Can a Man Rob God?


You may recognize this phrase from Malachi, often the context for a message on tithing.  I have taken it somewhat out of context for the sake of my thoughts this morning.

I am often questioned about my seemingly harsh position toward the American Church, having served her now for almost 40 years.  Yet I find myself at times breaking into joyous laughter or weeping openly in worship, rediscovering a heart truly tender toward the Body of Christ.  

However, with this renewed tenderness comes a sense of prophetic calling and mandate to caution the church.  This morning was no different.  I will admit to feeling somewhat weary, often questioning why I have chosen to go this route.  Is it a calling or a simple frustration of my spirit?   More of concern to me is the accusation that I am “throwing the baby out with the wash?”

But what if we are talking about a different baby, one that has long since morphed from that original body once endowed by a rushing mighty wind, as some 120 frightened believers holed up with the remaining disciples desperately attempting to follow the instructions of the now resurrected Christ? 

Some of them surely fearful that they might be next if the religious leaders of that day continued to carry forward with their threats, particularly if in similar fashion as with the Christ who had now “forsaken them.” 

Others, now possibly doubtful of what they had just experienced at the ascension, though they had touched Him…eaten fish with him on the shore and even seen him appear in rooms where they had locked themselves away post crucifixion.  

Yet when this promised comforter finally came, Peter explaining the “this is that” once spoken of by the prophet Joel…they then turned their cities upside down!

Now, here I sit, positioned as a city leader with church facilities on almost every corner, our nation at risk, our economy in the weeds, while the churches produce few remedies other than a place to pay one’s tithes and serve the programs necessary to maintain their particular facility. 

Interesting also is that these congregations are often the loudest in their complaints about how we are being mistreated as citizens, both the haves and the have-nots!

Who is this baby that we fear throwing out with the wash, is it the same as the one who burned good men at the stake, now slightly morphed, more sophisticated and more subtle in its self-righteousness? 

If my wife were here, she would caution me about generalities and I agree, so let be me offer apologies for the few who may have better intent, working to feed the hungry, care for the dying…”the least of these.” 

Am I angry, wounded, or simply heart-broken by a message from a God now tired of our use of His Son’s Name, when the desire to truly be like Him has long escaped us?   

Yes, this is a message that will be plain hard to deliver and less likely received, given the threat to the way we (yes we, for I am a churchman) have learned to do business.

Are we robbing God, taking something precious from Him; remaining politically correct among religious leaders, guarding the baby while we lose our own country to a vacuum of secularism; the sacred long since withdrawn to our siloed sanctuaries, void of any true community impact?

Boasting of the power of the church, yet shunning the power of God, these often  prayerless idolaters sit on the cusp of a revolution, for God is not mocked!  

As  weekly offerings diminish and that draw of precious resources from our communities dwindles, while the number of needs grow ever larger in an economy now bankrupt, fewer places will exist for simply gathering to sing  favorite songs with our friends!  Is this the wrath of God?  No, for in love He simply need withdraw, for sin has its own wrath.

This revolution will soon deliver good men from these financial sinkholes of religion, though it may come through the brokenedness of a nation that once knew their God?

Can God be robbed?  Yes, but only when we fail to respond to His love or sin’s wrath.  Can the Church be silenced by failed religion, not if good men are willing to die for the Christ who died for them!

5 thoughts on “Can a Man Rob God?

  1. I do pray that you have the sense if His presence as you declare what He says. I remember those days when one of my girls was in adolescence. Her behavior was grossly different from what we felt was appropriate—downright hateful at times. Attempts at correction, observations about her behavior, were met with angry protestations that we were the ones who were inappropriate. Behavior escalated as did our attempt at correction. Then we were harsh and terrible parents. Eventually things changed. Her perspective changed. There have been requests for forgiveness or simple comments that reveal a new perspective.

    One of the great weapons the enemy uses is the cry of, “You are harsh!” What does God need to do to get attention? Jesus was considered inappropriate as he drove the moneychangers from the temple. Do not observe with anger or hatred (I do not think there is a trace of it is what I read), but there is a sad observation that some of the signs of a true church are simply missing in today’s congregations. We wonder why God does not bless. Why would the church be in ‘foreclosure’ if the payment due Him who holds the title is not being paid?

    I find it interesting that Tom Erich’s column in the W-S Journal today calls for the same thing. I don’t think Tom would find himself close to our theological perspective, yet he says the church must have both evangelism and social action or it will die! A doctor who diagnoses a disease is not uncompassionate, he/she is just honest. Some patients don’t want the truth. Your diagnosis is woven together with a broken heart. I think it is God’s word to the church—if not He will protect the church from whatever you say in error!

    1. As I recall it, right after Jesus rode in to Jerusalem, as we celebrated just yesterday (Palm Sunday), he cleansed the Temple, and he healed a couple fo sick guys for good measure. And in another recitation of that passage, he rode in and then was grieved over the city and predicted the overthrow of that same temple where he healed people. And his words echo to us, “For you did not know the time of your visitation.” Are we discerning enough to know that the Lord vists the place he predicts will be overthrown? Did he not teach and preach in temple? And then he predicts it’s utter desolation. I think he has it within himself to tear down the structures that block people from God- to bring them down stone upon stone, and yet he also chooses to heal in those same walls. This is the business of Jesus- to heal and to destroy as only he can discern. And it is the business of his prophets to attest to that end, and yet as you say, not throw the baby out with the bath water. That is the business of Jesus, who visits when and where he wants, and allows destruction if it serves the greater redemptive purpose of the kingdom coming to the hearts of men, of us becoming the structure where the Presence resides.

  2. “Can God be robbed? Yes, but only when we fail to respond to His love or sin’s wrath. Can the Church be silenced by failed religion, not if good men are willing to die for the Christ who died for them!”

    Before I met with you for breakfast a few days ago, I was recalling a scene from the movie Glory in which a white officer and a black soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War have a conversation prior to making a decision to enter a battle in such a way probability of death was high. In the conversation, both alluded to the fact that neither of them was “clean” related to the difficulties in circumstances that surrounded their activities with regard to the war and social issues of their day. The officer chooses to engage the battle with many lives lost including his and the black soldier with whom he had a conversation. The reason this came to my mind is that I understood God’s goodness toward me and the degree to which I deserve none of the blessing that has come my way. Yet I go about my life without a sufficient response to his incredible grace. This is the context of my statements to you during our breakfast when I reacted to the esteem you choose to give me as the father of six children. Nothing good that has come from my actions as a father nor anything powerful with regard to provision for my family has anything to do with me but demonstrates the lavish goodness and grace of God. I am not a good man but if men who are redeemed can die for Christ then like these two characters in the movie I will acknowledge I am not “clean” except as I am clothed by the righteousness of Christ and contemplate the manner in which I would “die” for him, be it through life force literally leaving my body or suffering in some capacity within my cultural context. I do not desire to die for some meaningless issue, but to do so on cue from Christ so that the kingdom may be advanced. As I have read your blog for the first time, I realize I am the church in microcosm filled with fear and plagued by cowardice. I pray for grace and courage to die when the time is right. Any suggestions?

    1. Craig,

      You die every day that you put family above self, client above comfort, God thoughts before personal amusement. He then bundles that death and exchanges it for life.
      Life yet to be lived through the lives whom you sacrificed your own for, their children and others they will meet… as well a life yet to be lived by you in eternity!

      He is risen!

      John

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