Have you ever tried to take a toy from a toddler? If so, then you know it’s hardly worth the effort. Even though the child probably doesn’t know where the toy came from, the words my and mine repeatedly resound. It’s hers and no one else’s.
Mine. It’s one of the first words we learn as children. No one has to teach us to be possessive. Hoarding comes naturally. Maybe we fear that we won’t have what we need or that someone will take what we think rightfully belongs to us. Learning to share is so often the challenge.
God instituted the concept of tithing during Moses’ time. Not only was it the way God provided for the Levites, but it was also a spiritual discipline to teach his people to rely on him. By giving God the first tenth of their produce, they acknowledged that all they had was from his hand. In this passage, God lamented that the people were robbing him by withholding their tithe. He asked them to “test” his generosity. And wow! God can pass that test, opening the floodgates of heaven and pouring out so much blessing that there will not be enough room for it.
With a return like that, who wouldn’t want to give to God? But God doesn’t ask us to give out of his own need or for what we receive in return. He asks us to give as a reflection of how generous he has been to us. He has, indeed, poured out mercy, forgiveness, provision and everything else we need. Jesus said, “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” (Luke 6:38). The Old Testament tithe was a requirement, but the New Testament offering is a test of the heart. Giving is not a duty but a joyous out pouring of gratitude. And giving is God’s way of making us, his people, a conduit of his love to others.
We cannot receive God’s gifts with closed fists. No, receiving requires open hands. What God pours into our hands, we pour out. And in God’s kingdom, there is always more to spare.
“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.”