A shallow faith views finances as something we give to those less fortunate than us. A fuller faith views all our possessions as stuff we return to God to be used for the building of His kingdom.
Scripture - Malachi 3:8-10
Should a person deceive God?
Yet you deceive me.
But you say,
“How have we deceived you?”
With your tenth-part gifts and offerings.
You are being cursed with a curse,
and you, the entire nation, are robbing me.
Bring the whole tenth-part to the storage house so there might be food in my house.
Please test me in this,
says the Lord of heavenly forces.
See whether I do not open all the windows of the heavens for you
and empty out a blessing until there is enough.
Unpack It! Malachi is one of the “Minor Prophets” of the Old Testament. The Minor Prophets were responsible for calling Israel’s attention to the reasons why they were sent into exile and endured being conquered by foreign powers. Malachi, like the other prophets, points out the social injustices that have deteriorated their relationship with God, and calls the nation back to further dependence upon God as their deliverer and provider. We must remember that in the Old Testament, Israel owes its very existence to God’s provision, so the idea that they would withhold money from God’s temple is (in hindsight) incredibly short-sighted and foolish.
Discussing the Text
Malachi talks about withholding the tithe from God as “robbing” him. That’s strong language, what is your reaction to hearing language like this?
As Malachi calls Israel to resume their tithe, he challenges them to trust more in God to provide their needs, rather than withholding their money out of fear. Is it hard for you to trust that God will provide even as you give up your finances?
Note for Class Leader: Be careful in this discussion to not allow anyone to feel ashamed if they are not in a financial position to give a tithe. Also, we do not promote “seed faith” theology, which states that we give money as “seeds” so that God will bless us with financial harvests later in life. The Bible says God loves a cheerful giver, which means if we’re giving out of compulsion, fear, or in an effort to manipulate God, we have forgotten the reason for giving.
Questions for Deeper Faith
Why do you think giving up finances is so difficult, even for faithful Christians?
Do you feel like God has provided for you in this life? What do you give thanks to God for?
The foundational sin of Israel was forgetting that ultimately, they belonged to God. How would it change the way you live if you saw your life and everything in it as belonging to God?
The tithe (one-tenth of personal income) is the traditional understanding of what we’re asked to give to church, but modern statistics suggest very few Christians actually tithe. How do we grow deeper in our financial trust of God, like the Israelites, if we’re not ready to leap into a tithe?
The title of this week is “From Giving to Returning.” If we begin to view our finances as something we “return” to God rather than something we give to church, does it change our views on generosity or giving? How so?
God of Abundant Grace, your’s is a love of plenty, and a will to provide. So often we adopt a mindset of scarcity and survival, when the truth is we have more than we need. This week, as we live our daily lives, allow us to see the ways in which you have provided abundance for us. Fix our eyes on the fact that all we are and all we have is yours, and when we give, we are simply returning a portion of your abundance back to you. Release us of fears over finances, and allow the way we give to grow us in a faithful dependence on you and you alone. In the name of the one who frees us and asks simply to serve as free children of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.