Will a Man Rob God?
With thanks to Mac Layton
 
By Paul Robison

This sermon is much shorter than most on this website.  The lesson of Bro. Layton is under copyright.  His complete message can be found in This Grace Also Chattanooga, TN: O'Neal Publishing Company, 3rd ed., 1980.  Since copyright issues have not been settled yet, Bro. Layton's main outline will only be presented.
 
How would you feel if someone accused you of stealing from God?  A prophet in the Old Testament accused the Jews of stealing from God.  His name was Malachi.  Before we look at three questions about robbing God, let's get some background on the book of Malachi.
 
Nehemiah had led a group of the Jews back to Jerusalem in about 444 B.C. after they had been exiled in Babylonia.  Malachi comes on the scene about 25 years later in 420 B.C.  The Jewish people had become very indifferent.  They suspicioned God's motives, did not keep their word, had many divorces, offered blemished and lame animals in their sacrifices, and put an emphasis on getting all the externals of worship right while being half-hearted in their devotion to God (NSB).  “It was a serious situation that called for a servant of God, and Malachi was God's man for this crisis” (Yates).  Malachi has an interesting style.  He almost reminds one of a lawyer presenting a case in court.  He would often make a statement or ask a question.  Then he would have the people raise a question.  Then he would present the Lord's case.  Someone has actually used this case idea to outline the book: the case of God's love (1:1-5), the case of God's honor (1:6-2:9), the case of the people's unfaithfulness (2:10-16), the case of God's judgment (2:17-3:6), the case of the people's returning to God (3:7-12), the case of the people's rebellion (3:13-18), the case of God's great day and Israel's future (4:1-6).  With this brief survey, let's now focus on the case of the people's rebellion and look at three questions about robbing God.
 
First, let's look at the text.  Open your Bible to 3:7ff: “Yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them.  'Return to Me, and I will return to you,' says the Lord of hosts.  But you said, 'In what way shall we return?'  [It is interesting that they didn't see that they had been disobeying God.]  Will a man rob God?  Yet you have robbed Me!  But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?'  In tithes and offerings.  'You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.  Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me in this,' says the Lord of hosts, 'If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.  I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the first fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,'  says the Lord of hosts. 'And all the nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,' says the Lord of hosts.”
 
The first question is: “How do members rob God today?”  The first response is:          “[Members] rob God by giving a portion of their means but not in proportion to their ability” (Layton).  “But, preacher, what about the poor widow who only gave two cents?”  Yes, her amount was small, but her proportion was enormous.  The Lord said that she had given ALL that she had.  She gave 100% of her income, and she put it all in God's hands.  Are we willing to give like that?  Not only does the Lord demand we give, but He demands that we give the proper amount.  In Malachi's days, the tithe was 10%.  What do Americans give today?  According to one source, we spend 24 cents of our dollar on housing, 22 cents on needs and personal recreation, 19 cents on health care, 17 cents on auto, 15 cents on food.  So how much is left for contribution?  The average is about 3 cents (Coy).  This means that many of us may need to think of tripling our contribution if we would meet the standard that God set for the Jews, if we would not be robbing God ourselves!  And did you notice that God put these Jews under a curse because they were just going through the motions and giving Him their leftovers?  “You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.”  Let's give in proportion to our ability!
 
“How do members rob God today?”  The second response is: “[Members] rob God when they give on the basis of one income when in reality they have two or more” (Layton).  “Give as you have been prospered” (1 Cor. 16:2).  This is the higher standard under which Christians live! Let's give according to all the ways that God has blessed us financially! 
 
“How do members rob God today?”  The third response is: “[Members] rob God by spending extravagantly and wastefully” (Layton).  How much do we spend on useless and needless things.  We could finance so many missionaries and other good works just off of money that we often use for frivolous purchases.  Remember, 22 cents for needs and personal recreation and 3 cents for the Lord; that 7 times more that we are spending on ourselves!  Many of us could triple our giving, and it would not deprive us of any necessity!
 
The next question is: “Why do members rob God?”  “[They] rob God because of ignorance—they do not know how important it is that they be faithful in the use of their possessions” (Layton).  Notice that Paul's calls the offering made by the Philippian brethren 'an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God’ (Phil. 4:18).  This shows that our giving is a divine service, and it is just as important as any other aspect of our worship to God!  How can some member think of Christ's death, resurrection, and return during the Lord's Supper, and then give nothing?  Here's a question for you: Do you possess your possessions or do your possessions possess you?  We must be faithful stewards with God's possessions, which we have been given on loan!
 
Why do members rob God?  “[They] rob God because of ingratitude” (Layton).  The old hymn has it right: “I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee.  What have you brought for Me?”  When Jesus has given us so many spiritual blessings, how can help but be grateful and generous in helping promote the Lord's work!
 
Why do members rob God?  “[They] rob God because of covetousness” (Layton).  The time-lines of our lives and the amount of our possessions don’t amount to much when compared to eternity!  Look at our baptistery and pick out one brick to focus on.  That one brick is your lifetime and all the wealth you have accumulated.  What is that brick compared to all the other bricks that we can see in this auditorium.  But we haven't even begun to make the comparison.  You see, these bricks here could be counted.  Take that amount, then double it, triple it, quadruple it, and we would even be close to eternity!  “The lazy person … covets greedily all day long, but the righteous gives and does not spare” (Prov. 21:25-26).
 
The third question is: “What results when we rob God?”  “When Christians rob God, the church is robbed of progress” (Layton).  Here's a question for you: Is there no sin worse than taking that which is the Lord's and using it on self!  Didn't Jesus tell us to spread His Gospel, support His church, and help the poor?  How can we do this when we don't give?

“When Christians rob God, the church is robbed of respect” (Layton).  We can try to impress the world in many ways, but our lack of giving causes us to lose credibility.  The early church in Jerusalem found favor with the people because they were a generous church!  If we are the Lord's true church, then we should be the most generous people in this city!
 
“When Christians rob God, they themselves are robbed of [eternal] salvation” (Layton) (Layton).  Liars won't have heaven as their inheritance (Revelation 21:8).  Withholding funds from God shows a corrupted love.  What would your wife think if you had given her coke can ring for her engagement ring?  “My, look how generous he is!  He must really love me!”  We'd say, “That's foolish!”  But this is not nearly as foolish as the member who sows only the flesh and keeps God's portion for selfish reasons!
 
Jesus once told Satan not to test God.  But notice, in this passage, God is asking the Jews to test Him: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me in this [or test Me in this],' says the Lord of hosts, 'If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.  “Give to Me and support My work, and I'll bless you abundantly!  “Trust Me!  Test Me!  See if I won't live up to My end of deal!  Have I ever failed to keep any of My promises to you?” “I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the first fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,'  says the Lord of hosts.”  “Oh, God, you don't understand.  Our economy is so bad right now!”  “My child, if I can make fields produce crops and vines produce fruit, don't you think I can bless your economy?”  “And all the nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,' says the Lord of hosts.”  Have you ever heard a member say something like this: “Oh, man, I just gotta have that flat screen TV!  I just gotta have that pickup truck!”?  Now, when are we going to hear a member say something like this: “Oh, man, I just gotta give to the church to see that new mission work start that Fred was talking about!  I just gotta give to help those sisters on the Soup Brigade to keep our neighbors feed!”  You know, if we have that hunger, that passion for giving, the people around here will call us blessed as well!  “Trust Me!  Test Me!  See if I won't live up to My end of deal!  Have I ever failed to keep any of My promises to you?”  “Oh, but preacher, that all Old Testament!”  Please turn in our Bibles to 2 Corinthians 9:6-8: “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able t make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)!  Notice the “alls” in this passage, and this is New Testament!

Isn't Paul saying the same thing that Malachi said?  One of our elders said that every time that they had given to help the church, God had never failed them in providing what they needed!  Just as God promised to bless the Jews in the Old Testament, so God has promised to bless Christians as well in the New Testament!
  
If you've been robbing God and now understand its disastrous effects, now is the time to repent, confess that sin, and start giving more to show God your genuine love for Him!  Don't let ignorance, ingratitude, or covetousness hold you back.  It may seem hard at first, but take this first step now towards greater generosity right now, and let God and others know that you won't to quit robbing God!  You want to be a cheerful and generous giver from now on!  Won't you come and let your decision be made known.