The sky was dark and gloomy, and turbulent clouds rolled over the dry Judean hills as a man came striding down a rough slope through the tall dry grass, leading a heavily-laden donkey behind him. With him was a young lad with a basket in his hand. The man was thin, almost gaunt, and he clutched his rough mantle tightly around himself to keep out the wind. As they came around a giant boulder, ahead of them in the darkened valley was a small village. At its edge was a collection of farmhouses huddled together.
In a few moments they arrived at the door of a humble little mud house. A couple of dry trees, their bare branches rattling in the wind, stood in the yard. From inside the house came the sound of voices. Tying his donkey, the man lifted the heavy baskets off its back. Entering the small dwelling, he found a crowd of people dressed in tattered clothing and a young Levite was reading to them from a worn old scroll.
Looking up from his reading, he greeted them: "Malachi! Little Johanan! What a nice surprise! And what is this you have?"
Setting the basket down, Malachi greeted him and answered, "Grain, fruit, dried figs, a side of lamb!--And there's more outside."
"But you already brought your TITHE a few weeks ago!" the Levite responded..
"Yes! And this is a FREEWILL offering above that!" Malachi smiled. We had it to spare and thought you might need it."
"NEED it?! My good man!--You are an answer to our PRAYERS!" he exclaimed as he and his young wife went to help bring in the rest of the produce. "Why, you are one of the few families who are faithful to give!"
Outside the house, he whispered gravely to Malachi, "These days, most people give very few freewill gifts!--Let alone faithfully give one-tenth of their goods in a tithe. When the poor, the widows, the orphans and the strangers come to me, I offer them what few crumbs I can, but it's very little. But I can still read to them from God's Word, so they come for that."
Malachi pounded the wall and turned away, shaking his head. "And you're doing such a GOOD job, Eleazar! It's not right that the people don't give to you as they should when you've dedicated your life to serving the Lord and helping others! I mean, are we the Lord's people or are we not? If people truly love Him, why do they not give to His servants as they've been told to?"
"Papa," little Johanan asked, "is EVERYONE supposed to tithe like WE do?"
"Yes, they are!" his father answered. "The Lord richly blesses His people, gives them rich harvests and protects them all year round, and He has requested that we, in return, give Him a mere one-tenth of all the increase that He has blessed us with.
"The Lord commanded: 'Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase that your fields produce.--A tithe of everything from the land BELONGS to the LORD; it is HOLY to the LORD." (Deuteronomy 14:22; Leviticus 27:3O)
"If it's GOD'S, then why do we give it to the LEVITES?" the little lad asked.
"That's HOW we give it to GOD," Malachi answered, smiling at Eleazar. "Because the Levites are SERVING GOD full-time, every day. So the Lord said, 'I give to the Levites all the tithes that the Israelites present to the Lord, in return for the WORK they do while SERVING Me!' (Numbers 18:21,24) The Lord also said, 'Be careful not to neglect the Levites as long as you live in the land.' (Deuteronomy 12:19)--But look at dear Eleazar. He's skinny as a rail. He barely has enough for himself and his wife, let alone to give to others!"
"Really ... we manage to ..." Eleazar began to protest humbly.
"Nonsense!" Malachi replied. "How can you keep on serving the LORD if the Lord's PEOPLE don't help you by giving as they should? We OWE it to you! As He said in His Word, 'It is your WAGES for your WORK!'" (Numbers 18:21)--And you shouldn't be too shy to ask for your WAGES, should you?"
Eleazar looked intently at Malachi and said, "What a fire and devotion you have for the Lord! One would almost think that you were...well...a PROPHET!"
Malachi laughed, "I'm just a man trying to do good. But tell me, I'm going down to the Temple at Jerusalem. Is there anything I can do for you or get for you there?"
"Why yes, you can!" Eleazar answered. "Would you take my tithe there with you?"
"Certainly! By all means."
They carried the last of the produce inside his house and his wife sorted through it, setting aside one-tenth of everything they had just been given, careful to make sure that they gave the BEST of everything. They then put it in a small basket on the donkey's back, and Malachi and his son continued down the hills toward Jerusalem.
"Papa, why did they tithe the gift we gave them?" Johanan asked. "They have so little, and yet they tithe even that. Why?"
"Because even the servants of God who serve Him fulltime are required to tithe," (Numbers 18:25-29) Malachi answered. "So because Eleazar and his wife love the Lord, they faithfully obey and tithe to Him!"
Within a couple of hours they'd arrived in Jerusalem and made their way through the narrow streets to the Temple. Accompanied by his son, Malachi carried the small basket to the storage rooms of the Temple and gave it to the steward; then he walked through the Temple toward the inner court. An aged man with a long white beard met him there.
"My lord, Ezra!" Malachi said reverently. He pulled out a bag of coins from his belt and quietly said, "I have saved up the money as I promised, and here it is: To be dedicated to support the servants of the Lord who work on making COPIES of His WORD."
"Thank you. May God bless you!" the old man replied. "If only MORE of the Lord's people gave generously as you do! But I'm afraid to say that no copies of the Lord's Word can be made now. Gifts and tithes have been so few that we just can't support the Lord's servants who are needed for this Work. Most of our best copiers have gone."
"GONE? Where have they gone to?"
"Most have gone to work on farms to support themselves and have enough to eat," the old man replied. (Nehemiah 13:1O)
Exasperated, Malachi questioned, "But when Nehemiah was here as Governor of Judah, didn't the people PROMISE that they would faithfully tithe and give gifts to support the Lord's Work and His servants?"
Ezra answered, "Not only that, but they signed a written statement that they would not neglect to help the Lord's Work. But in the years since Nehemiah has been gone, the people have forgotten their promises. In fact, the storerooms are practically EMPTY." (Nehemiah 9:38; 10:28-29,35-39)
In a tired voice, the ancient Patriarch sighed, "And now, if you will excuse me, I am very weary." As Ezra retired to his chamber, Malachi strode sadly towards the outer courts of the Temple, his son at his side.
"How can we reproduce the Word of God if people do not support the Lord's workers?" he asked his tiny son.
Thinking a minute, little Johanan said, "Maybe you should REMIND people to give."
"Maybe I should!" Malachi replied.
Coming to the outer courts where people were milling about, Malachi saw one of the rich nobles of Jerusalem bringing in his tithe. Nehemiah looked at the produce and knew it could be nowhere near one-tenth of his increase. Looking closer, he could barely believe what he saw. The fruit was the worst of the harvest: Bug-eaten and small.
He saw others leading in cattle and rams to be sacrificed. To his shock he saw that most of the animals being brought in were either BLIND or CRIPPLED or DISEASED! Instead of offering the BEST of their herds and produce to the Lord in thankfulness for His blessing, people were trying to get by by giving Him their offscouring and refuse.
Malachi stood there, tears welling up in his eyes. Then suddenly the Spirit of the Lord fell upon him and he leapt up on the Temple steps and cried out, "Thus saith the Lord: 'When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them to Me, should I accept them? Try offering them to your Governor! Would HE be pleased with you? Would HE accept it?" (Malachi 1:8)
Turning towards the rich nobleman, Malachi continued, "The Lord commanded His people, 'Bring ALL your tithes so that the Levites, the fatherless and the widows may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may BLESS YOU in all the work of your hands." (Deuteronomy 14:28-29) (See also 1Corinthians 16:2.)
"How CAN I tithe?" a fat merchant complained. "I ALREADY have to pay TAXES to the government! The 'King's tax' takes up the money I WOULD have given to the Lord!"
"One-tenth of your increase BELONGS to GOD!" Malachi shouted. "You owe it to the King OF Kings, and must pay it even BEFORE the 'King's tax'! If you would pay God's tithe FIRST, He would bless you and see to it that you have enough for your tax AND plenty left over for yourself!"
A farmer protested, "How can I give? The locusts and other pests have eaten the produce of my land and fruit trees! There's barely enough to feed my family! How could I spare to give one-tenth of it to God?"
"Don't you see?" Malachi demanded, "your LACK of giving is what BROUGHT these problems upon you in the first place! God would BLESS you and prevent the pests from devouring your crops if you would honour Him and pay Him His tithe!" (Malachi 3:11)
Many of the people were visibly moved at these words, but others were still grumbling among themselves. How easy it would be for them to receive God's blessing, yet by selfishly WITHHOLDING and NOT paying God his 1O%, they were not only missing God's blessing, but they were robbing Him as well!
Tears streaming down his face, Malachi prophesied, "Thus saith the Lord, 'Will a man rob GOD?--Yet you DO rob Me!'"
"Rob God!?" a devout noblewoman retorted, "how do we rob God?" (Malachi 3:8)
"In TITHES and OFFERINGS!" the Lord's answer rang out above the crowd. "Do you wonder why your land is under a curse, why you are not as blessed as you could be? It is because you are ROBBING Me. Bring the WHOLE tithe into the storeroom, that there may be FOOD in My house!" (Malachi 3:9-1O)
Then, raising his hands upward to the heavens to where beautiful rays of golden sunlight were streaming down through a break in the dark clouds, Malachi prophesied, "'TEST me in this:', says the Lord. 'TEST Me! Give your tithes and gifts and see if I will not THROW OPEN the windows of Heaven and POUR out so MANY BLESSINGS upon you that you will not have room enough to contain them!" (Malachi 3:1O)
It was a beautiful promise!--And several of the people in the crowd were moved to tears and resolved to begin tithing.
It was not long afterwards that Nehemiah, the Governor of Judah, returned. Discovering how the Lord's Work had suffered in his absence, he set the example by tithing himself, then publicly urged the people to do so also and give to help support the servants of the Lord! Then ALL the people of Judah began giving their tithes faithfully once again, and continued to do so all the days of Nehemiah. (Nehemiah 13:6-12; 12:47)
(1) God has always BLESSED people for GIVING to Him and His Work. This is God's fundamental law of economics: If you put HIM FIRST, then He blesses you for it. Jesus promised, "GIVE and it shall be GIVEN YOU!" (Luke 6:38) That's the way God is: He loves to outgive you, and He'll never let you outgive Him! The more you give, the more HE'LL give BACK! "Honour the Lord with your substance and with the first fruits of all your income. THEN your storehouses will be filled with PLENTY, and your vats will OVERFLOW with new wine!" (Proverbs 3:9,1O)
God may not always reward you in mere dollars and cents; it may be in protection, His saving you from accidents, misfortunes or serious illnesses that would have cost you a hundred times more than whatever you have given! But in whatever way it comes, He WILL reward you!
(2) God's message through Malachi challenged the people to put HIS PROMISE to the TEST! The Lord said, "PROVE ME now (by tithing 1O% of your income) and see if I will not open up the windows of Heaven and pour out such a BLESSING that there will not be room enough to contain it!" (Malachi 3:1O)
It takes FAITH to give, because at first all you see is what you're sacrificing.--It looks like it is going to hurt and that you're losing, but when you do give, acting in simple faith, appreciation and thankfulness for all the Lord has already given you, then the Lord blesses you even MORE! When it comes to God and His Work, it's good business to give to the LORD. It's a sure investment earning the highest possible rate of INTEREST and DIVIDENDS of anything you can invest in.
(3) Like the Levites of old, we too are actively SERVING GOD FULL-TIME, and without the financial help of our friends and supporters, we would simply not be able to continue our Ministry. Even Jesus Himself had supporters who gave to help Him and His work. (Luke 8:1-3) There were people from all walks of life who, although they weren't active full-time disciples travelling with Him in His Mission, helped by contributing whatever they could to supply Him and His disciples' physical needs so that their vital spiritual ministry could carry on.
(4) The Apostle Paul explained, "The Levites which work in the Temple get their food FROM the Temple. In the same way, those who PREACH the Gospel should receive their living FROM the Gospel. If we have SOWN SPIRITUAL seed among you, it is only natural that we should REAP a MATERIAL harvest from you." (1Corinthians 9:7-14)
(5) Every one of our dear friends who faithfully supports our work plays a vital role in reaching the World for Jesus! Every gift they send to help further our Worldwide missionary effort is a PART of their lives which goes out to the mission field! It is the hard-earned product of their blood, sweat and tears shed for the Lord and His Work, resulting in literally millions of souls saved--lives changed by the Love and power of God!
Would YOU like for God to open His windows of blessing on YOUR life, and to discover the joys of investing in His Work? If so, contact us today! We'd be happy to explain how, by giving on a regular basis or tithing each month, you can become a partner in the GREATEST work on Earth!--And reap ETERNAL dividends in Heaven by helping other lonely souls to find Salvation in Jesus!
My name is James Arendt. I was raised in the Hegewisch neighborhood on the southeast side of Chicago, Illinois, served in the USAF from 1970 to 1974, and became a full-time missionary for Christ living 40 years in Japan, 3.5 years in Russia, and a few months in other countries such as Finland, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, South Korea, Taiwan and mainland China where I also served the King of Kings, Jesus, as an Ambassador for His Kingdom.
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