“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 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. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:6-12 ESV
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. II Corinthians 8:1-5 ESV
There was once a man and his wife who didn’t like to share anything with anyone. They would invite a guest to their home for dinner, but they never wanted to give the guest any food. So when dinner was served, the man would ask his guest one question after another so that the guest wouldn’t be able to eat, and then his wife would take a turn asking questions. The poor guest would never get a bit of food, because the husband and wife would eat it all while they kept him talking, and then they would say, “Why didn’t you eat? Now, unfortunately, there is nothing left. You shouldn’t talk so much.”
Malachi spoke to God’s people for doing something similar. They didn’t want to give anything to God, and instead they wanted to keep all the blessings God gave them for themselves. Even though everything they had came from the Lord, and he had given them the law that they were to remember him by giving a tenth of their income as well as special gifts, they weren’t giving the Lord the gifts they should have. These gifts were meant to keep the worship in the temple going, and they were a reminder to the people that they and everything they had really belonged to the Lord, and that they should put God first in their lives. Because they weren’t doing that, God was withholding his blessing of rain and sending pests to destroy their crops, but he promised to pour down his blessings on them if they would return to him.
God doesn’t really need our money or the other gifts we give, but he does want our hearts and our lives. When we give God ourselves, we make it priority to give money to support the things of God and to help others. The Apostle Paul talked about some Christians in Macedonia who were very poor, but they gave themselves to God, and when they had done that they were able to give very generously to help the poor, even though they didn’t have much for themselves. God came to us in Jesus and gave himself up for us on the cross. Jesus gave us his life so that we could be God’s people forever, and he sends us his Holy Spirit to help us give our hearts and our lives back to him, and to cheerfully give money to the things of God and to help other people.
Dear Jesus, thank you for giving yourself for us. Help us to give you our hearts and our lives. Amen.