Saturday, 12 May 2012

Open the Windows of Heaven!

“Put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.” Malachi 3:10.

I am desperate for God to open the windows of heaven. When God says, ‘Put me to the test’ he is talking about tithing. The first part of this verse says “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house”. In effect God is saying, “Give me your whole tithe and wait and see!! I will open the windows of heaven and put out immeasurable blessings!”

Money is not an easy subject to talk about and in fact tithing is an even harder one! I am not sure we fully understand the significance of tithing so I have done a little Biblical studying into the topic in the hope that together we can come to our own understanding of it and work out whether we need to act.  

The word ‘tithe’ means ‘a tenth’ or ‘the tenth part of agricultural produce or personal income set apart as an offering to God or for works of mercy, or the same amount regarded as an obligation or tax for the support of the church, priesthood, or the like.’ In other words it means to give 10% of our income or produce. Jewish law says that 10% of seed and grain, fruit, wine, animals belong to the Lord. Basically 10% of your earnings and income and what you owned or produced belonged to the Lord.

There are many people who would say that they give their tithe to the work of the Lord by giving it to a charity, others believe that they should give their tithes solely to the church. There are so many teachings surrounding this and in my study I came across this verse in Nehemiah 10:39 which brings a little clarity to me:

‘For the people of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of grain, wine, and oil to the storerooms where the vessels of the sanctuary are, and where the priests that minister, and the gatekeepers and the singers are. We will not neglect the house of our God.’

I know that you could argue that this account is a picture of the time, but the key for me here is ‘We will not neglect the house of our God’. I believe we should be giving generously to the amazing projects and organisations out there that are building the Kingdom of God, but I believe that the church is the ‘house of our God’ and so too is the ‘storehouse’ of Malachi 3. I believe that ‘Church’ should be supporting these amazing organisations so in fact when we bring our tithe into the ‘storehouse’ we provide resources to go way beyond the walls of the church. Our offerings can go into these brilliant organisations but I think our tithe belongs to the church and church leaders have a heavy responsibility, to the church, to the city and to God, to ensure that our resources are used well. I take comfort in this matter from these verses in Haggai 2:7-9;

‘…and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts.’

God says ‘the silver is mine, the gold is mine’. It belongs to Him and He can step in at any time to steer financial decisions towards the building of His kingdom if things seem to be going astray. My comfort is found in the fact that our resources ultimately belong to Him. He is in charge.

So if we look back again at the verse in Malachi, we find that God says ‘Bring the full tithe into the storehouse … put me to the test… see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.’ The Message translation puts it like this: ‘Bring your full tithe into the temple treasury…test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams.’ Wow! What if we get this right and God opens the windows of heaven? In fact He has said we can put Him to the test in this and He has promised blessings.

When I read this I feel like if getting our tithes sorted will ‘open the windows of heaven’ then we have to act. We all have to act. I have heard people say, “we can’t afford it at the minute” “I’ll sort it when we get a bit more money in”. In my mind if I had £1 left in the world 10p of that belongs to God and then I’d probably give some more to a project that I believed in. That 10p is not mine to keep. It belongs to God, in fact if we look at the two verses that precede Malachi 3:10 we find a challenge that has to shape your heart and your mind with it’s strong and blunt delivery:

‘Will anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, “how are we robbing you?” In your tithes and offerings! You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me- the whole nation of you!’

The Message puts in like this:

“Begin by being honest. Do honest people rob God? But you rob me day after day. You ask, ‘How have we robbed you?’ The tithe and the offering-that’s how! And now you’re under a curse- the whole lot of you- because you’re robbing me.”

Is anyone feeling a pull in their spirit? These are strong words. It is easy to make excuses as to why we don’t give 10% of our income. Yes there are questions surrounding what this all means and yes we have to steward our finances well but I believe the place to start is with your tithe. These verses bring challenge and conviction but also encouragement and promise. Imagine what would happen if we put God ‘to the test’ as He asks us to. What would it look like if God opened the windows of Heaven and poured down blessings beyond our wildest dreams?

I would like to return to a picture of the ‘storehouse’ for a moment. A storehouse is a building in which things are stored. describes it as ‘a source of abundant supplies’. I picture the church of the future as a storehouse. If we neglect it, if we don’t bring God’s resources in to the house, we are not only robbing God, we are leaving His storehouse without supplies. Imagine if we lived in a time when, if we needed food, we could go to the storehouse and gather what we needed to live on. Imagine if we walked for days only to find the storehouse empty because someone, or lots of someone’s, didn’t give there 10% and as a result we arrive at the house of God in desperate need but the priests do not have the resources to give use what we need. In fact this is how many people live today but it is not so much about the ‘grain in the barn’ but about whether or not the house of God has the resources for whatever their need is. Do we have the resources to feed and clothe the homeless? Do we have the resources to pay for a counselor to spend time with the man or woman who has so little hope that suicide seems the only option? Do we have the resources to send someone on that counseling course that could save a life?

I know that there are so many things that we need in the storehouse and we need to pay staff and pay for the upkeep of our buildings as well, but if we see it all as a resource for our communities what difference can we make?

Now once the resources are coming in to the storehouse, we need to make sure that we have the people to make sure that these things can be given out accordingly. We could consider offering our time as well as our money to help steward these resources well. God wants to use us. We know that God can do anything but in the natural we need to resources to do His work. Sometimes this is just about giving our time but most of the time the resources to do his work are essential.  

So what can you and I do to see God open the windows of heaven? I believe that He will show us different things as individuals if we are willing open our eyes to what He wants to show us. If we let Him reveal himself through these verses we may well encounter Him in a tangible way that stirs us into action. I would say if you need to get your tithes sorted out, then do it. On a practical level, you can do it by standing order so you can give God the first fruits of your labour before you even see it. To me there is something so important about giving to God first, not after you’ve checked that you’ve got enough. You will see that if you give Him the first fruits you will always have what you need.

I am desperate for God to overwhelm us with His power and presence. I long to see heaven come to earth. If I can do any thing that means that God would ‘open the windows of heaven’ I want to do it. I challenge you to put God to the test on this, just as He said, and see what happens when you ‘bring the full tithe into the storehouse’.

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