In the book of Malachi, Israel was charged with the offense of robbing God. Once again, the people of God had been faithless, breaking their covenant with the Lord. Yet God’s great love compelled Him to offer His people one last chance to repent: “From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you” (Malachi 3:7–9, ESV).
The idea of robbing God seems inconceivable. At first, Israel denied the charge. So hardened and cold had the nation grown that they were blind to the fact that they had abandoned their first love for the Lord. God then specifically explained that the people of Israel were robbing Him by bringing only part of their tithes and offerings to the temple. In their tightfisted, self-centered state, they were cheating God, failing to bring Him the whole tithe and the required offerings to the temple (cf. Malachi 1:14).
The law mandated that a tithe, or a tenth, of the produce of the land be given to the Lord (Leviticus 27:30). Specific offerings were required, as well. When the people held back portions of the tithes and offerings for themselves, they were breaking the law and, in effect, robbing God. They were taking what belonged to God and using it for themselves.
Israel was robbing God by not giving Him what He was owed. So the Lord called the people to return to Him and put Him first. God promised to pour out the most abundant blessings and favor on His children if they would respond to His love with open hearts: “‘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. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Malachi 3:10–12).
We are not under the Old Testament law today, and we are not required to give a tithe as Israel was; however, it’s still possible that we rob God when we don’t give Him what He is owed: our wholehearted love, trust, obedience, service, and worship. Everything we have comes from Him: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17; see also 1 Timothy 6:17). We rob God when we are stingy with our time—keeping it mostly for ourselves—and neglecting to pray, worship, and serve the needs of others.
God deserves nothing less than the absolute best of our time, attention, obedience, devotion, and resources. Our wallets are only one part of the equation. We owe the Lord our very lives: “For 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 ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18–19). Our willingness to express the Lord’s ownership of our lives through open-hearted, cheerful giving is the minimum we can do. God loves this kind of generous worship (2 Corinthians 9:7).
As He did for Israel, God still holds open the door for us to repent of our wayward, half-hearted devotion and to come into His presence, offering Him our entire selves. To surrender our lives to God means to love and trust Him with all our hearts through intimate, daily fellowship. We are precious in His eyes (Isaiah 43:4). He will always care for His children and never abandon us: “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous abandoned or his children begging for bread. He is always generous, always lending, and his children are a blessing” (Psalm 37:25–26, CSB).
We can give freely to God, trusting that He will pour out more provision to meet our needs than we could ever imagine: “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 back to you” (Luke 6:38, CSB). The surest safeguard against falling into the sin of robbing God is trusting in the Lord’s limitless love and abandoning ourselves in wholehearted devotion to God.