. Now is the time. Today is the day of salvation.

Others of you should make a commitment to be faithful in your stewardship to God. You see, you are not just robbing God when you fail to tithe. You are robbing yourselves.