Calvary Road Baptist Church

“WILL A MAN ROB GOD?”

Malachi 3.8

 

Turn in your Bible to the New Testament epistle of Colossians. When you find Colossians chapter 1, stand for the reading of God’s Word.

Colossians 1.9: “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”

Colosse had been a significant city in the past, but had deteriorated in importance by New Testament times. According to the record, Paul himself never visited Colosse. It seems probable that Epaphras, one of Paul’s disciples, may have started the church while Paul was staying in Ephesus.

Colossians was likely written at the same time as the short letter to Philemon, both being carried by Tychicus from Rome in connection with the return of Philemon’s runaway slave. Paul was under house arrest at Rome when he wrote Colossians.

There are two important concepts that I want you to grasp in Colossians 1.9, “knowledge” and “his will,” meaning God’s will. This word “knowledge” translates the Greek word epignosis, which is related to a recognition of truth, usually as it relates to moral matters.[1] Now tie this together with “his will,” which is God’s will. Paul fervently prayed the Colossians would recognize the truth of God’s will.

My friends, God has given us guidelines in scripture for knowing His will, and they quite naturally divide into categories: There is God’s general will for all people, and there is God’s specific will for each individual. To state the matter another way, there are certain things God wants for every creature, while there are other things God has reserved for this person and not that one.

“It is noteworthy that forty-nine of the sixty-four occurrences of the Greek word for will in the New Testament refer directly to God’s will, not man’s. Of the other fifteen, three refer to Jesus in His humanity and three to the Father as represented in parables by a human father. Thus, only nine (or 14 percent) refer to man’s will. Based on this relative frequency of occurrence in the Spirit-inspired Scriptures, it would seem that He considered the will of God far more important than that of man.”[2]

The will of God is important. I think you will agree that God’s will is more important than your will or mine. This morning we will consider one aspect of God’s will for every person, the tithe. What is the tithe? The word tithe means ten percent, or a tenth of the whole.[3]

I rarely preach a sermon on giving because converted people typically give freely and want to give to the cause of Christ. I remember how thrilled I was to first learn God’s will concerning this matter of tithing, and have been a tither throughout my entire Christian life. Lost people, on the other hand, even those who freely give a waitress a fifteen percent tip without a second thought, will begrudge giving God anything. Thus, my opinion is that Christians tend to give tithes and offerings above their tithes because they earnestly desire to give (it reflects their new nature), while those who do not give tithes and offerings usually have more serious issues to deal with (like conversion). However, since I am committed to preaching the whole counsel of God’s Word, today’s message will focus on the will of God for all people to give tithes and offerings, to give God a tenth of their gross earnings and offerings beyond that.

Since our Lord Jesus Christ declared that even when the spirit is willing the flesh is weak, perhaps I can strengthen and encourage you in some small way this morning to obey God’s will for every creature. Everyone needs to be reinforced from time to time. No one is without temptation in this matter of withholding tithes and offerings. Therefore, I suspect my message will be of benefit to everyone today.

 

SERMON:

 

Turn to Malachi 3.8. As you are finding that passage of scripture, allow me to give you a bit of history for context.

Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. After this book comes four hundred years of silence before the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. However, what transpired before the writing of Malachi is important to note. The Jewish people had so completely turned away from God that they were carried off into Babylonian captivity as punishment for their sins and in fulfillment of prophecy. Seventy years later, they were allowed to return to their homeland, though many remained in Babylon. Though God allowed them to return to their promised land, they did not repent of their sins. Cured of their gross idolatry by the seventy years of the captivity, they nevertheless ignored their estrangement from God and questioned God’s love for them.

Malachi was written to remind God’s people of His love for them (which included the prediction of the coming of John the Baptist) and to rebuke them for their sins against Him. However, they were so spiritually blind that they challenged the assertion that they sinned against God.

“In answer to their query about how they had deviated from God’s way and need to return, the prophet picked an illustration of their spiritual defection that is very visible and undeniable. The Lord pointed out that they had not brought the required tithes and offerings . . . .”[4]

Stand now, and read Malachi 3.8 silently while I read aloud:

 

“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.”

 

Focus your attention, if you will, on the question at the beginning of the verse: “Will a man rob God?” The answer to that question, of course, is “Yes,” if . . .

 

HE DOESN’T KNOW WHO GOD IS

 

Notice that I did not say, “If he doesn’t know that God is.” I think everyone knows that God is. I personally doubt that there are more than a very, very few men who are so insane that they deny the existence of God. Most men do not deny God’s existence, but rather deny God’s place in their lives.

I call this practical atheism, and I am convinced this is what David was referring to in Psalm 14.1: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Notice the italicized words “There is,” indicating the words are an interpolation and that there are no counterpart words in the Hebrew text. Thus, the fool asserts that there is no God, even if he does not believe that there is no God. He wants no interference from God in his life. He wants to control his life without consideration of God, without acknowledgment of God, and certainly without any admission that God has any rights or prerogatives over him.

However, I am here to tell you that God does have rights and prerogatives. You see, He is God! He is the king of all glory. He is the omnipotent One! He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things, including those who deny Him. And He owns everything.

Let me read Psalm 50.10-11 to you:

 

10     For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.

11     I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.

 

Once a man realizes God needs nothing from any man, and that God is One Who any creature is greatly privileged to worship and praise through giving, and honoring, and pleasing through obedience, he then sees tithing more as an opportunity than an obligation.

Consider Abram’s tithe to Melchizedek, priest of the most high God, in Genesis 14.20. There is no indication in that passage that Abram was ever commanded to give tithes of all to Melchizedek, yet he did so, and illustrated a pattern of honoring God before the giving of the Law through Moses that survives to this day. Why did Abram give tithes to Melchizedek? Must it not have been occasioned by the great deliverance God wrought that enabled Abram to defeat stronger foes in battle and rescue his nephew Lot, who had been taken hostage?

Listen to Abram’s acknowledgment to the king of Sodom of what he had done by giving his tithe: “Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,” Genesis 14.22.

Abram knew who God is, and he tithed. Keep in mind that though this is the only record of Abram tithing, this is no proof that Abram only tithed on this one occasion, for I am persuaded that tithing was a way of life for him. I am also persuaded that the man or woman who does not tithe is a person who does not really know who God is.

 

“Will a man rob God?” The answer to that question, of course, is “Yes,” if . . . .

HE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT HE IS


What are you? What am I? What are these others around us? Are we not all creatures? Are we not all made? In Genesis 2.7, we read that, “the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Our first parents were created to reproduce, explaining each succeeding generation. However, we are still creatures, made in God’s image and after His likeness. That being so, there are two things about us that we need to recognize:

First, being creatures, we are what we have been made to be, and we have been made to be dependent upon God. We are not independent and isolated beings, capable of making it on our own. We need air. We need sunlight. We need nourishment. We need companionship. In addition, we need spiritual fulfillment that only comes from a relationship with the One Who created us.

As well, being made in God’s image and after His likeness, there are certain similarities between our nature and God’s. One of those similarities has to do with giving. It is good for us to give, and stinginess is not only sinful and selfish, but it is bad for one’s state of mind. Imagine, then, the benefit for the creature to acknowledge His Creator by giving to Him what He informs us is already His. That person who does not give God His tithe is a person with an inflated sense of self-importance, is a person with an unwarranted sense of entitlement, and is a person who has such a majestic view of himself that he thinks that all in his hands is his, though God clearly declares it is not.

To tithe, then, is not only to honestly acknowledge God to be the Creator and Sustainer of all things, with rights associated with His creation, but is also to honestly acknowledge who we are, God’s creatures who are privileged to honor God with His tithe.

 

“Will a man rob God?” The answer to that question, of course, is “Yes,” if . . . .

Third, HE IS IGNORANT OF HIS DUTY TOWARD GOD


It is possible to have some conception of Who God is, and of what you are, yet have no awareness of your duty as one of God’s creatures to give Him His tithe. We know that Abram tithed to Melchizedek, according to Genesis 14. Keep in mind that Abram tithed to Melchizedek before he was justified by faith. Thus, Abram tithed to God, lifted up his “hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,” as a lost man. We also know that Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, while he was yet unconverted and in his sins, recognized his obligation to give God the tithe, Genesis 28.22.

How, then, are we to explain the recognition of Abraham and Jacob, before they each had ever been justified by faith, of their duty toward God to tithe?[5] The very nature of the Genesis record strongly suggests that while Moses penned this first book of the Bible, he was actually an inspired editor of materials that had been handed down through the centuries.

Thus, Abraham and Jacob were likely custodians of written documents that were passed on to Moses for inclusion in the completed book of Genesis. This means those two had information and exposure to truth that most men of their day did not have, meaning they were not ignorant of their duty toward God. Later on, when the Law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai, the duties and obligations of the tithe and of giving offerings were codified in the Law of Moses as a rule of life for the nation of Israel. The duty to tithe is an ancient one, that preceded the giving of the Law by centuries.

 

“Will a man rob God?” The answer to that question, of course, is “Yes,” if . . . .

Finally, HE IS IGNORANT OF GOD’S DEMAND


There is behavior that God wants people to freely engage in on their own, but that He will demand of them if they do not freely do it. For example: Giving freewill offerings is something God wants people to decide for on their own, though it is clear from Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy that He expects freewill offerings to be given. The reason they are called freewill offerings is because the timing of the offerings is up to each person’s discretion.

I am persuaded that the tithe is similar, in this respect: Scripture clearly declares that the tithe is the Lord’s. That is, when you give God your tithe you are actually giving Him nothing, but returning to Him in the manner prescribed that which is already His that He wants returned to Him. Properly done, giving God back what is His is something any right thinking person would want to do because it is right. But should a person not want to do what is just the right thing to do, God then commands Him to do the right thing.

Thus, if a man loses sight of Who God is, and is forgetful of what he is, and perchance is not mindful of his duty toward God to return God’s tithe, then there is the clear command of scripture. In Luke 11.42, Jesus said, “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”

In other words, the Pharisees were persnickety about tithing, but did not love God. What Jesus told them to do was to love God without ignoring their tithing. Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ did not find fault with the Pharisees for tithing. It was just about the only thing they did right, and He commended them for tithing.

The question, then, is whether one thinks of born again, Spirit-indwelt, and Spirit-enabled Christians, as being less empowered to do right in their giving to God than the hypocritical Pharisees? My guess is that one’s view of tithing does not have so much to do with liberty, as is to oftentimes claimed, but with one’s view of the stature, of the majesty, of the superiority of the Christian life over the manner of life lived by the Pharisees. If they tithed, then, by God’s wonderful grace, we can and should do better.

 

“Will a man rob God?” The answer to that question is, of course, “Yes, a man will rob God.” He will rob God if he does not know who God is, if he does not know what he is, if he is ignorant of his duty, and if he is ignorant of God’s demand.

I well remember discovering God’s will concerning His tithe when I was a very young Christian. “Ten percent is God’s? I have been robbing God for almost 24 years. I can’t make it up to Him all at once, for if I did I would starve.” Therefore, I purposed to give a bit more than a tithe from that time forward, so that I would someday make up what I had ignorantly stolen from God.

I find no scriptural requirement to make up what has been robbed from God, other than the recognizable principle that you give back what you have stolen. Of course, giving back what you have stolen does not erase the sin. Forgiveness only comes through faith in Christ and the cleansing of sin by Christ’s precious blood.

Neither does tithing work to earn one’s way to heaven. You do no good deed by giving someone what is already his, but only steal as a thief what is kept back that does not belong to you. So it is with that man or woman, that boy or girl, who does not tithe of his increase, who does not give a tenth of her earnings.

How can a father show his son or daughter that God is God while ignoring his obligation to train that child to tithe? How does a father show his son or daughter that we are God’s creatures without teaching about tithing, rightfully giving God the honor that is due Him, which includes the tithe?

Should parents not educate their children concerning their duty toward God? Should a child not be taught the demand of God to be given back His tithe? As well, how can anyone be trusted with anything who cannot be trusted with God’s portion, the tithe?

We find it well said in Malachi, do we not? Though I have spoken only concerning the tithe, that tenth of what you receive that belongs to God and that He wants returned to Him, notice again what our text says: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.”

Here is what you do if you are a Christian who does not tithe: You repent of your wicked sin and shameful behavior and determine to honor God with what is rightfully His from this day forward. Stop this patently unchristian behavior and start doing right.

If you are not a Christian, recognize that you will not see God for who He is, will not see yourself for what you are, so long as you continue your thievery. Withholding God’s tithe is termed in Malachi as robbing God.

Oh, how the work of God would advance, and how God would be esteemed in the eyes of His creatures, if men and women would simply do the right thing, the revealed thing, and give God His tithes.

Want to know God’s will for your life? Of course, you do. We all do. However, before God’s specific will for your individual life is known, you need to understand God’s will for every one of His creatures. One of those general matters, what God wants every single breathing human being to do, is give Him His tithe.

God places material resources into the hands of each and every person. Of that which He has placed into your hands, He wants a tenth to be given back to Him, His tithe. If you do not give back to Him the tenth of what He has given to you, then you rob God.



[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 369.

[2] See footnote for Colossians 1.9 from Henry Morris, The Defender’s Study Bible, (Grand Rapids: World Publishing, Inc., 1995), page 1322.

[3] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1915.

[4] See footnote for Malachi 3.8 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1366.

[5] Abraham’s salvation is recorded in Genesis 15.6, while Jacob’s salvation took place at Peniel and is recorded in Genesis 32.24-32.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org