"Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed God?' In tithes and offerings. " You are under a curse for the whole nation has been robbing Me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows."" (Malachi 3:8-10)

The matter before us today is one of Christian Stewardship. You may feel as if you have no need for any further information on this subject. Perhaps you feel quite comfortable with where you are in meeting your obligations before the Lord. I'm happy for you. But still I would urge you to bear with me a few moments and consider anew the timeless principle taught us in the Scriptures - namely, that God blesses those who are faithful in the giving of the tithe and gifts.

In Proverbs 11:24-25 we read, "There is one who scatters, yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, but it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered." Now I believe this gets to the heart of Malachi's unwelcomed message to a nation (Israel) which had slipped into an awful practice. For some time now they had shown their ingratitude to God by their unfaithfulness in meeting their financial obligations. Israel had been charged in the days of Moses to give the tithe to the Lord. It was to be a thankful act, a joyful rendering of the First portion unto God to show their profound appreciation for all His providential goodness. The giving of the tithe represented, in token fashion, the firm belief that all that the people possessed had come to them from God and that the whole of their lives was played out in total dependence upon the kindness of a benevolent God. In other words, they owed God everything - and so do we!

Now, clearly God has no personal need for anything we might give Him. Psalm 50:8-12 plainly tells us that God owns all things and even if He were to have a need of some sort, it would never be necessary for Him to come to us with hat in hand. A God who can command light to appear out of darkness is fully capable of meeting His own needs (not that He has any). Nor are we to suppose that we are able, in any way, to make God beholding unto us. None of our gifts or sacrifices obligate God unto us in any way. We can give Him our all (as we should) and when it is done we still remain but unworthy servants. Therefore, you may ask, what's the big deal about the tithe?

The thing that I would have you see is that the tithe has more to do with us than it has to do with God. Rendering the first portion to the Lord was always been about respect and faith and thankfulness. Giving the tithe - the tenth portion of our income and assets - is a faithful acknowledgment of the matchless grace of God and His many acts of kindness. We give because He has given so generously to us.

Over the years I've stood by the graveside of a good many individuals (most believers, but not all) and I've yet to witness one person who successfully managed to discover a way to take his or her possessions with them. As Job confessed, so it was true for each of them (as for us all) -- that we come into this world with nothing and surely we shall leave in the same way. Not one of us has any control whatsoever over the two dates that normally adorn a headstone (our birth and our death) but each of us has the solemn responsibility to be faithful stewards of the days in between, be they many or few - to live out our days in grateful surrender to the Lord, not in withholding tithes and gifts from Him as stingy misers.

But again, why is this important? I am reminded of a story retold by Stephen Olford where a man visited a home where there lived a little girl, five or six years of age. He presented her with a box of chocolates. She immediately disappeared into another room and returned later on with lips and fingers smeared with chocolate. There was no word of thanks - no word of appreciation at all. Then, the same man visited another home and gave another box of chocolates to a different child. This time the box was opened straight away and the child said, "You may have the first piece." The man replies, "Oh, no! These are for you." But the child insisted that the man, because of his kindness, should have the first piece - and so he took it. Now, you are asked to consider this - Which child, do you imagine, won the warmest affections of the man and which child do you think stood the better chance of receiving another box of chocolates in the future? Olford then drives home his point by saying, "The tithe is the first chocolate handed back to God."

How about it? Have you been robbing God? - or are you being faithful in the management of the gifts He has showered upon you? Truly this is a test of our Christian character and the soundness of our faith - that we are able to give to the Lord first, give cheerfully, give on our income and assets, and give Him ourselves first (2 Corinthians 8:5).

In their selfish blindness, Israel could not see it. They asked, "How have we robbed God?" Let's not make that same mistake, but learn to put God first and give Him our best!