At The United Methodist Church of Delta I have been preaching through the book of Malachi for the last 3 weeks, and will continue to be in Malachi until December 18th, Lord willing. It has been an enjoyable and challenging book to preach from, and I have been stretched during preparation in ways that I did not expect to be stretched. What I have found is that Malachi is not really about the things that I typically hear preached from it. Though I have read through Malachi a number of times in my life, there is really only one verse that typically came to mind when someone would mention Malachi, that being chapter 3 verse 10.
10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
The primary reason that this text comes to mind is because it is used almost yearly in most churches as the leadership seeks to get people to commit to financial stewardship. Typically the message associated with this text goes something like this. Test God, give more, His word promises that if you give your tithe you will have more than you need. I understand all too well the temptation to make that the primary message of Malachi, but it is a bit disingenuous to say the least. Of course there are some very fundamental issues with that whole message, the most obvious being that it motivates people to give with a promise that by giving they will receive. It places the entire emphasis in a different place from where the prophet places it. The entire message of Malachi focuses around God’s name being made great among the nations, not around man becoming great by serving God. I certainly do not want to wholesale write off the message of Malachi 3:10, but it is a dangerous teaching when it is not coupled to the rest of the prophecy.
I wonder how many Pastors preach Malachi 1:10 during their stewardship campaigns.
10 Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.
Of course that message seems amiss at a time where financial stewardship is being promoted, but it is an equally valid text about stewardship as Malachi 3:10. The question of financial stewardship is not merely a question of sacrificial giving, it is a question of the very motivation behind giving. There is a way to offer much which is still displeasing to God. There is a way of offering sacrifice, though it may be 10% that is a stench in God’s nostrils.
Anyone else have thoughts on this?