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Tithing In The New Testament John MacArthur

What Is Tithing? Often, people think they know what the Bible teaches about tithing. Many are surprised at its richness and wonder why it was left out of their education. They often say that tithing is Old Testament Law and only applies to Jews, who were under a different covenant. Tithing is not a subject that many pastors like to talk about since there are so many questions related to its status in the present-day church.

Right here on Churchgists, you are privy to a litany of relevant information on tithe in the Bible, Malachi 3 commentary by John Macarthur, and so much more. Take the time to visit our Website for more information on similar topics.

The tithe is a percentage of one’s income that is given to the church. The New Testament teaches that Christians should tithe, and John MacArthur, a pastor and former president of the Master’s College and Seminary, says that it’s important for Christians to put their money where their beliefs are.

According to MacArthur, Jesus and his apostles also practiced tithing, making it a practice that was not just limited to the Old Testament. “I think what we’re really dealing with here is a cultural issue,” he says. “It’s not just something from the Old Testament; it’s something from the New Testament.”

He points out that God told Abraham to give 10 percent of his wealth to the Lord (Genesis 14:20), and that he did so without question. According to MacArthur, Abraham didn’t keep any of his money for himself; he gave all of it away as an act of worship for his God.

The apostle Paul also taught about tithing in 1 Corinthians 16:2–3, when he said that believers should give “as God has prospered them.” MacArthur says this means that each person should give what they can afford—and if they can’t afford much at all, then they shouldn’t feel guilty about giving less than 10 percent

Tithing In The New Testament John MacArthur

My series of posts on tithing is obviously for my readers, who are people of faith who care about these things. Feel free to skip this post and other similar ones if you don’t care about the subject.

Dr. John MacArthur is one of the most brilliant Christian minds, perhaps of all time. He has written tons of books and commentaries on the Bible and is the founder of The Master’s University (

MacArthur says that in the Old Testament, you had a theocracy, not a democracy. It was a theocracy under the control of God. The priests and Levites that served at the temple were subject to a tithe tax that was levied to fund the national government in this theocracy. There were several tithes, not just want. One was instituted to fund the temple and priests who worked there, another to support the poor, and another to support the national celebrations. MacArthur says that in total, the tithes (taxes) amounted to a yearly tax of about 23.3%. Every Jew was required to pay that. In addition to that, there was the fixed temple tax and other generous etiquette, such as not harvesting the corners of your field but leaving it for the poor.

He says all of this amounted to about 24-25% annual taxation for each citizen of the kingdom to support the national government. This was never free-will giving. It was taxation.

In Malachi 3, when God says, Would you rob me? He is talking about not paying these taxes or tithes. MacArthur goes on to say that in the Old Testament, a free-will offering was always a free-will offering. E.g. when the temple was built, people were asked to bring whatever they wanted.

He cites a lot of reasons and promises in the Bible to give generously. However, he concludes that tithing is not required of Christians today.

What Does the New Testament Say ‍about Tithing 10 Percent?

The idea of the tithe is still present in the New Testament (Matthew 23:23), but it is never explicitly applied to believers. Instead, almost all Christians are called to more extravagant freewill giving in response to the gospel of the Lord Jesus, based on faith in God as Provider (2 Corinthians 9:6-10).

Jesus confirms the command to tithe in Matthew 23:23 (parallel in Luke 11:42): “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. After Jesus saved humanity from eternal death, He introduced a new perspective on tithing and offerings (John 3:16). Jesus endorses tithing – but expects His followers to exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees whom He encouraged to continue tithing (Matthew 23:23).

Tithes and Offering Scriptures In​ the New Testament

In the New Testament, the topic of tithes and offerings is addressed in several passages. These scriptures provide guidance on giving as an act of worship and stewardship. Here are 10 key verses that illuminate the importance of tithing and giving in the New Testament:

1. Matthew 23:23

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

2. Luke 11:42

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”

3. Luke 6:38

“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.”

4. 2 Corinthians 9:7

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

5. 1 Corinthians 16:2

“On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.”

6. Hebrews 7:2

“and Abraham apportioned to him a tenth of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace.”

7. Acts 20:35

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

8. Malachi 3:10

“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

9. 1 Timothy 5:17-18

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’”

10. 2 Corinthians 8:7

“But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.”

These verses highlight the importance of giving generously, cheerfully, and in alignment with God’s will. Tithing and offerings are not merely financial transactions but expressions of faith and obedience to God.

What Does Paul Say About Tithing

“But nothing that a person owns and devotes to the LORD—whether a human being or an animal or family land—may be sold or redeemed; everything so devoted is most holy to the LORD. “No person devoted to destruction may be ransomed; they are to be put to death. A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. Whoever would redeem any of their tithe must add a fifth of the value to it. Every tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the LORD.” -Leviticus 27:28-32

According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary, a “Tithe” or tenth is the proportion of property devoted to religious uses from very early times. Instances of the use of tithes are found prior to the appointment of the Levitical tithes under the law.

Tithing first appeared in the Bible when Abraham gave one-tenth of the spoils of war to Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem (Gen 14:18–20). The writer of Hebrews presumed that tithes were paid to a higher authority and inferred that there was a greater priesthood than Aaron’s (Hebrews 7:4-9). Tithing as a tribute to God appeared later in Genesis, when Jacob promised to give a tenth to God if he returned home safely. But these tithes were spontaneous and no details were given.

Jesus refocused attention on inward attitudes. He criticized some who went so far as to tithe tiny grains of spice—not because they tithed, but because they neglected the weightier matters of the law (Matt 23:23). He regarded stewardship of finances as an indication of trustworthiness with spiritual things (Luke 16:11), which were more important (Matt 6:19–20).

Nowhere does the New Testament require Christians to tithe in the sense of giving 10 percent, but it does reiterate many things associated with tithing: those who minister are entitled to receive support ( 1 Cor 9:14); the poor and needy should be cared for (1 Cor 16:1; Gal 2:10); those who give can trust God, as the source of all that is given (2 Cor 9:10), to supply their needs (2 Cor 9:8; Philippians 4:19); and giving should be done joyously (2 Cor 9:7).

The New Testament directs that taxes be paid to the state (Romans 13:6-7), which replaced Israel’s theocracy. Paul’s vocabulary and teaching suggest that giving is voluntary and that there is no set percentage. Following the example of Christ, who gave even his life (2 Cor 8:9), we should cheerfully give as much as we have decided (2 Cor 9:7) based on how much the Lord has prospered us (1 Cor 16:2), knowing that we reap in proportion to what we sow (2 Cor 9:6) and that we will ultimately give account for our deeds (Romans 14:12).

What Is a Tithe?

A tithe is really an Old Testament term. It was the gifts that the Israelites were required to pay, really the tax that they were required to pay. Nowadays, we generally use it as just a way of saying, Give 10% of your income to the church. There’s nothing in the New Testament, in the sort of new covenant understanding of what it means to be God’s people, that encourages us to think that we’re required to give 10% of our income to the church.

In many ways, the standards of the New Testament are a lot stricter in some ways, or a lot loftier; let’s put it that way. So we’re required to give generously, to give sacrificially, to see the relief of the poor, the support of the ministry, and the spread of the gospel through all nations. So I don’t know. There may be some people for whom giving 10% is unwise. There are probably many people in America for whom giving 10% would be actually pretty easy, and in fact, it wouldn’t really be sacrificial or generous.

Does Tithing Apply to Christians Today?

The reason why tithing is an important theme for Christians is because it really is a symbol of how God calls us to live our lives as stewards rather than owners.

I come from a legalistic background where I used to be afraid not to tithe, or I used to be proud of tithing. My fear was that if I didn’t tithe, my tires would fall off my car. My arrogance was that if I tithed, then God had to bless me with prosperity. But really, to reflect upon tithing in the context of the gospel, what we begin to demonstrate or see is this: that the more the law of God is transformed by the grace of God in our lives, we move from a sense of duty to a sense of delight. This is why, really, in the New Testament, you don’t hear a whole lot about tithing—not because believers are not expected to give; they’re just expected to be a lot more generous because of the fullness of the work of Jesus that we celebrate.

Paul demonstrated this in writing to believers in Corinth and reflecting upon a group of very poor Christians in Thessalonica. And he wrote to believers in Corinth because he was trying to generate their interest in caring for a ministry to the poor believers in Jerusalem.

And here’s the way he motivated them: “We want you to know about the grace that came to believers in Macedonia, who, out of their extreme poverty and suffering, did not do as we expected. They gave themselves to the Lord, and then they asked us for the privilege of sharing in this offering.”

Now what Paul does there is this: he doesn’t shame believers in Corinth into tithing. He simply says, Here’s what the Gospel does when it grabs hold of your heart. You don’t think just in terms of giving the excess; you’re showing up in God’s story, which is a story of redemption and restoration. A story that frees me from defining my life in terms of what I own, rather who owns me, which is Jesus.

So in many ways, tithing is kind of the entrance level into a life of grace. The more the grace of the gospel captures my heart, the less I’m going to ask, “How much do I have to give?” but more, “How can I live more fully missionally, generously to the glory of God?” because of the lavish love and great generosity God’s lavished upon me in Jesus.

Does All of My Tithe Have to Go to the Church?

If I were to summarize it in a nutshell, I would say, Please do whatever you can to be a part of a church where you would be comfortable giving 100% of your offering to that church. I want to start with that, but let me unpack that. I think the word tithe is not so helpful in discussing Christian giving anymore. If we go and look at what happened under the Old Covenant in the Old Testament, a godly Hebrew man would’ve given anywhere from 30% to 35% of his income to the support of the temple, the support of the poor, and the support of the priests. I mean, it was a pretty hefty tax, if you will, to be part of the Kingdom of God under the Old Testament.

Well, when you get to the New Testament, the command to tithe is not there. What it’s been replaced by is what I would call grace-giving, which is exactly what Paul says in Second Corinthians 8:. He refers to giving as an act of grace. You go to Second Corinthians 9, and he talks about cheerful giving. And there are so many other places in the gospels. I think Luke 12, where you get this idea that because God has given us so much, we should be willing to give everything over to others,.

So in the New Testament, you have this idea of grace-giving. Not only that, but in the New Testament, you have this idea that ground zero for Christian ministry is the church (Acts 1A). You see this great commission at work to bring the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea and Sumeria to all the ends of the earth. And then, what do you see? The Gospel is planted, churches sprout up, and then churches now bear the responsibility of planting the gospel throughout the world. So the church is ground zero for Christian ministry.

So to someone who comes to me and says, Hey, do I have to give all of my tithes to the church? What I want to say is what I want you to do is be a part of a church that you see is so faithful to the Bible, has a heart for the nations, has elders who are really worthy of double honor, and I want you to have the heart to give everything to that church. But having said that, I think you’re absolutely free to give to Godly para-church ministries that are serving the Lord, especially ones that you may be personally involved in or personally excited about. You’re free to give to those ministries.

So I guess I’m not directly answering the question. We give out of grace because we love the Lord. We give to a church that is doing the work of the Lord. And above and beyond that, we are absolutely free to give to other good, solid ministries.

Malachi 3 Commentary John MacArthur

Lesson 8: Robbing God (Malachi 3:7–12)

BAILIFF: Order in court! The court is now in session! The case today is “Malachi versus the People of God.”

The charges: The plaintiff maintains that the defendant is guilty of robbing God.

JUDGE: As presiding judge, I must tell those of you on the jury that these are weighty charges. If guilty, the defendant faces serious consequences that will affect both him and his descendants for many years. So please hear the case carefully. We want no miscarriage of justice. The prosecuting attorney may call his witnesses.

PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Thank you, Your Honor. My first witness is this gentleman from a remote region in Central Asia. He does not speak English, and so the following has been translated. Sir, you claim that these people have robbed you. Can you explain?

ASIAN MAN: Yes. My people have no Bible in our language and no missionaries in our area. For centuries, we have lived and died without hearing the good news about Jesus Christ, the Savior. But these people have had the Bible and the gospel in their culture for centuries. They have plenty of money, not only for basic needs, but also for many frivolous toys and luxuries. Yet they have not given sacrificially so that my people might hear about the Savior. We have been robbed!

PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Thank you, sir. My next witness, Your Honor, is this orphan from Africa. Her parents both died of AIDS. I found her living on the streets and scavenging for food in the garbage. Can you tell the court how these people have robbed you?

AFRICAN GIRL: I have not actually seen any of these people before today. All I have known is a hard life, trying to survive and compete for food with the other children on the streets. Before I came here, I had no idea that anyone lives as these people do! I hear that they just go to the store and buy all the food that they need! I hear that the stores and restaurants here throw away much better food than we find in Africa. I wonder if I could move to America so that I could look for food in the dumpsters here.

PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Thank you, honey! Your Honor, my last witness, cannot speak, at least not verbally. It is this human baby in this jar of formaldehyde. I could have brought in millions of them, but this one will have to do. If it could speak, it would claim that the accused robbed it because if God’s people had contributed more to the pro-life movement, this child might not have died. Counseling centers and homes for unwed mothers might have been established to help pregnant young women keep their babies. So much more could have been done if only more funds were available. The money is there, Your Honor. It’s just that these people have spent it on themselves, with little regard for God’s perspective. This baby was robbed of life! I rest my case.

JUDGE: The defense attorney may now speak.

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Thank you, Your Honor. I’m sure that you and the jury will quickly see how silly these charges are! I ask you to consider several lines of evidence.

In the first place, my client is an upstanding, law-abiding, church-going citizen who would never dream of robbing anyone! He has never personally seen any of these victims and has never been near them or their property. Yet here he is being charged with robbing people he has never seen or met! It’s ridiculous!

Second, my client has worked hard to earn every cent that he has. He has never been on welfare. He has earned the right to spend his money as he pleases!

Third, my client never used his possessions or wealth to hurt anyone. He only asks for some peace and quiet, so that he can enjoy the benefits of his lifetime of hard work. He has just followed the American dream of the good life and of having enough to enjoy his retirement years. He certainly did not intend to harm these people who live on the other side of the earth!

Finally, my client was not aware that he was breaking any law. He is charged with robbing God, but we have only heard from these human witnesses. To bring God into the case is unconstitutional. We have a separation between church and state in this country. Besides, my client believes in God. He is a good church member and has often volunteered his time, not to mention his many years of tithing. This extremist prophet has framed my good client! I ask the jury to find him not guilty!

[The jury exits to consider the case.]

Could it really be that decent, law-abiding, religious folks are guilty of robbing God? Isn’t the prophet going overboard to level such charges against people whose lives are centered on their religion? Might their reaction (3:8) be justified: “How have we robbed God?”

And, yet, the charges stand. They are repeated in one form or another four times in verses 8 and 9, so that we can’t miss them. God charged the whole nation with robbing Him. And yet they were blind to the charges. If these religious Jews were guilty of the charges, but also blind to them, then perhaps we should seriously consider whether we, too, may be guilty, but blind, to the same charges. God is saying,

If we have robbed God, we must return to Him and give obediently to His kingdom purposes.

Consider, first, the charge:

  1. God charges His people of robbing Him.
    First God gives a general charge of disobedience and then He narrows it to the specific charge of disobedient giving.

These people were living just as their fathers and grandfathers before them had lived, as culturally believing Jews. That was the problem. Their ancestors claimed to be followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but their religion was largely outward and cultural, not inward and heartfelt. Over the years, such religion gradually picks up elements of the culture, blending them in with the prescribed customs and rituals. This is called syncretism. God charges them and their ancestors of turning aside from His statutes and not keeping them. But they are dumbfounded by the charges.

It’s a wonderful thing to come from a long line of Christians. A Christian upbringing spares you much of the devastation that comes from a pagan background. But a Christian upbringing has its dangers. It is easy for the reality of a daily walk with God to leak out over the generations, where it becomes ritualistic and mechanical. Legalism creeps in, where families have rigid standards, but they aren’t necessarily biblical standards. Hypocrisy is another danger. Parents preach one thing, but the way that they relate to each other and to the children does not reflect the fruit of the Spirit. Gradually, a family drifts into a form of religion without the reality of knowing God, living by faith, and obeying His Word.

When these Jews protested the general charge of disobedience, God got specific:

This is called, “Going from preaching to meddling”! It’s easy to say in general, “I obey God.” So the Lord says, “Let’s get specific: How is your giving?” Ouch!

Giving is one of the most fail-proof litmus tests of your relationship to God. On more than one occasion, Jesus linked a person’s giving to eternal life. When Zaccheus, the wealthy tax collector, got right with God, his first recorded words were, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much” (Luke 19:8). His salvation immediately touched his pocketbook. Jesus confirmed this formerly greedy man’s conversion by saying, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9).

Contrast that with the tragic account of the rich young ruler. He seemed like such an eager potential convert. He came running (not walking) to Jesus and asked, “Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” What a witnessing opportunity! So Jesus said, “That’s easy. Just invite Me into your heart by faith.”

No, that’s not what Jesus said. He knew that the man had an idol. So He said, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But the man went away grieved, unwilling to obey Jesus’ words. Jesus didn’t run after him and say, “How about ten percent?” Rather, He said to the disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:17-23).

In Luke 16:10-11, Jesus states that our stewardship of money is a test of how we will do with more important responsibilities: “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?” In the context, the “very little thing” is the money that God has entrusted to us! The “much” or “true riches” are the souls of people. Our use of money is God’s test of whether He can entrust souls to our care!

You can impress other Christians by your extensive Bible knowledge, your fervent prayers, or your many years of service in the church. But God does not look at any of those things to test your faithfulness. Rather, He looks at how you manage the money that He has entrusted to you. Are you greedy or generous? Do you have integrity in money matters? Are your priorities and motives for earning, spending, saving, and giving in line with His Word?

So, to evaluate God’s charge that we have robbed Him, we have to examine our stewardship of money. Maybe you’re thinking, “Whew, I’m off the hook, because I give ten percent to the Lord’s work!” Well, maybe, but probably not!

It may shock you to learn that ten percent is not the biblical standard for giving (for a longer treatment, see John MacArthur, Whose Money Is It, Anyway? [Word], pp. 97-113). Abraham once gave Melchizedek ten percent of his spoils from a single battle, but there is no indication that he regularly gave ten percent. Jacob promised to give God ten percent if God would do what Jacob wanted Him to do, but that is hardly a biblical model for giving! The Law of Moses actually prescribed several tithes that would have amounted to somewhere between 20-25 percent (Lev. 27:30-33; Num. 18:20-21; Deut. 12:17-18; 14:22, 28, 29). But in Israel, the tithe functioned more like an involuntary tax than as a freewill offering.

Many preachers (especially Baptists!) use Malachi 3:10 to teach “storehouse tithing.” One Baptist commentator says, “So-called storehouse tithing does have a sound basis in this verse.” The idea is that the church is the storehouse where you are supposed to give ten percent of your income. Anything that you give to other Christian organizations should be over and above that ten percent that goes to the local church.

I wish that I could promote that idea, because I’m sure that our church income would go up substantially if everyone did that! Frankly, we could use the money, both for ongoing budget expenses and to meet our need for more property and facilities. But that application stretches this text beyond credulity. The storehouse refers to the storage rooms at the temple, where the people brought the first fruits of their harvest. The priests who served at the temple used this produce for their needs. I’m sad to say that the storehouse was not the local church and the tithe is not the New Testament standard for giving!

It is significant that tithing is never mentioned in any instructions to the church, although much is said about giving. If the church is supposed to give ten percent, it seems strange that Paul did not mention this when he wrote to predominately Gentile churches, which would not be familiar with the Law of Moses.

People get nervous when you take away that ten percent figure. Somehow, it’s comfortable and simple to give ten percent. But the problem with tithing is that people get the notion that once they’ve paid God ten percent, they’re free to squander the rest on themselves. But I think that God would charge such people, however sincere they may be, with robbing Him.

You may wonder, “If I don’t tithe, then how do I determine how much I’m supposed to give?” The New Testament principle is that God owns it all. We just manage it for Him. The New Testament standard is, give generously and cheerfully “as God has prospered you,” out of gratitude for His indescribable gift of salvation (1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 8 & 9; Acts 11:29). For those who are very poor, ten percent may represent generous, sacrificial giving. For those who have ample salaries, ten percent may be robbing God.

I think that John Piper’s teaching is sound, that Christians ought to live with a wartime mentality, gladly making personal sacrifices in order to advance Christ’s cause. If we expect missionaries to live sacrificially for the sake of the gospel, shouldn’t we hold ourselves to the same standard? If we live in relative luxury while people perish because there aren’t enough funds to get the gospel to them, are we not guilty of robbing God?

Before we look at God’s remedy for how to turn from this crime, please notice the mandatory sentence:

  1. Robbing God carries the sentence of God’s curse.
    All crime is dumb, but robbing God is really dumb, because God knows that you are guilty and you can’t escape His sentence.

“You are cursed with a curse … the whole nation of you!” To rob God is to shoot yourself in the foot, and it doesn’t just hurt you. It also hurts all of God’s people. By withholding their tithes and offerings, the people forced the priests and Levites to work for their own support. That meant that they had to neglect the temple, causing worship to suffer. The inadequate worship adversely affected the Jewish families that came there to worship.

Not only that, but when the people refused to trust God by giving, God allowed the devourer to attack their crops (3:11). That may refer to locusts or other insects, or to hail or drought. God, who controls all of His creation, can either block harmful forces from our lives or turn them loose to wreak havoc. God does not delight in sending plagues on His people. But every parent knows that if you do not discipline your children when they disobey, you are not acting in love towards them. As God’s children, we need to learn that sin has negative consequences. Obedience opens the windows of heaven to pour out God’s blessings (we will look at this in our next study).

When God’s people obey Him with their giving, the nations will see how God blesses His people and they will be drawn to the delightful land. The world isn’t drawn to disobedient Christians who are under God’s discipline. They are drawn to obedient believers who know the joy of God’s delightful blessings. Our generous giving to the cause of world missions directly blesses those who hear the gospel and come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I cannot say whether or not you are robbing God. It is a matter for each of us, myself included, to examine individually, prayerfully and continually. I find that it’s easy to slip into a worldly mindset with regard to giving. But if you are guilty of robbing God, He gives the remedy here:

  1. We stop robbing God by returning to Him and by giving obediently to His kingdom purposes.
    God does not say, “Return to keeping My law,” although the people needed to obey His law. Rather, He says, “Return to Me.” When we have sinned, the root need is always relational, not just for outward conformity to a rule or law. The motive for obedience, whether in morals or giving or whatever area, should always be love for the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

How would my wife feel at Christmas if I gave her a present and when she said, “Thank you,” I replied, “I was just doing my duty as your husband”? Even if it were a really nice gift, my loveless motive would kill the joy of the gift! If my relationship with her is right, then the gift will not be a duty, but a delight!

If you’re not giving generously, systematically, and sacrificially to the Lord out of love and gratitude to Him, then you need to return to Him. Get your relationship right and giving becomes a joy and delight. Notice, also, God’s abundant, gracious love. Even though Israel had sinned against Him for centuries, He promises that if they would return to Him, He would return to them (3:7). Like the father of the prodigal son, God is ready to run to us with His gracious forgiveness and restoration, when we return to Him.

As Jesus said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love…. You are My friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:10, 14). In other words, you cannot be living in disobedience to God and truly say, “I love Jesus” or, “I’m under grace.” That would be like me saying, “I love Marla,” all the while that I was committing adultery against her! Love for my wife is inextricably bound up with obedience to my marriage vows.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse.” I presume that they were giving something. They just weren’t giving what the Lord required. They weren’t obeying completely. They were like folks who salve their conscience by dropping a few bucks in the offering plate every once in a while. But they weren’t being faithful stewards of all that God had entrusted to them.

Partial obedience isn’t really obedience; it’s just convenience. If I got audited on my income taxes, I wouldn’t fare well if I told the agent, “I pay most of my taxes, except when it’s inconvenient.” If my kids only obeyed me when it was convenient for them, I wouldn’t call that obedience!

Although for many Christians, giving ten percent would be a huge increase, tithing is really not all that difficult. You have to budget and be disciplined to do it, but it can become a routine matter. But if God requires that we give as He has prospered us, and that we seek first His kingdom and righteousness by laying up treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:19-33), that’s a different matter! It means that I constantly must examine my heart motives and my stewardship of all that God has entrusted to me. I need to judge myself in this area not by the standards of our culture, but by God’s Word. We all should ponder often Paul’s words to Timothy:

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed (1 Tim. 6:17-19).

The jury files back in after deliberating your case. What would the verdict be? Are you guilty of robbing God? I’ll leave you to wrestle with that before the Lord, not just this week, but as a recurring battle as you seek to be a faithful steward of all that He has graciously entrusted to you for His kingdom purposes.

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