The Lord has given His people a message for this time. It is presented in the third chapter of Malachi. How could the Lord present His requirements in a clearer or more forcible manner than He has done in this chapter?
All should remember that God's claims upon us underlie every other claim. He gives to us bountifully, and the contract which He has made with man is that a tenth of his possessions shall be returned to God. The Lord graciously entrusts to His stewards His treasures, but of the tenth He says: This is Mine. Just in proportion as God has given His property to man, so man is to return to God a faithful tithe of all his substance. This distinct arrangement was made by Jesus Christ Himself.
This work involves solemn and eternal results, and it is too sacred to be left to human impulse. We should not feel free to deal with this matter as we choose. In answer to the claims of God, regular reserves should be set apart as sacred to His work.
The First Fruits
Besides the tithe the Lord demands the first fruits of all our increase. These He has reserved in order that His work in the earth may be amply sustained. The Lord's servants are not to be limited to a meager supply. His messengers should not be handicapped in their work of holding forth the word of life. As they teach the truth they should have means to invest for the advancement of the work, which must be done at the right time in order to have the best and most saving influence. Deeds of mercy must be done; the poor and suffering must be aided. Gifts and offerings should be appropriated for this purpose. Especially in new fields, where the standard of truth has never yet been uplifted, this work must be done. If all the professed people of God, both old and young, would do their duty, there would be no dearth in the treasury. If all would pay a faithful tithe and devote to the Lord the first fruits of their increase, there would be a full supply of funds for His work. But the law of God is not respected or obeyed, and this has brought a pressure of want.
Remember the Poor
Every extravagance should be cut out of our lives, for the time we have for work is short. All around us we see want and suffering. Families are in need of food; little ones are crying for bread. The houses of the poor lack proper furniture and bedding. Many live in mere hovels which are almost destitute of conveniences. The cry of the poor reaches to heaven. God sees; God hears. But many glorify themselves. While their fellow men are poor and hungry, suffering for want of food, they expend much on their tables and eat far more than they require. What an account men will by and by have to render for their selfish use of God's money! Those who disregard the provision God has made for the poor will find not only that they have robbed their fellow men, but that in robbing them they have robbed God and have embezzled His goods.
All Things Belong to God
All the good that man enjoys comes because of the mercy of God. He is the great and bountiful Giver. His love is manifest to all in the abundant provision made for man. He has given us probationary time in which to form characters for the courts above. And it is not because He needs anything that He asks us to reserve a part of our possessions for Him.
The Lord created every tree in Eden pleasant to the eyes and good for food, and He bade Adam and Eve freely enjoy His bounties. But He made one exception. Of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they were not to eat. This tree God reserved as a constant reminder of His ownership of all. Thus He gave them opportunity to demonstrate their faith and trust in Him by their perfect obedience to His requirements.
So it is with God's claims upon us. He places His treasures in the hands of men, but requires that one tenth shall be faithfully laid aside for His work. He requires this portion to be placed in His treasury. It is to be rendered to Him as His own; it is sacred and is to be used for sacred purposes, for the support of those who carry the message of salvation to all parts of the world. He reserves this portion, that means may ever be flowing into His treasure house and that the light of truth may be carried to those who are nigh and those who are afar off. By faithfully obeying this requirement we acknowledge that all belongs to God.
And has not the Lord a right to demand this of us? Did He not give His only-begotten Son because He loved us and desired to save us from death? And shall not our gratitude offerings flow into His treasury to be drawn therefrom to advance His kingdom in the earth? Since God is the owner of all our goods, shall not gratitude to Him prompt us to make freewill offerings and thank offerings, thus acknowledging His ownership of soul, body, spirit, and property? Had God's plan been followed, means would now be flowing into His treasury; and funds to enable ministers to enter new fields, and workers to unite with ministers in lifting up the standard of truth in the dark places of the earth, would be abundant.
It is a heaven-appointed plan that men should return to the Lord His own; and this is so plainly stated that men and women have no excuse for misunderstanding or evading the duties and responsibilities God has laid upon them. Those who claim that they cannot see this to be their duty, reveal to the heavenly universe, to the church, and to the world that they do not want to see this plainly stated requirement. They think that by following the Lord's plan they would detract from their own possessions. In the covetousness of their selfish souls they desire to have the whole capital, both principal and interest, to use for their own benefit.
God lays His hand upon all man's possessions, saying: I am the owner of the universe, and these goods are Mine. The tithe you have withheld I reserve for the support of My servants in their work of opening the Scriptures to those who are in the regions of darkness, who do not understand My law. In using My reserve fund to gratify your own desires you have robbed souls of the light which I made provision for them to receive. You have had opportunity to show loyalty to Me, but you have not done this. You have robbed Me; you have stolen My reserve fund. "Ye are cursed with a curse." Malachi 3:9.
The Lord is long-suffering and gracious, and to those who have done this wickedness He gives another opportunity. "Return unto Me," He says, "and I will return unto you." But they say: "Wherein shall we return?" Verse 7. Their means have been made to flow in channels of self-service and self-glorification as if their goods were their own and not lent treasures. Their perverted consciences have become so hard and unimpressible that they do not see the great wickedness they have done in so hedging up the way that the cause of truth could not advance.
Man, finite man, though using for himself the talents which God has reserved to publish salvation, to send the glad news of a Saviour's love to perishing souls, though hedging up the way by his selfishness, inquires: "Wherein have we robbed Thee?" God answers: "In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed Me, even this whole nation." Verses 8, 9. The whole world is engaged in robbing God. With the money He has lent them, men indulge in dissipation, in amusements, revelings, feasting, and disgraceful indulgences. But God says: "I will come near to you to judgment." Verse 5. The whole world will have an account to settle in that great day when everyone shall receive sentence according to his deeds.
God pledges Himself to bless those who obey His commandments. "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts." Verses 10-12.
With these words of light and truth before them, how dare men neglect so plain a duty? How dare they disobey God when obedience to His requirements means His blessing in both temporal and spiritual things, and disobedience means the curse of God? Satan is the destroyer. God cannot bless those who refuse to be faithful stewards. All He can do is to permit Satan to accomplish his destroying work. We see calamities of every kind and in every degree coming upon the earth, and why? The Lord's restraining power is not exercised. The world has disregarded the word of God. They live as though there were no God. Like the inhabitants of the Noachic world, they refuse to have any thought of God. Wickedness prevails to an alarming extent, and the earth is ripe for the harvest.
"Your words have been stout against Me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against Thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered." Verses 13-15. Those who withhold from God His own make these complaints. The Lord asks them to prove Him by bringing their tithe into His storehouse to see whether He will not pour them out a blessing. But they cherish rebellion in their hearts and complain of God; at the same time they rob Him and embezzle His goods. When their sin is presented before them, they say: I have had adversity; my crops have been poor; but the wicked are prospered; it does not pay to keep the ordinance of the Lord.
But God does not want any to walk mournfully before Him. Those who thus complain of God have brought their adversity on themselves. They have robbed God, and His cause has been hindered because the money that should have flowed into His treasury was used for selfish purposes. They showed their disloyalty to God by failing to carry out His prescribed plan. When God prospered them, and they were asked to give Him His portion, they shook their heads and could not see that it was their duty. They closed the eyes of their understanding, that they might not see. They withheld the Lord's money and hindered the work which He designed to have done. God was not honored by the use made of His entrusted goods. Therefore He let the curse fall upon them, permitting the spoiler to destroy their fruits and to bring calamities upon them.
"They that Feared the Lord"
In Malachi 3:16 an opposite class is brought to view, a class that meet together, not to find fault with God, but to speak of His glory and tell of His mercies. These have been faithful in their duty. They have given to the Lord His own. Testimonies are borne by them that make the heavenly angels sing and rejoice. These have no complaints to make against God. Those who walk in the light, who are faithful and true in doing their duty, are not heard complaining and finding fault. They speak words of courage, hope, and faith. It is those who serve themselves, who do not give God His own, that complain.
"They that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not." Verses
The reward of whole-souled liberality is the leading of mind and heart to a closer fellowship with the Spirit.
The man who has been unfortunate, and finds himself in debt, should not take the Lord's portion to cancel his debts to his fellow men. He should consider that in these transactions he is being tested, and that in reserving the Lord's portion for his own use he is robbing the Giver. He is debtor to God for all that he has, but he becomes a double debtor when he uses the Lord's reserved fund in paying debts to human beings. "Unfaithfulness to God" is written against his name in the books of heaven. He has an account to settle with God for appropriating the Lord's means for his own convenience. And the want of principle shown in his misappropriation of God's means will be revealed in his management of other matters. It will be seen in all matters connected with his own business. The man who will rob God is cultivating traits of character that will cut him off from admittance into the family of God above.
A selfish use of riches proves one unfaithful to God, and unfits the steward of means for the higher trust of heaven.
There are channels everywhere through which benevolence may flow. Needs are constantly arising, missions are handicapped for want of means. These must be abandoned unless God's people awake to the true state of things. Wait not until your death to make your will, but dispose of your means while you live.