Malachi 3:6-10

Will a man rob God

A tale from India records the chronicle of a frightened mouse.  So terrified is he of cats, he is too afraid to venture out.  So, a wizard agrees to convert the tiny creature into a cat.  Now graceful and stealthy, with his fears removed, he is courageous—until he finds a wild dog chasing after him.

In horror, the mouse-turned-cat stops going out to explore.  So, the worker of magic decides to turn him into what he dreads most—a dog.  With his latest phobia now far removed, as a canine unleashed into the world, he runs undaunted, full of delight.

Soon, he meets a lion.  So, once more, the wizard does his magic, and the dog turns into what scares him most.  For what does the king of the jungle fear?  A week passes, and the prowling feline comes scampering back, panicked by a hunter.  “All right, I will switch you back into a rodent.  Though you walk with the body of a lion, the heart of a mouse is still inside you.”

How familiar the story, though the words are new to us.  For everyone is scared of something.  All around us, people protect themselves with a thick, hardened shell, all to hide the trembling child within.  Are we the mouse?  A mighty beast is our outer, protective armor, but inside quivers the frightened heart of the smallest creature.

In all we experience, when does fear sink into our belly?  Oh, we distress over the thief in the night, for he can break in and do us harm.  For those who work, another anxiety, never far away, is our unease over job security and money.  In our day, scarce is the employer who tries to show loyalty for years of devoted service.  The car can also die, the house can burn down, and soon we can be hungry, sleeping next to the gutter.

In the end, so much of our time revolves around money—though we may assume otherwise.  Now, unless you’re someone who uses misery and poverty to finagle help from others, none of us likes to let out how precarious our finances may be.  Some of us might be a couple of paycheques away from being homeless.

On the outside, we portray a self-reliant air.  For if you reveal you are a loser in this world, you might as well be hammering the nails into your coffin.  So, we go about our everyday business, using credit cards, transferring money from one place to another, but on the inside beats the heart of a mouse.  Perhaps, all the more, from earlier years of needing to survive, hand to mouth.

About three months ago, a radio program went out, titled: “How safe is your job?”  The show spoke about the changing workforce because of automation and globalization.  A new wind is blowing about, whispering, “Prepare and cinch your belt.”

To live in such a daunting world.  So, we need an enduring assurance from the Holy Spirit to rejuvenate us, so fears about providing for tomorrow will not take us hostage.  Oh, to be rid of our troubled hearts, to face our financial challenges with the roar of a lion!

The prophet, Malachi, relays to us the Almighty’s solution.  “For I, Yahweh, do not change.  So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed” (Malachi 3:6).

Amid our many undertakings, we find ourselves in a commercialized world, which aims to turn everything into a reason to make a profit.  The national holidays evolve into another day to shop for something on sale.  The ads over the airwaves and the internet all stream with this propaganda intertwined in the message—“You can buy happiness.”

Now, if so, we will be dying of gladness and glee, not disease or old age.  The items we own don’t bring us contentment; no, they often wind up owning us, instead.  The dollar in our wallet can be a blessed servant but can turn into the evilest of masters.

The more money in our purse, the more we purchase.  The more in our hand, the more we crave.  The more in our chequing account, the more we fret.  The wise Solomon, embittered from striving to satisfy his every want and wish, philosophized as he neared death.  Listen to his words, “I recommend enjoyment because nothing is better for someone on this earth than to eat, drink, and enjoy himself.”

Now, with only this, we might grow into self-indulgent, pleasure-seekers.  Now take in the second half of the verse.  “For these will go with someone in his labor during the days of his life, which God gives to him, here on this earth” (Ecclesiastes 8:15).

What does he mean?  Focus on being faithful where your Lord places you to serve.  Such is your purpose in life and, when you do so, you find real and lasting satisfaction.  Don’t be like the Israelites, whom their Father above needed to reprimand.  “From the days of your fathers, you turned away from my statutes and did not keep them.  Return to me, and I will return to you, says Yahweh the Almighty” (Malachi 3:7).

The Prophet goes on.  “Can a person steal from God?  Yes, and you are doing so.”  “How are we stealing from you?”  “In your tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8).  Too often, we acquire what is unneeded, with money we lack, to impress people we don’t like.  All this we do while we withhold from the One who supplies us from His creation.

The Lord told His people, “A curse is on you, for the entire nation is stealing from me.  Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so food may be in my Temple” (Malachi 3:9-10).  The work of God’s House suffered, all because the people let something else become more important than the One who saves them.

Are we doing the same?  “Come on—tithing is Old-Testament stuff!”  Yes, in the New Covenant, we are not commanded to pay back 10% of our earnings.  In Jesus, you are free to give little as you are much.  The reasoning behind the tithe, however, still exists, but not the percentage.

In ancient Israel, God demanded a portion, 10% of one’s income, which became the wages for the Temple priests.  The command is no more.  Still, we need pastors to preach the Word and give out our Lord’s Sacraments, as Christ instructs.  Don’t we also need to heat and cool this building and upkeep the property?  Yes.  Also, someone might stop by in dire circumstances.  Should we not want to help him in some way, if we can?

Give a part of your earnings back to your Father in heaven.  Every time you do so, you remind yourself of this—money is not your god.  Also, you tell your sinful nature to back off and not boss you around.  Don’t let your possessions possess you.  Give to God, not as a fool so you can’t fulfill your other vocations, but trusting in God above.

“Put me to the test,” He declares (Malachi 3:10).  How wrong to try the Lord—but not when He decrees as much.  Rare is the time when the Almighty directs His people to put him on trial.  Now, this is risky!  “What if?”

In 1776, our Founding Fathers declared their independence from Britain, realizing well the risk they took.  For if the colonial armies lose, the rebellion price will be their blood.  Still, they pledge their lives, land, and fortune, with the result of the war still unknown.  Unlike them, history provides us the ending, for which they struggled.

“True faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain, the believer will stake life itself on this grace a thousand times over.”  So wrote Luther in his Romans commentary.  From Malachi, we learn our Father “will open the windows of heaven for you and pour down a blessing beyond your need” (Malachi 3:10).

In the end, Scripture is pointing us to eternity.  The work of Jesus and His sin-forgiving blood brings you into everlasting glory, with blessing surpassing all your needs.  Such awaits everyone who believes in Him.  So, why does giving back to God, here and now, matter?  Here’s why.  A link does exist between what I do with my money and the spiritual depth in my life.  The Scriptures are clear on this, passage after passage.

How you spend, save, and share your money affects the blessings from above the Lord can trust you to handle.  Heed the words of your incarnate Lord.  “Give, and you will receive.  The fullest measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be heaped into your lap.  The measure you use is what you will receive” (Luke 6:38).

A man, renown for hideous money management, goes to work.  This day is different, for his angst and agony are no more, and his co-workers are perplexed.  So they talk to him.  “What’s going on?”  “Oh, I hired a guy to do my worrying for me!”  “What?  How much does he cost?”  “About $2,000 a week!”  In disbelief, “How can you afford him?”  An uncontrollable laugh burst out from the man.  “That’s his worry, not mine!”

Ah, the stupidest of stories now becomes an unexpected parable.  For your Father tells you through Malachi—your economic anxieties are His.  So, “seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and [your earthly needs] will be yours, as well” (Matthew 6:33).

In your redemption, you understand how everything will end.  For in Christ, all is yours, realized in full at the resurrection.  The future ahead is meant to affect the present.  For what is to come is not something abstract but real.  For salvation is more than delighting in forgiveness.  For our Father also delivers us His peace, as we rely on Him to act through every turn of events for our heavenly joy.

Why live in a stranglehold, always gasping for air?  The Creator of the universe holds you forever in His hands.  Trust in Him as you also benefit from the wisdom of Solomon’s regret.  So, dine, drink, and relish life as you go about your God-given tasks during the days He grants you.

In real relationships, in eating, drinking, and enjoying the comradery of friendship, love the Lord by loving and serving others.  For when God is your master and not your money, your life takes on meaning—all the way into the realms of eternal bliss.  Amen.

 

 

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