Money is always one of those issues we don’t like to talk about. Nobody enjoys when the preacher gets up to talk about money. “He’s just looking for a raise. It’s easy for him to talk about money, he gets paid by the church.” In our politically correct society where we are always afraid to step on someone else’s toes, we dance around the money issue and the giving issue because it’s not good for job security to talk about money. And yet the Bible seems to bring up money over and over again. It’s as if God knows that money has a way of controlling us, becoming our greatest ambition, determining our value system. “You can’t serve both God and money.”
It’s a difficult subject because none of us wants money to control us and yet there are always reasons not to give, always bills that need paid, always one more requirement we need to fill. If I give that money to my local church, or a ministry, or someone in need, what will happen at the end of the month, will I have enough to cover it?
The prophet Malachi gives an interesting take on our money when he says:
Will anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, “How are we robbing you?” In your tithes and offerings! You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me—the whole nation of you! Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. – Malachi 3:8-10
Malachi is upset that the Israelites are not offering their full tithe to share with the rest of the community. He says that in failing to give as they’ve been asked they are literally robbing God. Obviously none of us would ever want to be accused of robbing God. We all know that all that we have comes from God so its really not even ours. The really interesting line is the challenge though that God gives. Test me in this, see if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour down an overflowing blessing. I grew up hearing Jesus say, don’t put God to the test, yet here is Malachi speaking for God saying test me. God is laying out a challenge. Become a gracious giver. Step out in faith and give whenever you see need. God says I gave it to you once, don’t you think I can do it again. Do you really think I’m going to let you starve when you are giving your resources to me, when you are sharing the full tithe? God isn’t asking us to give away everything, but he is asking us to give away enough that we have to trust him. And he promises to provide even before we give.
I wonder, what would happen if I was a more gracious person? What would happen if I was more willing to open up my wallet and give? Do I not give more because I don’t trust God to take care of me? Am I afraid to step out in faith when he promises to open the floodgates of heaven to provide for me?
And what about our churches? What would happen if as faith communities we were willing to step out in faith? To allow our budgets to be led more by what we think God can do and not what our knowledge of business says we can comfortably afford. What would happen if we as a faith community prayed and dreamed about what we think God wants to do through us in the coming year and then set the budget accordingly and asked the community to give toward it? On paper it may not make financial sense. But I wonder if at times God is sitting back saying “Test me. If I’ve called you to a ministry or mission I will provide. If you’ll trust me I’ll open the windows of heaven and shower an overflowing blessing upon you?”
It’s scary to think about. As I look at my personal budget it’s really scary. Yet God lays out the challenge, test me. Maybe its time to put our giving in God’s hands and see what he can do.