Like many people reading this, I’ve had a few checkups with doctors in my life. Yet, while many of us will not go five years without a physical checkup, many people go their whole lives and never undergo a spiritual checkup.
We have probably all been there at one time or another in our spiritual lives. Perhaps it is a nagging sense of disconnection with the spirit of God, sort of like a one-sided conversation.
Maybe it’s a stagnation in one’s spiritual development and/or one or more sin habits that won’t let go. Maybe it’s a frustrating boredom with Bible study and/or a sense of dryness in prayer. Perhaps there is no enthusiasm for spiritual things, and God seems to be a little part of your life, but not the passion of it.
Once in a while, it’s a good idea to take your spiritual temperature; a spiritual health exam, if you will. The Apostle Paul wrote that we should examine and test ourselves to see if we are really in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).
In centuries past, when the nation of Israel had drifted — again — from its devotion to God, a messenger was sent to the Israelites to speak the word of the Lord to them. This prophet of God was sent to help Israel take her own spiritual temperature, and she was shown to be ice cold — indifferent to God and his ways, and thoroughly corrupted.
And yet the people were grumbling against God, complaining that he no longer answered their prayers or accepted their sacrifices. So, in speaking for God, this prophet declared to Israel, “Return to me, and I will return to you.”
So clueless were the Israelites about their state of spiritual deadness that the prophet’s accusations surprised them. “We didn’t even know we had gone astray,” was essentially their reply.
Spiritual decay is like that. If often catche “How are we to return?” they inquired.
“Will a man rob God?” Jehovah demanded. “Yet you are robbing me.”
“How are we robbing you?” they asked.
They truly had become so spiritually blind that they had no idea what God was talking about.
So when the Israelites asked God how he wanted them to return to him, what was the very first thing He brought up? Are you ready for this?
He wanted them to honor him with their money.
BAM. Right between the eyes.
If you want to get someone’s attention, just bring up how they use — or misuse — their money. Money is a very personal matter, and, in fact, Jesus said where your treasure is, that’s where your heart — or your affection and devotion — will be.
That’s why he also said that you can’t serve both God and money, because you are ultimately going to be devoted to one and despise the other.
The Israelites had been commanded to show their honor and thanksgiving to God by giving back to him the first 10 percent (“tithe”) of all their income, and they were commanded to also be willing to give special offerings from time to time for various purposes such as alms to the poor.
Because money is such a sensitive and personal matter, God knew if he could be master of their pocketbooks, he would surely be master of their hearts. That’s why one of the first things to be thrown to the curb when someone begins a slow and subtle — almost unnoticeable — drifting from their first love is the giving of tithes and offerings.
OK ... I’m already bracing myself for the backlash. I already know what some people might say. “Tithing was part of the old covenant, and we live in the age of grace. I can give what I decide is right for me to give.”
Well, I can sympathize with the basis for that argument, but unfortunately it can’t be substantiated with a careful study of Scripture.
I look forward to examining this in more detail in a future column.
Edinburgh’s Andy Robbins, a former worship leader, is pastor of Columbus’ Blessed Life Fellowship. He can be reached at blessedlifefellowship.org.
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