Church of God, New World Ministries

Your Best Investment - Part 4

Stealing From God

Believe it or not, both nations and individuals can steal from God - directly. Theft from God is every bit as serious as robbing another human being, if not more. Eli, an Old Testament priest, asked an interesting question in I Samuel 2:25: “If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him, but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat (intercede) for him?”

Sinning against God – stealing from God-- is a very serious matter! One cannot toss it off with a casual shrug of the shoulders, while continuing on his merry way.

Most people either don’t pay a tenth of their income to God, or they withhold it in a bank account with the idea of paying it at a later time to any organization which ever measures up to their “holier-than-thou” standards.

Withholding God’s tithe is stealing directly from our Creator who claims ownership of all in the universe.  Although tithing is giving a tenth of one’s income, you cannot give God “your” tithe, in this sense: It is not yours to give – it already belongs to God. He has put a “no trespassing” sign on it; it is the first tenth which He has reserved unto Himself.

It is only after we acknowledge God’s prior claim over that first tenth of the income He allows us to earn that He then gives us the other nine-tenths.

We cannot play games with God and somehow sneak our way into His Kingdom. We cannot slip through like a person bolting the line waiting for an unemployment check, or worming his way into a line of traffic illegally. No one will enter the Kingdom of God that way!

There are many blistering warnings by Jesus Christ Himself concerning those who try to sneak into the wedding supper wearing the wrong garments – that is, who expect to enter God’s Kingdom without being properly “spiritually clothed” with God’s righteousness. The clever arguments of those who pretend to be spiritual will avail nothing at Jesus’ coming. He Himself plainly said: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils (demons)? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:22-23).

It is iniquity, which means sin, to steal God’s tithe! Listen to this stinging indictment! “Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, wherein (how) shall we return” (Mal. 3:7). “To return,” as it is used in this verse, is an archaic English expression that simply means to start obeying God’s laws again.

Have you ever noticed that the people who don’t obey God always seem to have something to say? They pretend they don’t’ know they’re not keeping God’s commandments – it’s a complete mystery to them!

So God narrows down the indictment: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, wherein have we robbed thee” (v. 8). Same approach! People pretend they haven’t the faintest idea about anything they might be doing to offend God. So God explains exactly what He means in very explicit terms: “In tithes and offerings.”

Then God says we are financially cursed because we’re breaking a fundamental financial law: “Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation” (v. 9).  Does anyone who lives in America or Britain, or Australia doubt that these Western nations are, in fact, under some kind of horrible curse in spite of their comparative wealth? It’s almost a contradiction in terms – cursings and blessings at the same time – yet news of our latest financial debacles are regular headlines in the United States and Britain and Australia.

To spend the next few paragraphs elaborating on the personal financial difficulties of private American citizens and British subjects would be a waste of time. You yourself are probably in debt all the way up to your lower lip. And that’s another reason you might claim that you cannot afford to tithe! It is the most common excuse used— “I can’t afford to tithe”. But does God accept “excuses?”

Our Creator does not offer us complex solutions to our financial problems. He simply states: “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 host, 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 all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts” (vs. 10-12).

If there were a universal tithing system in the United States today – with every single person “tenthing” his income to the Church of God, then the gospel of the Kingdom of God would go out to all nations in such great power that the evil world would be rocked back on its heels! The blessings of God would be poured out on this land as never before. But there is every indication that this won’t happen!

Instead, most will insist on continuing in their spiritual sicknesses. They will insist on “doing their own thing,” no matter what. But God speaks of our worsening moral crisis as it is: “Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters; they have forsaken the Eternal, they have provoked the Holy one of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart (of the English-speaking peoples) faint. From the sole of the foot (the lowest-income groups and levels of society) even unto the head (topmost government officials) there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises, and putrefying sores” (Isa. 1:4-6),

God charges our nations to repent – to turn from our sins, to quit breaking His laws, to return to Him! “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes, cease to do evil; learn to do well” (vs. 16-17). Jeremiah adds: “Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor then will I cause you to dwell in this place” (Jere. 7:3, 5, 7).

The people of Israel (our English-speaking peoples) always have a comeback, an answer; they always have something to say! There is always an explanation, an excuse, a reason why they cannot obey their God. Mainly, they can’t afford it.

How long tax-dodgers can get away with evading taxes before they are indicted, tried, fined and possibly jailed, we don’t know. How long anyone can be guilty of tithe evasion – embezzling God’s money – and not suffer any consequences is another question we don’t ever want to answer personally. We certainly don’t want to be brought before a heavenly court with the sin of having robbed our Creator, nor do we want to experience any physical or spiritual setbacks in this life. How about you?

The real truth is that you can’t afford not to tithe! Let us share with you some real life experiences of a few who temporarily decided to stop tithing.

“We began tithing last year because it was commanded of God. Then something went wrong and we decided we needed the money for something else. We ‘reasoned’ that we would make up the $24.70 ‘next’ time. The next week my pay dropped $100 per week. Then it dropped to $57. That’s not all, either. I’ve gone into debt again, whereas before I was getting out quite rapidly. Believe me, you need not worry about my tithe. It will arrive every week from now on.” (From Sanford, Maine.)

“I went to work about three years ago, and I promised God if He would give me the strength to work I would pay Him His ten percent. But I didn’t. So I got sick and had a major operation in April. Now I’m keeping my promise, and sending you my ten percent because I feel that you are really doing God’s Work in reaching people.” (From Morgantown, West Virginia.)

“I was tithing regularly until last December when I gave it up to boost my financial viability. However, in May I was sacked from my job and have not been able to secure another. I attribute my long layoff to the absence of God’s blessings. Should I obtain another job – and I hope to do so early next month – I wish to resume tithing on a ‘forkeeps’ basis.” (From Ghana.)

There is one very poignant biblical example of two people withholding money from God which continually warns us of the horrible end result of letting lust for money begin to virtually rule our mind and hearts.

God saw to it that the account was preserved for us in the book of Acts. “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession (which they owned outright), and kept back (withheld surreptitiously) part of the price, his wife also being privy to it (a willing accomplice), and brought a certain part (while posturing that it was all), and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, was it not thine own? And after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? (No one was forcing him to give it to the Church). Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart?

And then follows the account of the sudden deaths of Ananias and his wife Sapphira (vs. 5-10).

Many others were selling their property and giving the proceeds to the apostles openly and aboveboard (Acts 4:34-37). But Ananias and Sapphira were caught up in this posture of pretense. They were posing in front of the congregation as great givers, while privately holding back a portion of the selling price. Their carefully concealed (they thought) covetousness literally killed them!

There is a vital lesson in this account – even over and above the sober warning against lying and lust for material possessions. Once you decide privately and deliberately in your own mind – just between you and God – to give something to Him, it is no longer yours.

One reason God tells us to tithe is so “that the Eternal may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou does”(Deut. 14:29).

God always blesses those who tithe! Not that they always suddenly inherit a huge sum of money or receive fantastic raises, but over the long haul their 90% spreads out to accomplish much more than 100% would have.

No one can out give God! We believe in, and serve, a living God – the great Creator, who blesses us with life itself, and with every emotion, every joy, love, excitement and all the wonderful moments of life. By promising us eternal life for serving, obeying and fulfilling the very purpose of our calling, our Creator proves He is on the giving side. And God’s Word plainly commands us to be on the giving side, too!

 
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