ROBBERY!

According to current statistics almost 25% of the crimes that fall into the “Violent Crime” category occurring in our Bayou State are robberies. Over half of them are armed (firearm) and of the others 30+% are “strong-armed” and a little over 5% involve a knife or other weapon. Statistics collected by “The Disaster Center” (which compiles statistics from the FBI and Uniform Crime Reports) the following was reported:

“In the year 2000 Louisiana had an estimated population of 4,468,976 which ranked the state 22nd in population. For that year the State of Louisiana had a total Crime Index of 5,422.8 reported incidents per 100,000 people. This ranked the state as having the 4th highest total Crime Index…For Robbery, per 100,000 people, Louisiana’’s rate was 168.5 which ranked the state 8th highest for Robbery…For every 100,000 people there were 1,035.8 Burglaries, which ranks Louisiana as having the 4th highest standing among the states. Larceny/Theft were reported 3,229.9 times per hundred thousand people in Louisiana which standing is the 7th highest among the states. Vehicle Theft occurred 475.9 times per 100,000 people, which fixed the state as having the 10th highest for vehicle theft among the states.”

Robbery, according to the dictionary- ‘rä-b(&-)rE – noun – “the act or practice of robbing; specifically larceny from the person or presence of another by violence or threat.” 

Obviously, unreported crimes are not included in any reports or statistics. Malachi, the Old Testament prophet, reprimanded the people of his day by crying out against the most frequently unreported crime: 

“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation” (Malachi 3:8-9, KJV).

To truly understand what it was Malachi as accusing the people of, you must first understand the terms he used. Tithes referred to the Mosaic law of tithing outlined in Leviticus 27: 

“A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. The entire tithe of the herd and flock–every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod–will be holy to the LORD. He must not pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution. If he does make a substitution, both the animal and its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed” (verse 30-33). 

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word tithe as: “a tenth part of something paid as a voluntary contribution or as a tax especially for the support of a religious establishment.”

The people were guilty not only of not paying the tenth required by the law, but also of not freely giving additional offerings to the Lord. In the Old Testament there were “heave offerings” – offerings given above the amount of the “tithe” that referred to the “priestly portion.” It was in these two specific areas of financial support that the people were robbing God in the days of Malachi. 

One commentator said, “The prophet is painting a picture of the incomprehensible – an insignificant man defrauding the Omniscient and taking away that which belongs to the Omnipotent.”

Malachi took the story a little further, though. The adverse conditions of the day – the spiritual lethargy of the people were not the cause of, but rather the result of their failure to tithe. He identified that they were “cursed with a curse” but then he offered them a cure for the disease of their greed:

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.”

What promise would accompany their obedience! Bring your tithes – put meat in the house of the Lord – and “I will open the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing! I will rebuke the devourer! The nations shall call you blessed!” Malachi said, “ye shall be a delightsome land…” – a word meaning “pleasant, desired, favored.”

Matthew and Luke reflect that Jesus actually demands more in terms of stewardship than merely precise compliance with a rigid one-tenth tithe. Passages in these two Gospels record Jesus proclaiming to the scribes and Pharisees:

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”

In other words, if paying your tithes is all you do – you’re only 1% from being a robber. Further, the New Testament pattern for giving outlined in Corinthians is characterized by freedom and responsible planning. 

Paul gave instructions to the church at Corinth that they should each week set aside an amount so that no offerings would be needed when he came to them:

“Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”

Then II Corinthians 9:6, 7 reads: 

“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”

You have the freedom to give “as you purpose in your heart” – to sow sparingly or bountifully and reap accordingly. This does not negate the validity of the practice of tithing. One commentator specified it this way: “Though stewardship may include more than the tithe, it is never less than the tithe.”

You won’t get booked, fingerprinted, and included in a master database somewhere of “robbers of God” if you are not tithing. There’s no roll call for those whose greed keeps them from giving, no warning photos in the classified section of local newspapers. But let me assure you of this. Our God keeps good records. He is a just and fair God. If you rob him, sooner or later, you will feel the effects of the curse of your wrong-doing. On the other hand, if you can trust Him and test Him – tithe and give – you will see the outpouring of heaven’s blessings on your life.

I have often said, “Show me a man’s checkbook register and I can tell you what kind of man he is.” 

Let the first check you write be the one that is marked “tithing.” And you will find your bank account to be like the widow’s oil and meal:

“The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail….”