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By Gordon MacDonald

"[And God said,] 'Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. 'But you ask, "How do we rob you?" 'In tithes and offerings….' ” Malachi 3:8

The prophets of the Old Testament shared a common theme: repent and return. And, more than once, those protesting against the word of the ancient prophet clamored, Leave what and return to where?

As a physician diagnoses a patient by touching the inflamed and infected parts of the body, so Malachi diagnosed the spiritual illness of Israel. He touched the area of money. "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me." There is nothing subtle here. Malachi went straight to the financial records of Israel's greatest men. His words are God's words: You're thieves, all of you.

Shocked and defensive, the defiant ranted back, "How do we rob you?" And Malachi was quick with God's answer, "In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse--the whole nation of you--because you are robbing me."

Do we ever ignore God? Do we disappoint God occasionally? Most of us would admit to that. Abuse his grace unthinkingly? We nod our heads in admission. But rob him? This is a most serious charge, enough to make us wince at the accusation.

In Malachi's time, God held the nation of Israel to a strict accounting standard: “A tenth of all you own is to be returned to God.” Once this forthright order was sent out, the numbers stood for themselves and spiritual disobedience was numerically measurable. Israel was robbing God.

Today, we who are Christ-followers like to think that we have moved beyond measurable spirituality. We say ours is a spirituality measured not by numbers but by love. But one must be careful with this assertion. For love calls the generous giver to standards far beyond the tithe. When love is the standard, giving is measured by sacrifice. In this new kind of measurement, one does without in order that great giving might be presented to God. There is a voluntary relinquishing of energies, assets, rights, and privileges.

Those who love God would never be caught robbing him. At least, we would hope not. But it might be wise to hear Malachi speak to these issues once again. We must be open to the possibility that he is also speaking to us.

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