“I am God—yes, I Am. I haven’t changed…Return to me so I can return to you,” says God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
“You ask, ‘But how do we return?’
“Begin by being honest. Do honest people rob God? But you rob me day after day.
“You ask, ‘How have we robbed you?’
“The tithe and the offering—that’s how! And now you’re under a curse—the whole lot of you—because you’re robbing me. Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams. For my part, I will defend you against marauders, protect your wheat fields and vegetable gardens against plunderers.” The Message of God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
“You’ll be voted ‘Happiest Nation.’ You’ll experience what it’s like to be a country of grace.” God-of-the-Angel-Armies says so. Malachi 3:6-12 MSG
Whenever pastors give their exhortation on tithing I almost always get on edge. I am not sure if it is because it sometimes has the feel of stereotypical tele-evangelist trying to convince me I am going to hell if I don’t help them pay for their Mercedes or if it is a reminder that I haven’t always been faithful and diligent with giving back to God. I think sometimes it seems like what I can give isn’t enough and that makes me feel like a failure even though the Bible tells me otherwise (Mark 12:41-44 MSG)
Some pastors pass the plates and don’t say a word. Some just have a box in the sanctuary and trust people to do their duty. Some take time out of every service to guilt people into giving.
And then, there are those pastors who help me remember that giving to God willingly and joyfully is an act of worship no different than singing a beautiful praise song or dancing before the Lord with all my might. They reveal the blessings of obedience in giving. They share about being a pipeline for God.
At first, I was a little leery, but I began putting it into practice, this marvelous concept of trying to out-give God, of giving from a heart of love. I made it my goal to not let an opportunity to give pass me by.
GOD-of the Angel-Armies said, “They’re mine, all mine. They’ll get special treatment when I go into action. I treat them with the same consideration and kindness that parents give the child who honors them. Once more you’ll see the difference it makes between being a person who does the right thing and one who doesn’t, between serving God and not serving him.” Malachi 3:17-18 MSG
Amazing things began happening in my life. Just like those brilliant pastors said…blessing began flowing into my life. Gratitude. Joy. Financial gifts. Debt forgiveness.
I began giving whatever I could give. Sometimes it came from the tenth of the money I had earned. And sometimes, when I didn’t have anything but a bit of loose change, I would give it all wrapped within a Bible verse and tied with a prayer of abundance.
I continued giving by being obedient to what I felt like God was asking me to give. My marked-up, earmarked Bible to a hurting, homeless man who I found out later had been praying earnestly for one. A hug to a woman who was blind and now could see except through the tears that were clouding her eyes. A pair of flip flops to a man who could barely walk for the wounds of leprosy that plagued his feet. A prayer and a way out to a teen who had been fending off her uncle’s advances for months. Cooking a celebration meal for the widows in our church to remind them that they are loved and wanted.
When I got into the habit of giving it became an easy thing to do and yet at the beginning it was so difficult. I had this bucket mentality – when my bucket was full then I would give from the overflow. Only whenever I had an overflow, my bucket just got bigger and I still rarely gave.
I found that when I started intentionally giving to God and to others regularly it changed my attitude. I wanted to give more than ever before. I began looking for different ways to give. And it has come to the point where I would even be willing to give the shirt off my back if I was lead to give it.
It is the last day to give in this year. Some people will give today with the hopes of helping their taxes. Some will give because they are inspired. Some will give from their abundance. And some will give from their lack.
Regardless of where you are, consider reaching out. Give from your heart to someone in need. Meet them where they are with a hug, a gift, an act, a word, or a bit of your time. Share Christ’s sacrifice of love to a stranger. Hold the door for someone struggling with her grocery bags. Pay the toll for the car behind you. Visit with someone at a retirement home or hospice. Offer a meal to a homeless man. Give a donation to your church or an organization that shares your vision.
Be generous today and see where it leads in the new year.
The grace of the Master Jesus be with all of you. Oh, Yes! [today and in the year to come!] Revelation 22:21 MSG
Blessings – Julie, Vadipatti, India (written in the U.S.A.)