Covetousness and Tithing
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De 10:12 "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
 13 "and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?
 14 "Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it.
 15 "The LORD delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day.
 16 "Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.
 17 "For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe.
 18 "He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing.
 19 "Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
 20 "You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him, and to Him you shall hold fast, and take oaths in His name.
 21 "He is your praise, and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen.
 22 "Your fathers went down to Egypt with seventy persons, and now the LORD your God has made you as the stars of heaven in multitude.
 1Jo 2:7 Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.
 8 Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.
 9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.
 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.
 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
 12 I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake.
 13 I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father.
 14 I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one.
 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
 16 For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world.
 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
 Mr 10:17 Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"
 18 So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.
 19 "You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not bear false witness,' 'Do not defraud,' 'Honor your father and your mother.'"
 20 And he answered and said to Him, "Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth."
 21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me."
 22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
 23 Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!"
 24 And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!
 25 "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
 26 And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, "Who then can be saved?"
 27 But Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible."

Quiz time. The rich young ruler. What was his sin? If you were to name a commandment that he was breaking what would it be? The answer is “Thou shalt not covet.” I don’t know if you caught it or not but when Jesus was rattling off the commandments from what we call the second table of the Law. (Those commandments that deal with our relationships with our neighbor) He left that one off.

And the rich young ruler really believed that he had kept all these other commandments. Then Jesus looked at him.....he got his attention, and HE loved him, not with His look but with His words.

(People, let Jesus love you with His words. You’ll find them in the Bible. Don’t pick and choose what you feel comfortable with. Let Him love you with all His words, whether they be corrective in nature, or just reassuring. Read His word with the idea that He is speaking love to you!. Because He is!)  

As our OT lesson stated, don’t be stiff-necked when it comes to His word. Don’t be locked into your opinion, be willing to turn toward Him. The stiff-necked are those who hear this Word from a God who does not lie and then choose not to believe it.  

 Nu 23:19 "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
The stiff-necked are those who in spite of God demonstrating His love toward them by giving up His only Son for their sins, they say, “I still choose not to believe what You are saying. How foolish!

 Ro 8:32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Jesus knew the heart of this rich young ruler,  just as He knows your heart and my heart. He knew this man had to be moved from thinking outward obedience to the law results in salvation to that point of trusting Jesus alone for his salvation. So He speaks to him in an area that He knows
he cannot obey in his own strength.

And so He says, “One thing you lack  Go your way, sell whatever you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up your cross, and follow Me.”  

The rich man couldn’t bring himself to do it. He couldn’t keep that demand of the Law, he just had to have those riches. He couldn’t possibly see himself parting from them.....he was in fact, guilty of coveting.

Oh what a different outcome this would’ve been if the man would’ve said something like. “O Jesus, I see what You are getting at! I can’t keep the Law of God! I am guilty! My only hope is You! Forgive me of my pride and arrogance! Save me from my sins!  Help me Lord to die to my self and follow You!

But that’s not what happened. The young man went away sad, for he had great possessions, and he remained in his covetousness.

Covetousness is not a nice place to be, but you know what? You very seldom here that sin being preached against in the pulpits of our land. Did you ever notice that? Oh, we will rail against the sins of fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and abortion, and we should, but when’s the last time you heard someone rail against the sin of covetousness?

That’s a pity, because it is a common sin in the church today and it has deadly eternal consequences.

1Co 6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,
 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

 Eph 5:5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

 Col 3:5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

We can’t state it any clearer than that. Covetousness is idolatry. And the Apostle Paul says in Romans that those who practice covetousness are not deserving of eternal life!

Ro 1:32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things (as covetousness Rom 1:29) are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. You cannot serve God and mammon.

We see further evidence of the effects of covetousness in our epistle lesson. John talks about the new commandment that Jesus gave His disciples. He is referring to that last night when Jesus was in the upper room with His disciples and He said:

 Joh 13:34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
 35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
What has “love” got to do with covetousness? Read on! In verse 15 John makes the connection. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

If you love the world and the things of the world, you are covetous. You spend your love and money on material things rather than on loving your brother in measurable ways.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to have things, but don’t forget your brother! John makes the point even stronger in 1 Jn 3:17

But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” doesn’t!

The prophet Ezekiel spoke of this in

Eze 33:31 "So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain.

We can’t just give lip service to this idea of love. This is covetousness.

James addressed the matter too as he said:

 Jas 2:15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,
 16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Bottom line, this is the sin of covetousness.

In our Old Testament lesson, we can learn some things that might help us to deal with our tendency to be covetous.

First of all, fear the Lord! Show some respect for Him and His house. Love Him! Serve Him with all your heart and soul! Highly esteem His commandments!

Secondly, remember the truth of Dt 10:14, “Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth with all that is in it.”

Everything belongs to the Lord. Your salary, your social security check, your pension, your clothing, your food, your automobile or automobiles, your TV, the cable company. It’s all His. You couldn’t have one of your possessions or benefits without His permission.

Next in v15, understand that God loves His children. He loves you!
“The Lord delighted only in your fathers, to love them.”! Should we then also delight in loving others?

Finally understand the character of God. Notice those who have a special place in His heart.

The fatherless, the widow, and the stranger, “giving them food and clothing.” Therefore love the stranger” . Do you want to get closer to the heart of God? Then stop coveting and look for ways to feed and clothe the poor.

Do you want to get closer to the heart of God? Then stop robbing Him because of covetousness. And covetousness is self-evident in the church of Jesus Christ when people refuse to tithe. (To give 10% of their income to His church.)

 Mal 3:7  Return to Me, and I will return to you," Says the LORD of hosts. "But you said, 'In what way shall we return?'  (What can we do to get closer to You? And God thunders the Law at these covetous people, Stop robbing Me! Stop taking what is Mine and hoarding it for yourself! )
Stop tossing Me the leftovers. Take care of your obligation to me first!

 8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' And if we were playing Family Feud...the number one way in which we rob God is in our tithes and offerings.

“In tithes and offerings.”

 9 You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation

That’s the Law! And it ought to scare the pants off of you, if you are not tithing. You are robbing God! You are cursed with a curse!  But, having said that, since it is the Law, the worst possible thing you could do is reach into your wallet and start giving 10% of your income to the church out of fear. That’s legalistic compulsion and it won’t help you and the curse that is on you one bit.

What kind of givers does God love?

 2Co 9:7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

If  (we) are not cheerfully giving our tithe, we need to do what the rich young ruler should’ve done. Admit it, we are just like him in that we too have “great possessions.”  Does anyone here dare to deny the fact that you have great possessions?

Did anyone walk to church this morning?  Even the poorest of us here have great possessions! If you don’t think so, then it’s time you traveled to the third world countries and got a glimpse of true poverty..

The rich young ruler needed to admit his sin of covetousness, and ask Jesus for forgiveness, and then pick up his cross (die to himself) and live a life surrendered to and dependent upon Jesus.  He needed to move from trying to obey God to simply believing and trusting God.

That’s what I love about this portion of Malachi. Because God presents two options. You can tithe out of fear and legalistic compulsion.... obeying the Law, which will avail you nothing. Or you can tithe believing His promise:

10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now 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.
 11 "And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field," Says the LORD of hosts;
 12 "And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land," Says the LORD of hosts.

That’s the gospel.....trusting in God’s promises. The choice is yours. Don’t be stiff-necked like the rich young ruler. Believe God’s gospel promises.  Confess your sin, let Him forgive you and lead you away from the sin of covetousness as you open up your heart to His promises, and lead a life, led by His Holy Spirit..

Some of you may say, “but I’m up to my ears in bills, I couldn’t possibly give God 10% of my income.”  Okay, let me ask you this. What would you do if you received a 10% cut in pay? Would you not seek ways to adjust? Would you not make some cutbacks, do some downsizing. Find another job? Of course you would.

So you see, it’s really a matter of choice isn’t it?  Some of you don’t tithe out of ignorance....well, that excuse is gone after today!

It’s really a matter of choosing to love the things of the world rather than God.

If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.   

Oh beloved, let Jesus love you with His words this morning.  And if there be covetousness in your heart....allow Him to show it to you, and don’t walk away because you have great possessions, but rather walk toward the One who possesses everything, and believing His Word, His promises, receive His mercy, and His forgiveness, and His power for living according to His will. .