“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts. “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” says the Lord of hosts. “And all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts.” — Malachi 3:10-12
Our experiences in life lead us to our expectations from life. That’s fairly self-evident, isn’t it? If we grow up with all of our needs met, we’ll be likely to have an expectation going forward that all of our needs will continue to be met. Equally, if we grow up wanting — financially, emotionally, whatever – then we’ll probably have an expectation going forward that we’ll continue to go without. We’re conditioned by our experiences to look forward to more of the same. That’s logical, right? That’s the kind of attitude that keeps us realistic, on an even keel… no undue pessimism, no needless optimism.
So what if that’s not the case? After all, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests that those kinds of experience-based expectation for life could continue despite all indications being that our circumstances had changed. The kid who’s always had his mom pick up after him moves out of home and flounders, becoming a slob, because some part of him still expects her to clean his kitchen and do his laundry. A well-to-do family, rich from the outset, grows so used to affluence that, upon losing their fortune, they flounder. Unable to cope without the thousand little advantages they’d become used to, they continue to live as if those advantages were coming their way, and so their lifestyles derail. A man has been rejected and humiliated since childhood, and so becomes conditioned to expect more of the same… so what happens when he encounters a partner who will do nothing but bless his life? He flounders. Unable to trust that he won’t be let down for the umpteenth time, he rejects the gift he’s being offered. And so on, and so on. Realistic? An inability to adapt to changing circumstances doesn’t sound like a realistic way to approach life to me. Floundering is pretty much the opposite of staying on an even keel.
The world, the carnal, our heads, our outer, older, dead selves – they’re all telling us something that just doesn’t make sense, and making us believe that it does. They tell us that if it can’t be seen, touched, measured, then it doesn’t exist – despite the fact that there is so much that we can’t see, touch or measure. They tell us that it’s ok to generalize based on specifics. Politicians are all untrustworthy. Lawyers are all liars. People just ain’t no good. They tell us there’s no point giving without expecting something in return – after all, if you keep giving and giving and giving, you won’t have anything left for yourself, right? It’s counter-intuitive to people who exist purely in their own heads to expect and embrace the positive and the uplifting as a way of life. To see things with their hearts. To act from faith — which is to say, from love.
Those of us who live in the Spirit know differently. Those of us who’ve abandoned the world and its small, sad, mechanical way of living know differently. Those of us living in the now, in our new selves, redeemed from past failures and past pain, know differently. Unlike our old selves, trapped by circumstance and conditioned by experience, we have a constant in our lives. It’s the unforgettable, unstoppable love of God. Faith and faithfulness is a mark of our rebirth as Christians, as we work to become more like Christ. It’s in the name! God never says a single thing that He doesn’t mean, never does a single thing without intent. The faithfulness of the Lord is the very currency of the Kingdom. When everything in the world screams that no one can really be trusted, our spirits whisper, HE CAN, and sometimes a whisper is louder than a scream.
When God creates a provision for us, provides a blessing or a gift, that provision comes with a promise. That provision might be contested by the world, might become attainable through trial, following adversity. That promise is inviolate. It’s not subject to change. It doesn’t get withdrawn if we screw up. It doesn’t vanish after thirty days. It’s not conditional on us referring ten friends to Jesus, or signing up for a two year contract, and it doesn’t come with small print. We might live in the world, but we’re not of the world. God’s Presence is within us, and around us, and it always has been, and it always will be. That’s where the ‘omni’ in ‘omnipresence’ comes from!
God says, “try Me now in this… If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” He loves us to try testing his faithfulness, because he knows it doesn’t have an end. He’s like a world-class magician, delighting in performing card trick after card trick, or a math prodigy plucking the answers to complex problems out of thin air. “Go on!” He laughs to us. “Give me another one!” — knowing that our spirits are hungry for more, that we feel our hunger can’t be satiated. There are two kinds of appetite — that of hunger, and that of greed. Hunger is about capacity, the feeling that you can eat and eat and still have room, that you can never be completely full. Greed is about discontent, the feeling that you can eat and eat and never be completely satisfied. One is based in the Spirit, in the Kingdom, and it allows for complete happiness and still having room for more. The other is based in the world of the flesh, the world we’ve left behind, and it’s a hole that the world just cannot fill. It was never intended to – when it comes to satisfying us completely, the world is simply not built for it. Hungry people give food to other hungry people. The greedy don’t share.
So we don’t feel the need to act from our need. As Christians, our need is not the be-all and end-all as it is for those in the world. The King of Heaven promises us provision, and that promise is made to us forever, whatever the provision might be. We have a constant, a Rock in our lives: a pole star to set our sails by; an atomic clock to set our watches by; and that Rock sees circumstance break around it like waves far below. We’re free, freed to receive at any point, and that constant gives us the ability to give. To give, and to give, and to give, without fear or worry that we’ll be left with nothing for ourselves. Because we’re free to receive, we’re inspired to give everything we have. Our lack, our need, will never again be a chain that binds us, a leash that holds us back from giving.
Luke 21, verses 1–4 give us the oft-quoted story of the widow’s mite, one of the simplest and most blessed stories in Scripture. It came after a day of teaching at the temple, in which the Pharisees and the Sadducees, a scared group of men entrenched in the law, had been trying to catch Jesus out with clever questions, hoping to trick him into saying something heretical or inappropriate in front of the people, and in the house of God. Surrounded by rich men giving their offerings, their tithe, being honored with position and status by those attending, Jesus saw something no one else had seen… a widow, left without the breadwinner in the family, beset by real poverty, slipping the last that she had into the offering. He pointed out to the people present before him, utterly delighted, the true wonder of what had almost passed them by — the sight of someone less fortunate than them giving everything they had in worship, surrounded by more fortunate men giving a tiny proportion of what they had. You can imagine it, Jesus sitting there, speaking earnestly and with great wisdom, and suddenly He stops mid-sentence, laughs and says, “How wonderful!” There was a woman with complete confidence in the goodness of God. There was a woman with complete trust in the faithfulness of God. Such a person made the Son Of God rejoice in the midst of the people, in the midst of His enemies, just as all of Heaven rejoices when you give all that you have and all that you are in worship.
Some of us have more than others, and some of us have far, far less. Whatever the case of others, look to yourself. Think for a moment. Are you giving to others, of yourself and what you have, tithing into the Kingdom of yourself, gladly and without restraint? If you can feel that restraint in your own life, something inside you holding back from an area that you should be giving into wholeheartedly, examine it within the Spirit. How can you change that for yourself? Because in opening up to give, and to give, and to give, you open yourself up to the promise and provision of the Kingdom.