A second argument that people give to avoid the tithe is that they "cannot afford it." What that statement really means is that they cannot pay their tithe and pay all the other expenses they have incurred. Again, in their minds the tithe is the last resort in the budget. Their giving to God is something that is at the bottom of their list of priorities. It's a weak argument before God to say, "Lord, I didn't tithe because I couldn't afford it" - especially when we consider that the poorest among us has a higher standard of living than ninety-nine percent of the people who have ever walked on the face of the earth.

There are many more excuses that people give to avoid this responsibility, yet the New Testament tells us: "Let the thief no longer steal" (Eph. 2:28a). If we have been guilty of stealing from God in the past by withholding our tithe from Him, that behavior must cease immediately and give way to a resolution to begin tithing at once, no matter what it costs. It's an interesting phenomenon in the life of the church, that people who in 1960 gave a dollar to the offering plate every week, still give that same dollar today. Everything else in their living costs has been adjusted to inflation except their giving. We also have to remind ourselves that if we give gifts to God, we cannot call them tithes if these gifts fall beneath the level of ten percent.

One of the sad realities of failure to tithe is that in so doing we not only are guilty of robbing God, but we also rob ourselves of the joy of giving and of the blessings that follow from it. I have yet to meet a person who tithes who has expressed to me regret for being one who tithes. On the contrary, I hear from them not a sense of judgment towards those who don't give but rather a sense of compassion toward them. Frequently, I hear tithers saying, "People who don't tithe just don't know what they're missing." It is a cliché and a truism that you can't out-give God. That statement has become a cliché because it is so true. In the text in Malachi, we find something exceedingly rare coming from the lips of God. Here God challenges His people to put Him to a test: "Put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need" (3:10). Have you put God to that test? Have you tried Him to see if He will not open heaven itself and empty His own treasuries upon you? We need to stop robbing Him and thus receive from Him the blessing that He promises.

Dr. R.C. Sproul is founder and president of Ligonier Ministries, and he is author of the book Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow.

Original publication date: August 13, 2009