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Series: Tithing Counts
Message:  God’s Plan for Prosperity
Malachi 3:6-12
One of the great things about preaching in Brazil is that the people preach back to you.
Even with the time lapse of translation, there is a rhythm that you get into where you preach and they preach, and if you aren’t careful, they will outpreach the preacher.
That’s the way many Black churches in the United States are, too.
And once in a church like that the pastor started by saying, “This church been sittin’ here too long!”
“Amen, Preacher!
Been sittin’ here too long!”
For the last 6 years, this church has been flying.
We’ve gone from 1 congregation to 7 congregations—with more on the way.
We’ve gone from 2 kids to over 50 kids—and at least 20 more on the way!
We’ve gone from 1 pastor to a staff of 10—
We’ve gone from 30 people to almost 700—including the churches that we’ve been able to start.
And if we’ve learned anything, it’s that “IT TAKES MONEY TO FLY!”
Now, there’s no question that our church has seen some incredible financial miracles.
For example, when I came to Immanuel, we owed over $521,000 on our building.
Today, due to the sacrifices of many people, that debt stands at just over $150,000.
When I came the church’s dream of turning its original chapel into a fellowship hall seemed like an impossibility, but today, due mostly to the generosity of Mary Shaffer, that dream has been fulfilled.
When I came there was no money available to pay a pastor’s salary.
Today we pay the full-time salaries of 3 pastors, a part of a 4th pastor’s salary, and the part-time salary of 4 other staff members.
When I came to Immanuel, we were the recipients of many churches giving to missions.
Last year, we gave over $50,000 to missions.
So, I don’t want to dismiss or discount how far we’ve come as a church—including in the area of stewardship, but I think what Paul said to the Corinthian church is what the Lord would say to us, as well.
*2 Corinthians 8:7 (NIV) \\ *7But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us£—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
We’ve excelled in evangelism.
(We were in the top 5% of member to baptism ratios last year and in the top 25% in total baptisms in the entire SBC.)
We’ve excelled in church-planting, and I’m convinced that this will be the greatest impact we have.
We’ve excelled in reaching Young Families and now college students.
But in order to keep winning people to Christ, and in order to keep starting churches, and in order to keep reaching young families and college students—
We must also excel in the area of giving.
And that’s a hard thing, in part, because of the age of most people in our church.
In fact, while we’ve proven that you can…what we haven’t proven is that we can sustain it by paying for it…
Explanation of Financial situation at Immanuel
But before we say “Let her sit!”  and before we say, “It just can’t be done!”
Let’s take a look at God’s Plan for Prosperity—Both personally and corporately.
! I.                   Prosperity Comes When we Honor God First
EXP: When you look in Malachi 3:6 you see God’s complaint against the people that they had turned away from Him and that they needed to return.
They ask, “How shall we return?”
And the answer is, “You have stopped giving tithes and offerings.”
God says, “BY not tithing you are robbing me.”
Have you ever been robbed?
It’s a very terrible feeling of being violated, isn’t it?
Something that was yours was wrongfully taken from you and everything in you says, “That isn’t right!”
We scream inside for justice and our first emotions may be to be vigilantes and go, ourselves, and get what is ours back.
And several things restrain us from doing that, like the fact that we might get injured, or we don’t know who took our things, or that the law might find us more guilty than it does the original thief.
Here God says to the Israelites, “I have been violated by you, and if it weren’t for my everlasting covenant, I would destroy you!”
Now, the question is, “Of what had the Israelites robbed God?”  Well, you may be tempted to say, “Money.
But I think that it is something far greater than that.
Here’s the bottom line:  While the surface problem was that they weren’t giving their tithes and offerings, the foundational problem—the greater problem—was that they had robbed God of His Honor.
They were failing to give God the Honor and the Glory that He deserves and they owed.
This is the major theme in Malachi.
Look, for example, in Malachi 1:6-9.
Now, the main issue is not that God is poor and somehow needs our money in order to survive, it is that God has established the practice of tithing as a very tangible way for His People to show Him honor.
It is the way for us to say, “God you are first in my life!
And I recognize You as the Provider of Everything I have in life.”
! Tithing is Primarily an Act of Worship
The Bible is filled with this emphasis from cover to cover.
*Proverbs 3:9 through Proverbs 3:10 (NIV) \\ *9              Honor the LORD with your wealth,
       with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10   then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
       and your vats will brim over with new wine.
Deut 14:23 (Living Bible) The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives.
* *Tithing is God’s Way for us to Recognize God’s Sovereignty*
* *
*Psalm 24:1 (NIV) \\ *1              The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it,
       the world, and all who live in it;
Look up 1 Chronicles 29:10-16
* *
* *Tithing is God’s Way for us to Recognize His Past and Present Provision*
* *
*James 1:17 (NIV) \\ *17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
When we give we are acknowledging that every good gift we have in life, comes from God.
Let me just give you a few examples of that:
James 1:5 says God gives wisdom to those who ask for it.
Exodus 31:3-6 teaches that God gives skill to people to be able to make and build things with their hands.
(You know, all of us make a honorable living through either the wisdom God has given or the physical skill with our hands that God has given.
Both are equally honorable, equally important, and equally necessary.)
Matthew 7:11 says He gives good gifts to those who ask
*Isaiah 45:7 (NIV) \\ *7              I form the light and create darkness,
       I bring prosperity and create disaster;
       I, the LORD, do all these things.
Take inventory of all that you have, all of it, every last bit of it, is a gift from God because He gives good gifts including the ability to work with your hands or with your knowledge to provide a living for your family.
And tithing is a way that we acknowledge, “God you have provided for me.”
And you know, we’re just talking about physical needs; material needs.
What about our spiritual needs?
*1 Peter 1:18 through 1 Peter 1:19 (NIV) \\ *18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
It’s pretty hard to say that you are honoring God, who gave His Son’s life for your salvation, when you refuse to honor Him by giving financial things that are only going to last for a few decades anyway.
* *Tithing is God’s Way for us to acknowledge our belief In God’s Future Grace*
1 Sam 2:30  “Those who honor Me, I will honor…”
So, what we are seeing is that Prosperity comes when we honor God as the Source of Prosperity in the past and in the future because when we do that God continues to honor us…and one very important way that we honor God is through tithes and offerings.
! II.
Prosperity Comes when we Prioritize Eternal Matters
EXP: In verse 10, the Lord says to the people, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.”
In the temple there was a room to store tithes of crops and animals brought by the people, and this was the temple treasury.
This treasury provided for the priests so that the ministry of the temple could go on without the priests having to leave the temple to earn money in another way.
In fact, one of the problems in Nehemiah’s day was that the people had neglected to bring their tithes, and as a result the priests had gone back to farming.
*Nehemiah 13:10 through Nehemiah 13:11(NIV) \\ *10I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and singers responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields.
11So I rebuked the officials and asked them, “Why is the house of God neglected?”
Now, today, we operate with a system of cash currency or sometimes cashless currency, so we don’t have a place to store heifers, rams, and pigeons.
And we’re not offering burnt offerings these days, either, so things are a little different than they were then, but the principle is the same.
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