I just listened to my pastor, Dan Chun, deliver a sermon on tithing.  At my church (First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu at Ko`olau), an "average" sermon is defined as being excellent.  Today's sermon was definitely above-average in First Prez speak.  If an audio file of the sermon has not yet been posted on the First Prez website, it will be within the next few days.  It is worth a listen.

Pastor Dan boldly preached from Malachi chapter 3 about how God says that he expects us to live on 90% of what he puts into our hands, and that failing to tithe is actually robbing God of what is rightfully his.  Dan explained that God blesses those who tithe and withholds blessing from those who do not.  This got me thinking about why God wants so badly to get into my wallet.  I think the correct answer, as Pastor Dan touched upon, is that God has ulterior motives.

I mean really–the creator of the universe wants to get into my wallet?  Let's think about that.  According to Genesis 1.1, God created the heavens and the earth.  All he had to do was speak, and light, the stars and planets, and life sprang forth.  If he wants riches, he can speak them into existence.  In other words, he doesn't even have to print money.  He can make gold, precious stones, beachfront real estate, or you name it, just by using his voice. 

In Psalm 50.10, God proclaims that "every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills."  At the time and place that that verse was written, wealth was calculated by the extent of a person's livestock holdings.  To say that someone owned every animal in the forest, plus the cattle on a thousand hills, was another way of saying that God is by far the wealthiest being in the universe.  So if he is already unimaginably wealthy, and if he can make more whenever he wants just by saying "let there be ________" and then filling in the blank, I ask again:  why does God want a piece of what's in my wallet?  It can't be because he actually wants my stuff.  Something else has to be going on.

As Pastor Dan also pointed out, Jesus had something to say on the subject.  In fact, he a lot to say on the subject of money–he said more about it than he did about heaven and hell and sin and redemption.  One of Jesus' statements that I think answers my question (namely, why would God want to dip into my wallet?) is found in Matthew chapter 6, verses 19 through 21:  Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I think I'm starting to get it.  It's not my money God wants.  It's my heart that he is after, and he is not too proud to go through my wallet to get there.  He was not too proud to lay aside his divinity and become a baby born into poverty, who grew up to be celebrated and then rejected and hated and then nailed to a cross to die in order to pay the penalty for my sins.  But that wasn't all he was doing.  Jesus took away the separation between us and God through his death on the cross, but he also came to earth to tell each one of us, "I want a relationship with you.  I want you to give me your heart so I can fill your life with blessings beyond your wildest dreams."  In Bible speak, it actually goes more like this:  I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.  John 10.10.

This really is pretty amazing.  Just as God wants us to accept his free gift of salvation simply by admitting our separation from God (our sin) and asking him to take away the penalty for everything we have done wrong, he wants us to put ourselves in a position to be blessed by him in an outrageous manner simply by giving him back the first 10% of what he gives us.  Or we can keep that first 10% and let God keep the blessings that he wants to pour out on us. 

There still seems to be a very small catch here, and that is that we have to give God his 10% and then see what happens.   In Malachi 3.10, God says "put me to the test . . . see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing."  An "overflowing blessing" delivered by the creator of the universe, the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills, has got to be pretty good.  As Pastor Dan pointed out today, that doesn't mean God will make every one of us a millionaire, but who cares?  The most important blessings are priceless; they can't be bought with any amount of money. 

So God wants me to let him in to my wallet by way of the tithe so he and I can have the kind of relationship where he will bless me out of his incredible abundance.  Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

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