Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. – Malachi 3:10 (NRSV)
Newcomers to the faith suspect Scripture because of how unruly and inconsistent it is. Atheists cite inconsistency as proof that the whole religious enterprise is flawed or untrue.
I for one choose to delight in it. After all, how consistent are we really, or even life itself?
Take, for instance, the last book of the Old Testament. The prophet Malachi challenges Israel to stop with the half-hearted giving and to ante up a full tithe. “Put me to the test,” says the Lord; “see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you.” But no few pages later in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus states, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Which is it? Test or no test? What I hear Malachi say is, get in the game. Are you, am I, standing on the sidelines, or are we in the game — all the way in? It’s difficult to win if you aren’t on the field. What I hear Jesus say is, “Don’t dare God to please your will and way.”
There’s an old story about a Mr. Goldberg who, each time the results of the lottery are announced, would shake his fists toward heaven and complain loudly to God. “Is it too much to ask,” Goldberg laments, “that just once I should win?” Next week’s lottery results are announced and once again Goldberg is disappointed. “All this time, Lord, I have been so faithful, so righteous. Could I not win the lottery just once?” Suddenly a voice booms forth from the clouds, “For pity’s sake, Goldberg, give me a chance—at least buy a ticket.”
God expects us to invest ourselves, to take a chance, to lean in, to get off the sidelines. Or as the poet Goethe eloquently put it: “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.”
Are you in the game? Have you pledged? God can grow our commitment in mighty ways.