43 Missional Life (5)

YOU CANNOT OUTGIVE GOD by Dr James Dobson

I learned to give a tenth of my income to the church when I was a preschool lad. My grandmother would give me a dollar every now and then, and she always instructed me to place a dime of it in the church offering the next Sunday morning. I have tithed from that day to this. I also watched my father give of his limited resources, not only to the church, but to anyone in need.

My dad was the original soft touch to those who were hungry. He was an evangelist who journeyed from place to place to hold revival meetings. Travel was expensive, and we never seemed to have much more money that was absolutely necessary. One of the problems was the way churches paid their ministers in those days. Pastors received a year-round salary, but evangelists were paid only when they worked. Therefore, my father’s income stopped abruptly during Thanksgiving, Christmas, summer vacation, or any time he rested. Perhaps that’s why we were always near the bottom of the barrel when he was at home. But that didn’t stop my father from giving.

I remember Dad going off to speak in a tiny church and coming home ten days later. My mother greeted him warmly and asked how the revival had gone. He was always excited about that subject. Eventually, in moments like this she would get around to asking him about the offering. Women have a way of worrying about things like that.

“How much did they pay you?” she asked.

I can still see my father’s face as he smiled and looked at the floor. “Aw….,” he stammered. My mother stepped back and looked into his eyes.

“Oh, I get it,” she said. “You gave the money away again, didn’t you?”

“My,” he said. “The pastor there is going through a hard time. His kids are so needy. It just broke my heart. They have holes in their shoes, and one of them is going to school on these cold mornings without a coat. I felt I should give the entire fifty dollars to them.”

My good mother looked intently at him for a moment and then she smiled. “You know, if God told you to do it, it’s okay with me.”

Then a few days later the inevitable happened. The Dobsons ran completely out of money. There was no reserve to tide us over. That’s when my father gathered us in the bedroom for a time of prayer. I remember that day as though it were yesterday. He prayed first.

“Oh Lord, You promised that if we would be faithful with You and Your people in our good times, then You would not forget us in our time of need. We have tried to be generous with what You have given us, and now we are calling on You for help.”

A very impressionable ten-year-old boy named Jimmy was watching and listening very carefully that day. What will happen? He wondered. Did God hear Dad’s prayer?

The next day an unexpected check for $1,200 came for us in the mail. Honestly! That’s the way it happened, not just this once but many times. I saw the Lord match my dad’s giving stride for stride. No, God never made us wealthy, but my young faith grew by leaps and bounds. I learned that you cannot outgive God!

Your Initial Response

What is your spending habit? Do you pay one-tenth of your income to God as it is instructed in the Bible? Do you believe that you can never outgive God?

Malachi 3:6–12

6“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 

7Ever 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?’ 

8“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 

9You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 

10Bring 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. 

11I 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. 

12“Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:6–12 NIV)

1) “Eye” (“i=Eye”)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 Circle all the attributes of God (Malachi 3:6).

2 Box the punishment and the blessing of God and connect them with an arrow (Malachi 3:9, 10, 11, 12).

3 Use a red pen to circle all of the things that the Israelites should not do and number them in ascending order (Malachi 3:7, 8, 9).

4 Use a green pen to circle all of the things that the Israelites should do and number them in ascending order (Malachi 3:7, 8, 9).

5 Refer to other translations and come up with some new insights.

2) “Expound” (E)

iEXP Bible Study Method

God pointed out the problems of the Israelites through Malachi the prophet, but His people dared to argue with Him. Even so, God challenged His people that they would return to Him with acts of repentance.

1 What is the connection between the attribute of God’s immutability and Jacob (the House of Israel) of not being destructed (Malachi 3:6)?

2 What is the meaning of “decrees” (Malachi 3:7)?

3 According to your memory, on what occasion did the forefathers of the Israelites turn away from God’s decrees (Malachi 3:7)?

4 Why the Israelites of not giving tithes and offering were seen as robbing God (Malachi 3:8)?

5 How did the Israelites know their land was a delightful land (Malachi 3:10-12)?

King Cyrus issued the decree in 538 B.C. which permitted Jews to return and rebuild to their homeland. It was believed that Malachi was chosen by God as a prophet 100 years later. In the era of Malachi, harvests were poor and subject to locust damage (Malachi 3:11), thus people’s lives were extremely difficult. Furthermore, both the priests and the people despised the teachings of the Mosaic Law regarding sacrifices, tithes, and offerings, together with divorces, intermarriages with pagans and moral corruption in general, testifying that the Israelites despised God greatly.

God raised Malachi up as a prophet that he would point out the problems of the Israelites. In the parenthesis of chapter 3, Malachi the prophet has foretold that the coming of the Messiah. He will come to judge the following five groups of people (Malachi 3:1-6): first, the sorcerers; second, the adulterers; third, the false swearers; fourth, the oppressors; fifth, those who do not fear God.

In the Book of Malachi, the prophet prophesised six prophecies successively; therefore, the outline of the book can be divided into seven sections:

I. Introduction: The Burden of Malachi (1:1)

II. First Oracle: Respond to God’s Love (1:2-5)

III. Second Oracle: Honor God (1:6-2:9)

IV. Third Oracle: Be Faithful as God’s Covenant People (2:10-16)

V. Fourth Oracle: Hope in God (2:17-3:6)

VI. Fifth Oracle: Obey God (3:7-12)

VII. Sixth Oracle: Fear God (3:13-4:3)

VIII. Conclusion: Be Prepared for God’s Coming (4:4-6)

Malachi 3:6

Immutability is one of the attributes of God. God established the covenant with the Israelites. He not only promised His presence among His people, but also promised to protect and bless them. Owing to the fact that God is immutable, He will never forsake the promise that He has made to His people earlier. Therefore, the attribute of God’s immutability is the basis of Israel’s hope that they would not be destroyed.

Malachi 3:7

“Decrees” can be interpreted as an appointed law, a statute, or an ordinance. “Return” is a common term of the Hebrew prophets for repentance, renewal, and restoration. Before the nation entered Canaan, the Israelites had already disobeyed the decrees of God many times (cf. Ex. 32:7-9Deut. 9:6-8, 13, 23-24; 31:27-29). The prophet did not evade of not pointing out the sins of the Israelites in all ages, but the people cunningly defended their innocence. In simple terms, the people thought that they did not have to repent.

Malachi 3:8

The people should offer tithes and offerings to God; without fulfilling this obligation was seen as robbing God. The Israelites did not accept God’s accusation as usual. The law of God demanded His people to pay tithes. Tithes are categorised as three main groups. The first two groups were annual and the third group came every three years. The income from the tithes supported the livelihood of the priests and Levites, widows, orphans, and foreigners (Deut. 14:28, 29). In other words, the purpose of establishing the policy of tithes was to support ministry and social concern. Owing to the fact that the Israelites disobeyed God’s guidance, ministries and needy people suffered greatly.

Malachi 3:9

“Nation” in the Hebrew Bible is usually used for gentile nations. Owing to the fact that the whole nation of Israel did not respect God, God did not call them His people again. Moreover, as they robbed God’s offerings, namely, they did not offer what they should to God, thus the curse of scarcity and barrenness came to them.

Malachi 3:10

“Storehouse” is a room in the temple designated for the storage of gifts. God clearly pointed out that the Israelites should bring the whole tithe into the storehouse. God normally tests human beings in the Bible, but He asked humankind to test Him the other way round. There is only objective; when human beings are willing to fulfill their obligation, giving the offerings to God, God not only granted the removal of drought by giving plentiful of rain, but He also granted His people overflowing blessings.

Malachi 3:11

Locusts are the enemies of the crops; they can bring great destruction in a short period of time. God not only granted the Israelites a fruitful harvest, but He also made sure that His people could enjoy it.

Malachi 3:11

“A delightful land” can be interpreted as a land in which God is well pleased. If the Israelites were willing to obey God’s words, the nations that surrounded them could also witness God’s gracious dealing with His people.

Conclusion

There was a serious problem in the spirituality of the Israelites, for they could not experience God’s great love (Malachi 1:2-5) and they did not respect God (Malachi 1:6). Lack of respect to God leads to the profaning of the offerings (Malachi 1:7-14), and this is the reflection of people’s quality. Owing to their disrespectful attitude toward God, they did not offer the whole tithe to God as they should, and the quantity was the issue here. In other words, a person who really loves and fears God, will surely try to fulfill their responsibility of offering the appropriate quantity to Him.

3) “Exercise” (X)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 The Israelites dared to argue with God, revealing their disrespect behavior toward Him (Malachi 3:7-8).

2 In God’s eyes, those who do not give tithes are seen as robbing Him (Malachi 3:7-8).

3 As God’s people did not fulfill their responsibility, the Israelites provoked His anger and a curse came upon Him as a result (Malachi 3:9).

4 Tithes are the offerings that believers should give to God; let us learn and practice this very fundamental Old Testament teaching.

5 Memorise Malachi 3:10. 

10 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 you will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3:10)

6 Resolve to practice tithing or offering that exceeds one-tenth of your income.

7 God promises to bless those who practice tithing; this is a promise to all believers throughout the ages (Malachi 3:10-12). 

8 God demands His people to give tithes and offerings, and one of the purposes is to support the needs of the priests and the Levites, so that they can serve God wholeheartedly, without worrying about their livelihood. In the modern church age, believers are following the same principle of supporting the needs of pastoral staff and workers, so that they can minister in the congregation wholeheartedly.

4) “Proclaim” (P)

By applying the biblical truths to their lives, believers would experience God. When the Bible students experience God and His truths, they should follow the example of the early Christians of testifying to non-believers and believers boldly. By means of speech, we witness to non-believing friends and to edify believers alike. The fourth step of the iEXP Bible study is “Proclaim”.

iEXP Bible Study Method

After finished studying the text, try to apply the truths to your daily living, family life and church life, and pray that you will experience the truthfulness and power of God’s Word. Grab the opportunity to share your experience with non-believers and believers, in family altar, small groups and social gatherings, as a way of witnessing the power of the gospel to non-believers and edification of believers.

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