“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” – Malachi 3:10
In this season of stewardship, a verse kept coming to mind that I think speaks so much to what we are called to do as stewards, and what we can hope for as a result of our faithfulness. The thing that was strange about this verse, though, is how obscure it is. We think often about verses from the Gospels, Paul’s letters, or select books from the Old Testament that tend to stick with us and give us guidance in terms of how to live as Christians. However, it is not common for us to remember a verse from a book from the Minor Prophets, particularly from Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament. However, as I look back on experiences that deepened my understanding of what stewardship should look like in my life, this particular verse kept ringing in my brain.
It is a verse that encourages us to bring our compete offerings to the Lord, not just a part of it, and not just the part that we are comfortable with. As someone who has gone through periods of financial uncertainty in my life, the concept of setting aside a portion of my earnings was challenging at first. Particularly when there are increasing financial responsibilities and questions as to whether at times we can meet those responsibilities, the temptation to hold on to what we have can get strong, and the tendency to not give as much can become more entrenched. I think it is important to be honest about how uncomfortable that can make us, and to not be afraid to be honest with God about this discomfort. By admitting this, we take a giant step that paradoxically makes it easier for us to give to Him.
In taking this step, we realize that God is an important part of the equation of stewardship, and this verse reminds us as much. The focus of the tithes is His house, His sanctuary. He desires that we give so that His sanctuary may be full, and I believe there is an underlying reason for this: it is to His sanctuary that we go. It is in His sanctuary that we find hope and comfort, and it is in His sanctuary that we seek spiritual nourishment and refuge from a turbulent world. In order for this sanctuary, or His house, to provide for us, it needs to flourish in a way that makes provision possible. God can provide for us without having to involve us, but He chooses to involve us because He knows that ultimately it is for our good and for our ultimate blessing.
Ultimately, by acting as good stewards, the promise of blessing beyond our comprehension is emphasized. To be honest, this is a bold promise from the Lord: that if we are faithful in our giving, He will be faithful to us in providing for us. He calls us to test Him, to challenge Him to see if He is who He says He is. In a way, in that invitation to test Him, He is asking us if we believe Him to be as generous as He says He is.
In the grand scheme of things, that was the question that confronted me when I looked at my financial situation to determine how much I was willing to give. But in those internal questions, the image of His house would come to mind, and I would think about how much His house had blessed me. Through the faithfulness of the people in that house, and through other beautiful things in that house such as the music and the liturgy, I was getting closer to God without realizing it. I realized that for my spiritual growth, His house needed to be provided for; through how He organized it, the provision of the house depended on my own provision. I realized that my blessing depended on my giving.
I think that ultimately, this is what this verse is about: a reminder that our blessing is tied to our giving. Our blessing comes from the church providing for us and realizing how important the church is to our lives. Our blessing comes from realizing that in the church, we come face to face with God in a way that strengthens us for the challenges that await us. Our blessing comes from realizing that through the church, our love for God and for each other deepens.
For the church to thrive, it depends on our stewardship through our willingness to give back to it financially. When we look at the other verses surrounding this particular verse, the preceding verses emphasize the importance of us continuing to return to God, and the following verses emphasize that other people inside and outside of the church will see us as blessed. I don’t think it is an accident that in these verses, we see that how we think about stewardship will affect our ability to continue following God and will also affect the types of blessings that could potentially come into our lives. May we ultimately choose to test God in our stewardship, so that we continue returning to Him. Then all nations will call us blessed.