Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Don't Try to Cheat God!
Malachi 3:6-12 “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors 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.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—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 there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.
Acts 5:1-11 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
These two Scriptures speak to us about a similar subject. Malachi was speaking to the people of God who were supposed to be bringing in an offering of a tithe to the temple. The people had been unfaithful in their support of God's work. God considered it robbery because everything that they had was from God. He only asked for a tithe to be brought back to him -- a small sign of their love and fidelity to God. But they had kept all that they had for themselves and then they had even squandered it on other gods. Here is the one time in scripture that God says to test him. Try this out -- and see how God will care for his people!
Now we move to the book of Acts and the story of a couple, Ananias and Sapphira who were a part of the new movement of Christians after the Day of Pentecost. Those within the community were showing their faith in Christ by loving their neighbors. Often people went and sold things and brought in offerings to the Apostles to support the ministry. The problem with Ananias and Sapphira was that they lied. They did sell a field and they did bring money to the Apostles. However, their motivation was to look good…so they lied about how much money they had gotten for the field and pretended that they were extremely generous individuals and were giving it all away. The reality was that they had kept some of the money for themselves. If only they had been honest, but they were trying to cheat God and the Apostles by looking like magnanimous individuals while still retaining some personal spending money. They did test God -- and died instantly as a result.
God is looking for faithful individuals -- people who will be wholeheartedly committed to him. Those who cheated him, whether out of a tithe, or by pretending to be generous, lost it all. There can be no cheating God!
We give our money to "other" gods all the time these days. We may not go off on another mountain to worship a "foreign" god -- but we might give of our finances to purchase things that become our gods. We may have mountains topped with houses, cars, clothing, jewelry, video games, electronic equipment, etc. and all of this gets our financial support before we bring our offerings before the Lord. Yes, that is cheating God -- for we are cheating "on" God by being faithful to the things of this world and not to him.
There would be some who would argue that these stories are no longer relevant and the idea of tithing and bringing in generous offerings before the Lord are simply things of the past. They are not! These truths are timeless and God is still challenging us and saying, "test me in this!" Faithfulness to God means that we don't cheat on him. Faithfulness to God means that we bring in the entire tithe -- that we generously give -- not for the kudos, but because our hearts have been changed. We love God and desire nothing more than to give him all we have -- including full and complete access to our finances!
Don't try to cheat God; instead, be faithful, recognizing that all we have is his.
Lord, thank you for your faithfulness to me. Please, help me to be faithful to you in all things. Amen.