Robbery is a severe charge. In our legal system, there are two basic types of robbery, armed and unarmed. In either case, it involves the taking of something from another by force or the threat of force. In the Law of Moses, it was simply, “Thou shalt not steal.” (Exodus 20.15). There, it simply meant taking something that belongs to another, whether force was involved or not. The last book of the Old Testament speaks to the commission of this crime and the reaction of one of its victims. Consider this case.
The book of Malachi is different in that it is structured as a hypothetical conversation that took place between God and the wayward children of Israel. In this conversation God charged the nation of Israel with various wrongs. They responded with questions that challenged the validity of God's charges. One series of questions and answers goes like this: “Will a man rob God? [they asked]. Yet you have robbed Me! [God replied]. But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” [God responded]. (Malachi 3.8). There are at least a half dozen such exchanges that make up this insightful book. The reader is challenged to invest a few minutes and examine this little four chapter book. Our study today will only focus on God's charge of robbery and the Jews' counter-questions.
It is interesting that those whom God charged with robbery would ask a question like, “Will a man rob God?” Did they mean to imply that man was not morally capable of stooping so low as to take that which belongs to his Creator? Or, perhaps they meant to say that it is physically impossible for a mere man to take something from the powerful God of the universe. In either case, they effectively denied the charge. They expected the response to their seemingly rhetorical question to be in the negative. “No, man will not (or cannot) rob God.” However, God's response, “You have robbed me,” doubtless came as a surprise.
However, God added evidence to His charge. “You have robbed me in tithes and offerings,” He said. The point to be made just here is this fact: Some things belong to God and we possess them only in our capacity as stewards. Technically a steward is someone who is charged with the responsibility of taking care of or looking over that which belongs to another. That is exactly what we are in many counts. We are stewards of time, the earth, opportunity, and a number of other things we could name. For our purposes, however, we will address only one of the stewardships just named.
James penned a verse which expands this thought. He wrote, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4.17). “Doing good” is a responsibility with which every person is charged. Some have more opportunities that others, but we all have the same responsibility to use these opportunities to the best of our several abilities. There is no person alive who is presently accountable to God who does not have such opportunities. I heard a story a while back which illustrates this point. It seems that a woman audibly expressed her desire to end her life because of a crippling accident that left her virtually helpless. One loving caregiver heard her express her wish saying, “I am nothing but a burden on others.” The wise lady who heard her remarks kindly asked her, “Can you pray?” to which the response came, “Well of course; I pray every day.” Driving her point home, the caregiver said, “This then is your constant opportunity to do good. By praying for others you are doing them the most good that anyone could possibly do! Do what you can do and do it well!”
“Will a man rob God?” We are certainly capable! The answer to this sobering question depends on how we use the blessings that He showers on us each and every day of our lives!
1. According to the book of Malachi how had the Jews robbed God?
2. Is it possible for a man to rob God today? If yes, how?
3. Have you ever felt like the lady who had been seriously injured in the accident (illustration above)? As long as we are conscious of our own existence, we have the ability to pray for others. Do you think it is “doing good” when we pray for another person? Why or why not?
4. Over what things has God made us stewards (think of your family, your job, your church, your time, etc., etc.) List five such blessings and consider what opportunities these afford you to “do good.”
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