Money and material wealth are a stumbling block for many in their spiritual journeys. But why does God care about our money? Probably because it’s a reflection of how much we care about him!
Malachi, chapters 3-4; Psalm 148; Acts, chapter 5
Malachi 3:6-10 (NLT):
“I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed. Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my decrees and failed to obey them. Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “But you ask, ‘How can we return when we have never gone away?’”
“Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me.
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try me! Put me to the test!”
Acts 5:1-4 (NLT)
But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest. Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”
Observations: Why Does God Care about Our Money?
The Tithe Is the Lord’s
“One-tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord and must be set apart to him as holy” (Leviticus 27:30). The word “tithe” means: “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” (dictionary.com, “tithe”).
God’s message to Malachi confirms the fact that “the tithe is the Lord’s.” In the NLT version of Malachi, God says that the people have “cheated” him (verse 8); other translations say that God’s people have “robbed” him. Either way, the meaning is the same: the tithe is the Lord’s. If we don’t give it back to him, we are robbing him or cheating him out of something that belongs to him.
Bring All the Tithes into the Storehouse
God follows up on his statement that the people have cheated him by telling them: Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. This was another way that the people of Israel had failed to honor God’s commands. They had:
- Offered defiled sacrifices on God’s altar (Malachi 1:7)
- Claimed that it was “too hard” to serve God (Malachi 1:13)
- Left God’s paths and caused many to stumble into sin (Malachi 2:8)
- Wearied God by claiming that all who do evil are good in the Lord’s sight (Malachi 2:17)
- Said terrible things about God (Malachi 3:13)
So God challenged the people: Bring all the tithes into the storehouse…If you do, I will open the windows of heaven for you. And then God said something that he rarely (if ever) says: Try it! Put me to the test!
Ananias and Sapphira
Our reading from Acts 5 includes the story of Ananias and Sapphira. They had decided to sell a piece of property, and then bring part of the money to the apostles. That’s great! But…they tried to claim that they had brought all of the money they received, when they actually only brought part of it. To get the context for this, we have to go back into chapter 4. “There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need” (Acts 4:34-35).
There was no problem with Ananias and Sapphira only bringing part of the money. The problem was that they tried to claim they had brought it all. Why would they do that? As Peter said, “The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away.” They could have decided to not sell the property, or they could have given part of the money and kept part. But evidently, they wanted the acclaim that came from giving all of the money.
Peter’s assessment is blunt: How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God! And “as soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died” (Acts 5:5). Later, Sapphira came along, not realizing what had happened. When she repeated the lie, she too dropped dead (see Acts 5:10).
Why Does God Care about Our Money? Tithe
Today’s passages prompt the question: why does God care about our money? Actually, the passages answer that question for us. God cares about our money because we care so much about it! And if we’re not careful, we will end up caring more about our money than the God who gave it to us. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1). Everything in it belongs to God – including “our” money.
In spite of the fact that everything that we have came from God, he does not usually ask us for all of it. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse… Our tithe belongs to God (remember, Leviticus 27:30). That means that we are not free to use it the way we want. We are to bring all the tithes into the storehouse – to put them at God’s disposal. After all, the tithes belong to God!
Why Does God Care about Our Money? Offerings
The story of Ananias and Sapphira shows another reason why God cares about our material wealth: we can become so seduced by it that we will even try to lie to him. Of course, we can’t really lie to God; he knows the truth, whether we admit it or not. The fact that we can become more concerned with holding on to “stuff” instead of holding on to God is a scary thought!
It’s also scary that we might be more interested in impressing other people than in honoring God. Ananias and Sapphira were free to keep their property, or to keep the money they received. Evidently, they wanted to impress their “church friends” with their generosity – but they weren’t willing to really be generous. They wanted to “look” like they were giving it all without actually doing it. And that means they were more concerned about what people thought than what God thought.
People often quote Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 9 to support their “decision” not to bring the tithe into the “storehouse.” Paul says, “You must each decide in your heart how much to give” (2 Corinthians 9:7). But he was talking about an offering, not about God’s tithe! His comments were in connection with the collection for the Jerusalem church. That’s the point about offerings – each of us can decide “how much to give.” But our generosity reflects our gratitude – and God loves a cheerful giver!
Father, you have been so good to us that we could never ever repay you. Everything we have came from you! And you only direct us to bring the tithe – ten percent – back to you. Thank you for reminding us that the tithe belongs to you. We never want to be guilty of cheating or robbing you!
The fact is that we have so much to be thankful for that only bringing the tithe back to you seems far too small. Help us to open our hearts to you, that you may direct us to be instruments of your generosity to others. There are so many needs, and so many appeals, that we need your help to know how to give. Thank you for churches and organizations that are faithful and honest in their work and their finances. And thank you for the opportunities you give us to show our love for you!
Finally, thank you for reminding us that you only care about our money because you care about us. We know that we cannot serve both God and money; guard us against Satan’s attempts to deceive us into thinking that we can serve both. Help us to live generously and faithfully, that we might reflect your generosity and faithfulness to us. Amen.