Tithing Measures Our Love


Tithing Measures Our Love

October 18th, 1970 @ 8:15 AM

Malachi 1-3

The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever. And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel. A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts. And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the LORD of hosts. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand. For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen. And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it. And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity. For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law. Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers? Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts. And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment? Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years. And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. 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 shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. 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 hosts, 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 I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts. Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered. Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
Related Topics: Giving, Offerings, Support, Tithing, 1970, Malachi
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Dr. W.A. Criswell

Malachi 1-3

10-18-70   8:15 a.m.




Now the message this morning.  I called the chairman of our budget committee, Brother Ralph Pulley, and I said, “Ralph”—I look on these fellows now as my sons, my children—I said, “Ralph, I want you to cut down our budget this year.  I want you to cut it down $200,000.”  I suppose I was in a moment of spiritual discouragement.  I said, “I want you to cut it down $200,000.”  Well, he made an appointment with me with some of the other leaders in our church.  And they came to my study, and they said to me, “Pastor, we have been made aware of your request to Deacon Ralph Pulley, but pastor, it cannot be done.  We have an obligation for one thing to the bank; $20,000 a month we have to give to the First National Bank on a note.  That is the payment of these valuable properties that we have bought.  We have to pay for them, and we cannot cut down on that building obligation.  Pastor,” they said, “we have not raised our giving to missions and to cut it down would be unthinkable.  And you would not want to cut down on our mission program.  And now, pastor, there remains the work we are doing in the church.  When our staff came and presented their budgets, we meticulously went through every item, and we pared out and off what we could.  Pastor,” they said to me, “it just cannot be done.  We must do this and you must lead us to do it.”  Well, that is the way, after a prayer, that they left. 

Now as I lay my soul naked before God, I would pray as you would, “Lord, if this assignment is ours, and if God has laid this upon us, then Lord there has to be some way to do it.”  Would God call us to a task, lay upon our souls a ministry, and then give us no way to do it, no outline, no program?  Would God do such a thing to His servants, to His church?  Well, as you search your heart and as you search the Scriptures, you come up with always an inevitable answer.  God did not give us a mandate, a program, an assignment and then forget also to give us an outline how to do it.  And if this ministry and this work we are trying to do, mediating the love and grace of Christ here in this great area and through our mission program through all the world, if God has called us to that, then God has given us a way to do it.  And that way is as ancient as God’s dealings with the human family.  You cannot go back in archaeological history and find any time, in any culture, in any civilization where God made Himself known that He also did not reveal this heavenly plan.

For example:


And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: he was the priest of the Most High God. 

And he blessed Abram, and said, Blessed be Abraham of the Most High God, who possesses heaven and earth.

And blessed be the Most High God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.  And Abraham gave him tithes of all.

[Genesis 14:18-20]


Four hundred years before the law.  And as Jacob who later was named Israel, the prince of God, lay down his head upon a stone [Genesis 28:11], he saw the vision of a ladder leaning against God’s sky.  And he saw the angels descending.  And he saw the angels ascending and descending [Genesis 28:12].  And Jacob called the name of the place Bethel, the house of God [Genesis 28:19].  “And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be Bethel, God’s house: and of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto Thee” [Genesis 28:22.] 

How deeply ingrained that was in the lives of the patriarchs who lived by faith [Habakkuk 2:4].  Then four hundred years later, God gave the law, and in that law, repeated again and again, “the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord” [Leviticus 27:30, 32].  The tenth, the tithe, shall be holy unto the Lord; that is, it does not belong to us, it belongs to God.  And in the years and the centuries that passed, in the establishment of the church, Paul wrote, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you,” that includes our children, that includes every member of the family, we all share in the life of the family; the little baby belongs to the family; the little boy, the little girl, all of our children, all of us, “let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him” [1 Corinthians 16:2], a proportion, Sunday by Sunday by Sunday, God’s proportion. 

There was a man in the day when people rode the railroad trains, and in the day when they rode in horse and buggies, and this man who had arrived on the railroad train was seated at the front with the driver of the coach.  He was impressed with the sincerity of the driver of the coach.  So the traveler said to him, “I would like to have you to be one of my porters.”  And the man shook his head decisively.   “Why,” he said, “It would be a fine place, and you would make a fine porter.” 

And the driver shaking his head emphatically said, “Not so.”  He said, “When I work, I like for a man to look me eye to eye and pay me what I am due.  I don’t like for a man to put it in my hand behind my back, loose change, a tip, whatever whim or fancy might dictate.”

Now the traveler was a Christian man, and he said, “As I began to turn that over in my mind, I began to think about God; whether God would like for a man to look Him eye to eye and give Him a proportion instead of a tip, or whatever is left over, or whatever by whim or fancy, or loose change he might have at the moment.  

 And this is according to the Word of God, and I suppose that’s where our stewardship people and our church gained the title of their theme, “Tithing: A Measure of Our Love.” For in the prophet Malachi, the Lord God says to the people:


Ye offer the blind for sacrifice . . . and ye offer the lame and the sick . . .  Behold, you say, what a weariness it is!  And ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick . . . Bring it now unto thy governor, the satrap of Artaxerxes, will he be pleased?  For I also am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and My name is dreadful among the nations.”

[Malachi 1:8, 13-14] 


Shall I offer to God a tip, or whatever is left over, or whatever by whim or fancy I might be moved to dedicate to Him?  Whatever we give, there ought to be in it some measure of cost and sacrifice.  As David said to Araunah, “I will not offer unto the Lord that which doth cost me nothing” [2 Samuel 24:24].  “And as Jesus sat over against the treasury, and watched how the people gave, He commended a poor widow who gave all her living” [Mark 12:41-44].  There ought to be in our lives that measure of devotion that when I come before the great King, I offer something that costs, that is dear, that is precious unto me. 

Some of these statisticians love to look at how people do.  They add us up; they divide us; they subtract; they multiply; they love statistics.  Here is one.  They took the members of the church and they ran it down, how the church member spends his money.  So this is entitled, “The Church Member’s Dollar.”  Out of every dollar that the average church member, looking at all the church members, this is what they spend it for:  for living expenses, twenty-four and a half cents; for luxuries, twenty-two cents; for taxes, twenty-eight and a half cents; wasted, fourteen cents.  And after they get down, here is the bottom one, for the church of the Lord, three-fourths of one cent.

 When you read things like that, you bow your head in shame.  There out in the world it is a gushing stream, here it is a straightened trickle.  There it is a burning fagot; here it is a dying ember.  Lord, Lord, could such a thing be?  Could such a thing be?  God encourages us by every promise and heavenly, benedictory gift, if we will be true to Him in this dedication, listen to the prophet:


Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, saith the Lord, and prove Me now herewith, try Me, prove Me now herewith, 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.

 [Malachi 3:10] 


“Try Me,” saith the Lord.  “Prove Me,” saith the Lord [Malachi 3:10].  “There is a blessing in it,” God says.  Like eating, like breathing, like seeing, like hearing, like feeling; God made these things, and they carry with them a blessing.  As the psalmist said, “O taste and see that the Lord is good” [Psalm 34:8].  Try it. 

Ah, one of the memorable experiences of my life; I was very young, I was in the seminary, but I was chosen as a member of a small team to go to those back-country, mountainous areas of Kentucky to share in stewardship convocations.  The association would be brought together.  And there were leaders from our Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tennessee and leaders from the state convention in Louisville, Kentucky, and we put on a program for the association.  And I was, oh, I was twenty-two years old, something like that.  I was in the seminary, and I was a member of that team.  Way, way back up, I don’t know where it was, way back up in that mountain country, we were having an all-day convocation in one of the churches in the association, and the people were there, and all the preachers were there. 

On the afternoon, they had such a fine high hour, and when the presentation was done, the moderator of the association asked if anyone had anything to say or any question to ask.  And seated right in front of me was a big hulk of a mountain man, a pastor of one of the churches.  He stood up.  I suppose he had worn that blue serge suit for twenty years.  I presume it was the only preaching suit that he had.  It just shined from all of the use.  Seated right back of him, I could see my face mirrored in the seat of his pants, big giant of a man.  Now I had known through other times and places those mountain people, and those preachers, and without exception, every one of them preached against tithing, every one of them.  Never saw one in my life that didn’t.  Well, when that great big mountaineer stood up, I said, “O Lord, this is going to ruin it.  This is absolutely the tragedy of tragedies.  We have had such a fine meeting, and he is just going to ruin it.  I know exactly what he is going to say.”  And I just cringed there in the seat back of him. 

Well, he started talking.  He knew all those people by name all of his life, and the tone of his voice was one of compassionate neighborliness, and he started out, ““My brethren, my brethren.  I preached,” he said, “for years against tithing, as you have done.  I preached for years against tithing.”  He said, “One day, while I was out in the field plowing”—all those preachers worked, they are farmers—“while I was out in the field plowing I began to think, turn over in my mind; ‘You know,’ I said to myself, ‘you know, I am preaching against something I have never tried.’  And it came to my heart that I would try it just to see what would happen.”  So, he said, “I began taking a tenth of everything God gave me, and I gave it to my little church where I pastored.  Everything, I gave a tenth.”  He said, “You know, God blessed my family.  God blessed my fields.  God blessed my flocks.  God blessed my herds.  And the days passed, and I went next door to my neighbor and my friend.  And I told my neighbor how God had blessed me.” And he said, “I said to my neighbor, ‘Let’s both try it.’  And my neighbor said, ‘Pastor, I will try it with you.’  And he took one-tenth of everything that God gave him, and the same thing happened.  God blessed his family.  God blessed his fields.  God blessed his flocks.  God blessed his herds.” 

And that big mountain man said, “Then, I stood up in my church, and I told my people how God had blessed me, and how God had blessed my neighbor.”  And he said, “I asked my church if they also would try it.  And my church tried it.”  And he said, “God blessed their families.  And God blessed their fields.  God blessed their flocks, and God blessed their herds.  God blessed our church.”  He said, “Brethren, what I have found of the goodness of God, I commend to you today.”  And he sat down.  Ooh, I will never forget that as long as I live, the effect of the personal testimony of that mountain man is one of the highest spiritual hours of my life.

“Well, pastor, look at all of these sinners out here.  They don’t tithe, and God blesses them.”  My brother, I have learned something in the years of my ministry.  God collects, don’t you think otherwise.  God collects, and He does it sometimes in ways that bow your head and your soul.  There is a lot more in that man’s life out there in the world than you know, than you realize.  If you want to be sun-crowned, and happy in your heart, and blessed in your soul, try it.  Why?  God says it.  Children, the Lord has promised it.  “Prove Me, try Me, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, pour you out a blessing, that there is not room enough to receive it” [Malachi 3:10].  Try it. 

And so I have come before the Lord, and I have said, “Lord, in this precious Book it is written by the prophet, ‘Not by power, not by clever manipulation, not by might, not by human ingenuity, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord’ [Zechariah 4:6], and our Master, please God, we shall make our dedication a part of our spiritual worship to Thee.  As the beautiful and ninety-sixth Psalm says, ‘Give unto the Lord the glory due His name’ [Psalm 96:8].  And we shall do it Lord.  ‘Give unto God the glory due His name:  bring an offering, and come into His courts’ [Psalm 96:8].  And we shall do it Lord.  When I come to bow me before the High God, I shall bring somewhat of what God hath given me in my hand.  I shall not come empty handed.  If I have not but a dime, a part of it shall I bring to Thee.  “Bring an offering, and come into His courts.  O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” [Psalm 96:9].  And our Master, with dedicated lives asking God to cleanse us, and to purify us, and to wash us, and to forgive us, in the beauty of holiness [Psalm 96:9], Lord, shall we appear before Thee Sunday after Sunday in Thy sanctuary, singing Thy praises, calling upon Thy name, and laying an offering at Thy blessed feet.”

My brethren and my sisters, I think God will bless us if we will [Malachi 3:10].  I don’t think God would let us down.  I think He will bless our families, and our children, and our homes, and our work if we will trust Him for it.  Do it.  Do it.

 Our time is spent and we sing our hymn of appeal.  To give your life to the Lord, to take Him as your Savior, to share with us in the glorious ministry of this dear church, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, in this balcony round, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Here I am, pastor.  I’m coming today.”  Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.