Yesterday afternoon I took a walk over to our opposite neighbor to hand him a small gift. Whilst we were away last week, he kept an eye on our premises. Although he does not want or desire a gift, we bought something for him at an African Store in Graskop, near Pilgrims Rest. After I handed him the gift, he pointed to an orange butterfly saying that that butterfly lays eggs on cycad plants. I did not take much notice and soon our meeting ended as we needed to Zoom with Roy, Ang and their boys. I never had an opportunity to water on Friday, thinking I would mow and water on Saturday. Due to spending excessive time trying to get my recorded video service saved from iMovie to my cellphone’s storage to up load to YouTube, I did not get around to doing either. (Something is wrong with the phone as previously I could do what was required and yesterday, even though I deleted half of the apps, it kept saying “not sufficient storage”).
So I got up early today to water. I normally don’t do this on a Sunday, but since the rains on Wednesday there has been no rain and the garden was dry. As I watered I came across our cycad plant. I was almost blown away … less than two weeks back I pruned the cycad to give room for the center head to open up giving news braches. And … the new branches were covered in worms (caterpillars), munching away at the new leaves on the new branches. And were they destroying it! Immediately I retrieved the pressure pump for garden worms and termites, mixing a lethal dose of poison and spraying each branch a few times until the green cycad plant looked almost milky white. Kill my cycad and I’ll kill you” … was my attitude to these worms (caterpillars). In no time they reduce a sizable plant to ruins if not dealt with timeously.
Tonight at our Sunday Evening Gathering, we studied Malachi chapter 3:6-12. What a difficult passage to handle in a small group context. It deals with a backslidden people … where people drift from God through willful disobedience … and spiritual neglect causes a moral wandering resulting in such people ceasing to tithe. God calls them to repent and return to Him so that He might reward them with blessings. The repent and return includes spiritual restoration that results in practical obedience in their tithing. It is then that the rewards follow … such as:
Mal 3:11 “I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty.
The pests devastate crops. I looked at the worm (caterpillar) devouring the cycad plant leaves … and this just overnight, from an egg to a worm that devours! The pests God speaks of do the same thing in the fields of crops and this might even be the reason for the vines casting off their fruit! And in Israel’s case it was all due to a spiritual and economic wandering from the source of Truth and Lordship. If they refused to return to God, if they continued in the spiritual desert, if they persisted in defrauding God’s house of the support (tithe) God required of them, God would permit their crops to fail resulting in extreme poverty … which they themselves caused. The believer in the spiritual wilderness needs discipline to bring the prodigal back into a reconciled relationship with God Himself.
I wonder whether you saw the process of defrauding God. It started with spiritual and then moral drifting to the point where backsliding was a fixture. Then they withheld their tithes …. They robbed God! Should they persist in their spiritual declension, they would find their source of income (crops and vines) destroyed. Yet God’s extended hand and pleading voice rings out:
Mal 3:6 “Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.
How would they repent and return … by stopping their defrauding of God.
Mal 3:8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 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 you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit, says the LORD Almighty.”
Are the worms and caterpillars and pests devouring your crops? No … not out in the garden and veggie patch … but in your budget. Those spiritual worms (caterpillars) are the result of what starts out to be spiritual wandering followed by moral wandering and then economic wandering. That is the fully fledged backslidden state! Spiritual crop failure results in your budget never working out. You draw it up every month (or week), but you never have the money to make it work. You then find you are always in debt to the point of robbing Peter to pay Paul and those nasty lawyer’s letters start arriving.
If you are in this condition, the only way to get out of it is to return to God in repentance. Just bringing the full tithe is insufficient. You need to get the heart right otherwise your motive is wrong. You can’t buy God! Returning through genuine repentance means confessing personal sin, asking God for mercy and making a real commitment to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is then that your full tithe will be offered with the right attitude … love for God, thanksgiving for salvation and joy of the prospect of heaven. Consider the tragedy of Ananias and his wife Sapphira in Acts 5. Although they tithed … they lied about their gift’s size and this was a lie to the Holy Spirit … and they both dropped down dead! All giving to God must be done with integrity, honesty, joy and love … He knows the heart!
Dear God, help me to remain true to You without drifting spiritually, morally or economically. I do seek Your blessings upon my life and family … but help me to tithe with the right attitude and motive. In Jesus’ name, amen.