NASHVILLE (BP) — This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, LifeWay publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.
This week’s Bible study is adapted from the Bible Studies For Life curriculum.
Bible Passage: Malachi 3:7-12
Discussion Question: When did you first learn the joy of giving?
Food for Thought by John Bryan:*
As kids, we couldn’t wait for Christmas morning and the thrill of opening our gifts. As adults, I’m sure we still enjoy getting presents, but most of us discovered something perhaps even more enjoyable: giving gifts!
It’s fun to watch the excitement in children’s eyes as they open gifts.
Even when adults exchange gifts, we’ll see as much or more joy on the face of the one giving the gift. The giver wants to tell how they hunted for the perfect gift or is eager to mention all the steps they went through in making the gift. That joy of giving is not limited to Christmas or birthdays or any other “special” days of the year. God invites His people to know year round the joy of giving.
The prophet Malachi challenged the Jews, who were missing out on this joy because they were failing to give. We are commanded to give, but as we see in Malachi’s words, that command comes with great blessing. We find joy in our obedience and in our giving.
We are desperate for a return to God. This need to return to God is nothing new. Malachi, one of the last Old Testament prophets, declared on God’s behalf, “Return to me.” The Jews had turned away from the Lord and quit following His laws. They had become lukewarm in their faith and disobedient in their practices. Thankfully, this call also came with a gracious promise: “Return to me, and I will return to you.” They had left God, yet He pursued them and promised to be with them if they would return to Him.
A factor for returning to God and restoring their relationship with Him was to stop robbing Him. They were doing just that by not being faithful in tithing. Throughout the Old Testament, tithing was God’s plan.
Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, King of Salem and priest, as recognition of God’s ownership; this was before any law about tithing was given. Jacob pledged a tenth of his possessions as an expression of gratitude for God’s guidance and provision; and again, this was before the law was given. The tribe of Levi served as priests; their needs were to be met through the tithes given by other tribes.
What happens if we don’t give? A lack of gracious giving reflects a selfish, stingy and sinful mindset. We’re ineffective as long as we are self-focused and not Christ-centered. To state that in the harshest terms as Malachi did, “You are suffering under a curse.”
What happens if we do give? We support the ministry and needs of others. We demonstrate our love and gratitude to God. When we give, God responds and others notice His work in our lives. Malachi gave a strong motivation to the Israelites to return to tithing. “Then all the nations will consider you fortunate, for you will be a delightful land” (Malachi 3:12).
The blessing of God is contagious. It touches those closest to us. God’s blessing touches those who are desperate for relief and who want to respond to God’s leadership. And while we respond to God’s goodness by being loving stewards of all He has given us to manage, it is also good and right to remember that we can’t outgive God!
Bible Studies for Life
Bible Studies for Life connects the Bible to life for adults, students and kids. Bible Studies for Life helps individuals and groups know God’s Word through trustworthy content, creates biblical community through engaging and conversational group studies, and helps people engage the culture missionally by unpacking what the Bible says about real-life issues. More information can be found on the Internet at www.biblestudiesforlife.com.
Other ongoing Bible study options for all ages offered by LifeWay can be found at LifeWay.com/SundaySchool or ordered at LifeWay Christian Stores.
*John Bryan is a Georgia Baptist Mission Board state missionary for stewardship and missions.