“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 there will not be room enough to store it.”
What an incentive to give! It reminds me of the place in the New Testament where Jesus says:
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Now to be clear, Jesus isn’t talking about money, but forgiveness and judgment. If you are known as being a forgiving person, then when you’ve mucked things up, people will be quick to forgive you. But if you have made a name for yourself as being a judging person, don’t expect mercy from others when you muck things up.
Still, Jesus is serving up a good dose of the principle of reaping and sowing. Now the thing about principles is that they are just that, principles. General rule-of-thumbs, not laws or promises. We know reaping and sowing is a principle and not a divine promise because it doesn’t always work. Sometimes people reap and sow nothing. Other times people sow lots without reaping a thing. Don’t believe me? Go read the book of Ecclesiastes.
But doesn’t God promise in Malachi 3:10 that if we tithe, God will “throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it”?
How this text is read is where I part ways with how a lot of people think when they think about reaping and sowing and God’s financial blessings. Many Christians think that if they give, God will supernaturally provide financial blessings. But the reaping and sowing principle is a principle precisely because it is based on the natural and not the supernatural. Jesus, being all-wise, offers a nugget of wisdom that wise men the world-over have been saying since ancient times: If you’re nice, people will generally be nice back. If you’re a jerk, people will generally respond in kind. Not always, but generally. Reaping and sowing.
[Of course God can, and sometimes does, supernaturally step in and provide. My own family experienced this provision many times growing up. But even there, often it came through the people of God. While the BIble does not promise that God will supernaturally step in to provide, it does teach that one of the fundamental roles of the people of God is to do just that, as God’s body, his Temple and a royal priesthood.)
In Malachi the principle is the same. But keep God’s heart in mind heart here which is that all of the people in the community be taken care of. That is the context of Malachi 3:10. The prophet is writing against those who
“defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice.” (vs.5)
It seems that people were concerned they did not have enough wealth to charge people proper wages (or they just didn’t want to, and preferred getting richer) or to take care of those who could not take care of themselves. Malachi was saying that if everybody brought their due to the storehouse of God – that is, the Temple – that there will be more than enough for everyone. Today’s readers have spiritualized Malachi’s words. But for the prophet, this was a very practical thing to do because what went into the Temple would be distributed by the priests evenly among those who had need. This also meant that for the person giving today, if they were in a needy situation tomorrow, there would be an abundance in the Temple that would be distributed to them. An abundance which others gave. Reaping and sowing. If we reap as a community, we sow as a community.
And because people who gave gave to the Temple, and because the Temple was the house of God, the giving was from God through the priests of God to the people of God. Not supernaturally (though sometimes it was), but naturally. And God would get all of the credit and praise and thanksgiving.
In the New Testament this principle comes out even stronger. God’s people gave, according to the book of Acts, so that nobody in the community had need. Sound familiar? Acts 4:32-35 is a literal fulfillment of the intent of Malachi 3:10, only without the command to tithe (which was Israel’s national social tax).
The Church, according to Peter and Paul (2 Pet. 2:5; 1 Cor. 6:9), is the Temple of God. God’s house. Money is given to the Church corporately (the storehouse of God), and then distributed among the people of God as the needs arise. In this way all of the people of God are taken care of and God gets all of the praise and thanksgiving. God is the one who provides the means, but he often reaches out with his arms and legs we call the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27). So the principle of reaping and sowing, of God providing financial blessings and taking care of our needs, it often comes through his people the Church. What is supernatural about it is the very existence of the Church. It is by God’s grace and love and through the marvellous work of the cross that she even exists.
But when we give, according to the grace given us, and when we receive, it is by Gods grace and often through Gods people.