Hurt So Good

Malachi 3:10 says “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it”

This. Only this in all the Bible does God say “test Me.” Why? Why would He so rashly feed our evil little hearts with the promise of material benefit?

The tithe, the giving of the first of all your increase — be it money or cattle or knowledge or precious metals or stones — is a very cut-and-dry thing: give the first, best cut to God’s work. Nowhere does the Word compel a Christian to pay the tithe. God has never, and will never, require a tithe or punish you for not paying it. So He tells us that if we do this thing we don’t have to do He will heap blessings upon us — as Jesus puts it in Luke 6, “pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.” Not 10%. Stop that nonsense. All your increase is God’s. All your current possession, all your being, all the air you breathe and the space you gaze at is God’s. Jesus extolled us to give up all we have and all we are to the service of our Father’s Kingdom. All.

So why does He say to test Him? To begin to know that we must look back to Genesis 14:20; Abraham (then called Abram) has just rescued his nephew Lot from some thugs who robbed Sodom and taken back their stuff. A priest-king, the first priest of God ever mentioned as such in all the Bible, Melchizedek comes by him and blesses him. With no further explanation Abraham gives him a tenth of the spoils. Not because God had ever told him to. Not because it was customary. In fact, all God tells us on the subject was that Abraham had sworn to God that if he was going to help Lot he wouldn’t keep one shred of what he got. Abraham leaves Melchizedek and then gives the rest to the king of Sodom so as to clear himself from any possible accusation that he was in league with this disgusting king. Abraham was rich by this point; he didn’t need any of the money, and by his view he was just returning Sodom’s loot as a byproduct of getting back Lot’s. So really he was forcing Sodom to pay tithe, sort of an “yeah its your stuff and I gave a tenth of it to this priest so at least some of what your filthy kingdom has will go to the good. Got something to say about that?” So clearly he didn’t care about this stuff, right?

Wrong. There’s not a beating heart on earth that doesn’t lust for what they have just won. Every child forgets their favorite new toy two days after Christmas, but in the moment of opening the zeal is tangible. The first post-raise paycheck is glorious and you rush with what you will pay or buy with the extra. Not a single found wallet was ever returned without at least a fleeing pang of “I should keep this.” It’s your conquest. YOURS. I don’t need the Bible to confirm it to tell you that Abram wanted to keep this stuff. If it disgusted or disinterested him that much he’d have left it for the jackals and told the king where to find it. I’d wager that he made that promise to God as he was walking this stuff back to town debating if he wanted to fight Sodom for it or keep some portion. We don’t see him cop to the promise until after the king offers him some.

So what are the lessons here? Find an atheist and tithe their money to God? No, though that might make a great hidden camera show. The lessons are several, but let me tell you the key one after I demonstrate it.

I grew up a heathen and I Loved money (mostly because I had very little). By age 32 I had given $0 to the Kingdom. When Lynne and I started hunting for a home church we started giving. Super small amounts; $5 here, $10 there. That’s grown up a lot, as has the number of places we distribute it. In that 6 years my income has well over doubled. I have received 3 promotions. This year I will start sitting on executive board positions. That is solely the material blessings; my relationship with Him, my outlook on life, my church family, our sponsored kid Mark, our strengthened marriage, my eternal soul are among a few of the spiritual benefits.

What am I saying? Exactly what He said: put meat in My house and I will pour out the Kingdom on you. He will, and I am walking proof of it. But what is it proof of? How does my story tie Malachi to Genesis? It’s not about money. It’s about faithfulness and Satan and subjugation.

Stick with me here: there is a thing you cling to that sits beneath the surface of your radar, a thing that — when received — brings you deep carnal joy but which is innocuous. Not wine or something detrimental, but a thing. That thing? Satan will feed it to you if you walk with him. But that thing? God owns it, too. If you bow down, if you trust God, kneel to him, celebrate Him as your king, and want do His work then the simplest way to prove it to Him (and to you) is to give Him some of that thing when it is brand new to you, and do it voluntarily. Give cautiously and He will reward you cautiously. Joyfully share it with Him as a Loving child does a sliver of cookie with his dad, and He will shower you with blessings as a result. Satan will see that and try two tactics in response: he will first create situations that tempt you to take back that gift; failing that he will give you more of the thing trying to stoke your greed and lust to keep it all. The more he tries the more you stick to your giving and the more God will heap on you. That repeated fealty to God in which you are giving and trying to be joyful about it? That is faithfulness. It will allow Him to build your faith and it will ease the giving of the next gift.

So. Am I telling you that tithing is necessary or that it will make you rich? Yes and no. I am telling you that if you can truly submit to Him and sever your heart tie to that thing you cherish He will make you spiritually rich and you may or may not find yourself knee-deep in that thing, though you won’t care either way because you’ve severed your tie to it. But that’s a side effect, it’s not the core reason you give. Abraham gave to God as an afterthought, as a habit. That’s what tithing is: the habit of showing God you know it’s all His, you are His, and you’re good with that. It cannot be ordered, purchased, or compelled; loyalty, which is a deep form of Love, must be given willingly. To give tithe of the first fruits means to temper your joy of receipt with first acknowledging Him and His role in it. He tells you to test Him as a means of letting you know your sincere offering will not be met with rejection, humiliation, or dismissal.

It’s not an obligation to tithe, it’s not an obligation to tithe money, it’s not an obligation to tithe ten percent. But you are His, and every day you don’t prove that to yourself is a day you are less blessed, less growing, less joyous, less secure in your relationship with Him. Give and it shall be given unto you. The degree to which you show He is your King is the degree to which He will show you are His child. I have what I have because I tithe to my God and the source of my situation is unquestionable.

What is your thing? What can you give up that shows Him, and you, that you understand your orientation to Him?

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