What does the Bible say about money and possession? There are approximately 2,350 passages about those topics in Scripture. By contrast, faith and prayer receive about 500 passages each. So, the Bible talks about money and possessions more than twice as much as the topics of faith and prayer combined.
Now, why would that be?
In this sermon, we’re going to see why God invests so much time and energy teaching us how to have a spiritually healthy relationship with our money and our possessions. And to do so, we’ll turn to Malachi 3, to one of the classic passages on money in all the Bible.
In Malachi 3:6–12, the Lord and the people go back and forth with one another in dispute. It’s quite clear in this passage that the people of God are spiritually unwell. So, we’ll approach this passage like a physician in three parts.
1) The Symptoms
What are the presenting symptoms of this spiritual malady?
The people were being stingy in their tithes and contributions when they come to the temple for worship. Instead of wholehearted, joyous generosity toward God, they’re withholding and tight-fisted. And God says, “you’re robbing me!”
What does God mean by tithes and contributions? Under the law, the people of Israel were required to bring north of 40% of their annual income to the Lord. (Note: if you strip away portions there were meant as a tax for the nation of Israel, the law required at a minimum 10% tithe of their annual income, 2% for the priests, and 14% for the Sabbath year, plus the value of the sacrifices. Combined, this contribution comes to around 26% of their annual income.)
So, when the Israelites fell on hard times, they became stingy with God. And God says, “You’re robbing me!” Why? Because everything belongs to God; it’s all from His hand. And so, our gifts to Him are a bit ironic, because it’s all His to begin with. As much as our wealth feels like it belongs to us, the reality is God gave it—and so much more—to us.
Stinginess robs God of glory, and us of grace.
When we gorge ourselves on our wealth, making it all about us, we’re robbing God of glory, we’re robbing our neighbors of good, and we’re robbing ourselves of grace. Instead of the joy of partnering with God in the mending and flourishing of this world, we cave in upon ourselves, and make it all about us.
In robbing God, it turns out, we’re also robbing ourselves.
2) The Disease
Their stinginess toward God was symptomatic of an underlying disease: they’ve turned aside from the Lord, their hearts have wandered, their devotions has drifted, and their love has grown cold.
The reason their treasure wasn’t in the Lord’s temple is because their hearts weren’t there either. Our money always shows us our hearts.
Our hearts and our treasure are intertwined.
3) The Prescription
Gods says to Israel that if they bring the full tithe to the storehouse (temple), He will pour out a list of blessings on them.
Now, these blessings are clearly flowing out of the covenant God made with the people of Israel through Moses, where covenant obedience meant covenant blessings, and covenant disobedience meant covenant curse. We can’t claim these promises directly for ourselves or for our nation today.
But, here’s a principle here we shouldn’t miss: God always blesses obedience.
Not only does our treasure reveal our hearts, but our treasure also leads our hearts as well. When we invest our money into something, we begin to care about it. Our hearts follow our treasure.
Do you want to grow to love God more and more? To love your neighbor as yourself? This passage tells us…
Lead your heart with faith-filled, joyous, proportionate, lavish generosity.
What’s a good baseline? 10% of your income is a great place to start, because it’s just high enough to make you confront your idols and self-worship. It’s just enough to get your heart moving in the right direction.
Takeaway: “Return to me, and I will return to you.”