“Tithing: You Can’t Outgive God!”
(I of VII) 07/10/16 PM
Dr. Jeffrey K. Boer
[WLC #107-110] [2nd Commandment]
John Bunyan, the author of the book, Pilgrim’s Progress, once wrote: “There was a man, some called him mad; the more he gave, the more he had.”
That little poem is based on Proverbs 11:24, “One man gives freely, yet gains even more. Another withholds unduly but comes to poverty.”
The point that I wish to stress today from our text in Malachi 3 is that “You can’t outgive God!” No matter how generous you are or how much you give, there’s no way that you’re ever going to be able to outgive God. God will be a debtor to no one!
In fact, God has already given each of us more than we could ever repay in an entire eternity! But even beyond all that, God has also promised that we still can’t give Him more than what He’ll continue to give us in the future!
Now keep in mind that God doesn’t have to reward us when we tithe generously to Him, or when we strive hard to obey Him. That’s our duty. We’re only giving a small portion of what we owe to God for His goodness to us. God isn’t obligated to us or in our debt when we simply do what He commands. But yet, God chooses to reward us anyway for our obedience. God even promises to reward us. And not only does He promise to reward us, He promises to reward us in a bigger way than what we give!
Look at God’s promise in Malachi 3:10-12. “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the LORD Almighty.”
This isn’t just one, isolated promise of Scripture, mind you. Both the OT and the NT speak often of the blessings that God promises for those who faithfully obey Him and who faithfully give even the little 10% that He asks.
For example, Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”
I want you to notice here, in both these passages, the great disproportion between what we give and how God blesses us. We obey, and then God floods us with blessing!
Proverbs 11:25 gives a similar thought. “A generous man will prosper...”
The word, “prosper,” in the Hebrew, actually means, “be made fat.” You see, in the Bible, being fat was just as much a blessing as prosperity and riches were. What this text actually says is this: “A generous man will be made fat; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
In the NT, in Luke 6:38, Jesus repeats this OT promise upon faithful obedience, particularly in reference to giving. “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
But notice the disproportion again: God will use the same measuring device to reward you that you use to give, but He’ll fill it all the way to the top, squash it down, shake it so it settles some more, and then make it run over the sides of the container and into your lap!
So if you use a little thimble to measure out your gift to God, you can expect that God will send upon you a little thimble full of blessings, packed and overflowing in your lap. But if you use a big bushel basket to measure out your gift to God, then God will pour out upon you a big bushel basket full of blessings, filled to the brim, squashed down, shaken down even further, and running over into your lap!
The whole point is this: You can’t outgive God! When you tithe, you prosper. When you give generously, you receive even more generously than what you gave!
Now some people are skeptical at this point. Just recently I told you that TV evangelist, Robert Tilton, was wrong to tell little old ladies to send him $1,000, promising them that God would make them rich enough to buy a new car.
Well, first of all, giving money to Robert Tilton isn’t exactly the same as giving it to God. The tithes to God, in the Bible, were given to Him through His church. In the OT, they were given to the elders in the gate. In the NT, they were given to the elders of the church in which those persons were members.
Furthermore, God doesn’t promise to pour out these blessings on you immediately. For example, here are a few testimonies from people as to what happened when they started tithing:
One man said, “The first week I started tithing, my car broke down and it cost me five times my tithe.”
A woman said, “The first week I started tithing, I ended up in the hospital.”
And another said, “I was tithing regularly for three months and I suddenly got laid off work.”
So should we conclude from this that God’s promise is no good? Is this just an empty promise, like the promises politicians make?
Well, read Malachi 3:13-18, immediately following our text for today: “‘You have said harsh things against me,’ says the LORD. ‘Yet you ask, “What have we said against you?” You have said, “It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.”’ Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. ‘They will be mine,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”
You see, we have to remember the old saying, “The game ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Olympic gymnast, Paul Hamm, proved that during the 2004 Summer Olympics when he fell to 12th place after losing his balance on the landing of his vault. He even crashed into one of the judges! But after just two more rotations, he actually came back to win the gold medal in the men’s all-around gymnastics competition. He won by 12 thousandths of a point!
During a Super Bowl awhile back, the Colts were beating the Saints, 10 to 0, at the beginning of the game! But the Saints came back to win by 14 points!
You see, if we only look at the score in the middle of the competition, we might go to bed thinking that our team has surely lost, when in actual fact, they rallied miraculously and came out the victors in the end!
Or you may remember that other famous saying, “It ain’t over ‘till the fat lady sings.”
Well, we could paraphrase that one: “It ain’t over ‘till the fat Christian sings!”
Listen to Paul’s words in Galatians 6:7-9, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Years ago, Chinese farmers were given potatoes to plant. Over the years, the farmers would eat the nice, big, juicy potatoes and they’d plant the little, scrawny, wrinkled potatoes. That worked fine for awhile, but after a number of years – funny thing – their harvests kept getting smaller and smaller! They were reaping what they’d planted!
The orange grove farmers in Florida know that some harvests take a long time to mature. Often it takes a lot of patience and hard work before they can cash in on those nice, juicy oranges.
Whenever we don’t see God’s blessings immediately following our obedience, we have to remember, it’s the long run that matters. Satan did his very best to try to get Job’s faith down by short term trials and troubles and difficulties. But when Job kept his faith in God, he finally emerged through the other end of the tunnel with even more blessings than before!
In the same way, it takes faith to keep on giving your tithes and offerings when you’re in the middle of some temporary setbacks.
Sometimes people will say, “Wow! Things are really tight right now. I’m making hardly enough money to survive. I can’t afford to tithe!”
That’s like saying, “Wow! Things are really tight right now. I’m making hardly enough money to survive. I’d better steal some money from God to make ends meet!”
Instead, they should be saying, “Wow! Things are really tight right now. I’m making hardly enough money to survive. I’d better make sure I’m giving God His full tithe as seed for future blessings, or else I might jeopardize my situation even further!”
The Jews of Malachi’s day were having some hard times too, but they were actually making things worse for themselves by robbing God. We read in vv. 7-10, “‘Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty. [The point is, don’t wait until God prospers you before you stop robbing Him!] ‘But you ask, “How are we to return?” Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, “How do we rob you?” In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – the whole nation of you – because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’”
God actually throws down a challenge in that passage: “You think I’m lying when I say that I’ll bless you if you tithe? OK, then try Me. Test Me. See what I’ll do!”
We need to have that “but if not” faith of Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In Daniel 3:13ff, Nebuchadnezzar summoned them and told them that either they had to fall down and worship his image, or else they’d be thrown into the fiery furnace. Here’s what they said, in reply:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
That’s “but if not” faith. That’s a faith that does what’s right, no matter what, simply because it’s right and it’s what God wants. It’s a faith that obeys God, knowing that there’s no way we’re ever going to be able to outgive God, even if God does send us some temporary trials to test our faith.
Remember Mark 10:28-30 where Peter started bragging a little bit to Jesus? He said, “We have left everything to follow you!”
In other words, “Jesus, you should really be thankful that You have friends like us, since we’ve given up so much in order to follow You!”
What was Jesus’ response? “‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus replied [And whenever Jesus said that, you know you’ve got a promise you can take to the bank and cash. Jesus said, “The truth is…”], ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – and with them persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.’”
There we have that great disproportion again. In other words, Jesus is saying, “You’ll be repaid a hundredfold, both in this life and in the life to come, no matter what you give up for the sake of Christ and the gospel. God’s blessings will be poured out into your lap in rich measure!”
Yes, this may not happen immediately. Yes, you may have to suffer persecutions for awhile. Yes, you may have to face troubles and trials and hardships of various kinds. But in the end, when you look back, you wouldn’t be willing to trade one day of your life in Jesus Christ for that of an unbeliever. The Christian is the most blessed and the most happy person in all the world! You can’t outgive God! You just can’t! You can bet your eternal soul on that promise!
Here’s an example of the kind of testimony that’s typical of one who tithes to God. These are the words of an elderly Christian couple: “We’ve been tithing for years now. Yes, we’ve had our ups and downs, but God has supplied every need. And God has always made the 90% go farther than when we used to keep the 100% for ourselves.”
People like that not only live happier lives here below, but they’ve also gradually built up a tremendous investment in God’s treasure chest reserved for them in heaven.
Today I’ve been talking primarily about the blessings that come to individuals when they tithe. But I suspect there were some faithful tithers in Israel in Malachi’s day as well. And yet we see that God was angry with the whole nation, and His curse was upon the whole nation because so many of them were holding out on Him and robbing Him. That means that there’s a corporate responsibility when it comes to tithing that we need to keep in mind as well.
Malachi 3:10 is speaking about what God would do for the whole nation of Israel if the whole nation were to start taking this command of God seriously.
Well in the NT, “Israel” is now “the church.” Those OT promises to Israel are promises to Christ’s NT church. I’m convinced that we’d all be amazed at the blessings that God would eventually heap upon Sharon Church if we were all to tithe faithfully!
God says, “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’”
Why are so many of God’s churches always struggling along financially? Our church is one of those churches. Perhaps God is testing us, seeing if we’ll continue to tithe, even when times get tight. Or perhaps He’s testing us to see if we’ll cave in and start robbing God by withholding our tithes. Or perhaps some people in this church are robbing God’s storehouse! The church of Jesus Christ should be overflowing with available funds to put to use in the Lord’s work! God virtually promises this in II Corinthians 9:6-11. “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ‘He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us [that is, through our preaching of the Gospel, supported by your tithes] your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”
You see, as we give, God supplies even more to give, and the church begins to prosper.
But once a church begins to prosper, there’s another danger that comes along.
If there’s no financial crunch looming over a church, people begin to think that it’s not all that important to tithe any more. That’s exactly what Satan would have us think!
But we must be very careful not to fall into his trap. We mustn’t think that we can fall down on the job when it comes to tithing just because we may not happen to be in a financial crunch at some given point in time. The Biblical command to tithe isn’t “waived” just because a church or individual may happen to be prospering, financially. The tithe is commanded of all people at all times, no matter what their financial situation, and no matter what the financial situation of their church. You’re not commanded to tithe just because the church needs money. You’re commanded to tithe because it’s your duty to God. And if you don’t tithe, God says you’re robbing Him!
The Kingdom of God will prosper when God’s people are faithful in their giving. Christ’s church should be able to do more than simply pay her expenses! Sharon Church should be able to do much more than simply “get by” with meeting our own expenses each year. Sharon Church would have money to do a lot more ministry if every member of Sharon tithed. The OPC would have money to send out many more missionaries if every member of the OPC tithed. And if every Christian in this country were to tithe, the church of Jesus Christ would have much more money to help finance Christian schools and seminaries, Christian legal representatives, Christian music, Christian ministries to the poor, and so forth.
So John Bunyan’s little poem is Biblical. “There was a man, some called him mad; the more he gave, the more he had.”
Eventually, we’re all going to reap what we’ve sown. And we’re going to reap a lot more of it than what we sowed!
But one thing’s for sure. It’s a Biblical fact that’s as sure as I’m standing here today: “You can’t outgive God!”