Try Me!
Malachi 3:6-18
Do you remember the movie, “A Christmas Story”? It’s hard to miss it around Christmas time; one network show it 24 hours a day! Set in the 1940's, the film tells the story of Ralphie Parker's Christmas. All Ralphie wanted from Santa was a Red Ryder Carbine Action, 200 Shot, Range Model Air Rifle. Ralphie's dad, otherwise known throughout the movie as The Old Man, (played by Darren McGavin) was all for it. Mom was absolutely sure Ralphie would shoot his eye out or worse. On the way to the Big Day, Ralphie experiences one misadventure after another.
One the scenes takes place at recess in the schoolyard just before Christmas break. One of Ralphie's friends and another kid are challenging each other. The war of words is about what would happen if you touched your tongue to the ice-cold flagpole. 
Video clip
Well today I have a dare for you. In fact, I triple dog dare you! And although it may sound a little strange to you, God is the one making the dare. 
In our text, the Lord of heaven challenges any comers (you included!). He is not daring you to stick your tongue to a flagpole or any other such nonsense. But the tone of our text is clearly that of a challenge--a triple dog dare, if you will.
Listen to God's dare: Malachi 3:10. 
Now as we found out last week. God is trustworthy. In fact this book of Malachi begins with God reminding His people of His love for them. 
And as He points out to them, even though He has loved them, they have doubted His love and despised His name and defiled His altar. 
And now He says to them, “If you doubt Me, then put me to the test. Try Me! And He issues the challenge in regard to the tithe. He says, “Try me now in this”, and the “this” of the text is the tithe.
"Test me." "Try this, just once!" It couldn't be clearer if he had actually uttered the words, "I triple dog-dare you!" 
The Lord invites his people to test him, to try an experiment. He knows the outcome. But he wants you to know it, too. "Try me! Test me!" says the Lord.
Those of you who know your Bible fairly well may be a little uncomfortable with this idea. Doesn't the Bible say somewhere, you may already be thinking, that we aren't to test the Lord? Indeed it does! 
Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16 in response to one of Satan's temptations. He says, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test" (Mt 4:7). Challenging God's authority out of doubt and unbelief is always wrong.
I am reminded of a story about Robert Ingersoll, a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln. Ingersoll was perhaps the most famous atheist of his day. 
He traveled the country delivering speeches ridiculing the Bible. Large crowds filled auditoriums to hear his entertaining ranting and raving. 
One night after a particularly fiery talk about the foolishness of faith, Ingersoll took out his watch and with great pomp announced, "I'll give God a chance to prove that He exists. I challenge Him to strike me dead within 5 minutes!" First there was silence. Then people became uneasy. A few left the hall afraid that lightning might strike at any moment. One woman fainted. Finally after several minutes, the atheist exclaimed, "See! I am still very much alive!"
After the lecture a young skeptic turned to a Christian lady seated next to him. "Well, Ingersoll certainly proved something tonight!" Quick as a blink the lady answered. "Yes he did," she said. "He proved God isn't taking orders from atheists tonight!"
The test of Malachi 3 is not a doubtful heart giving orders to God. It is God challenging those who profess faith in him to get serious about it. In this case, it is the Lord who's out to prove something. He dares you to give him a chance to prove what you can never know except through personal experience. He offers you an opportunity to find it out for yourself. 
And He does it with the most obvious and precious part of our life: our money. 
What does God want to us to learn?
God wants us to learn that
1. He is Lord of Everything
Most of you here today believe in God. The majority of you have made a commitment to Christ. You believe that God forgives sin, answers prayer, and gives you strength for the tough times of life. But sometimes we stop right there. We act as if God's influence ends at the front door of the church. He has little to do with "the real world." 
This is especially true when it comes to financial matters. God's not satisfied with that attitude. Such a limited faith deprives him of glory and honor. It pretends that he is limited. Such a notion will never do. He wants us to know that he is Lord of every piece of life. Tithing gives God an opportunity to prove that to you.
Before I go any further, a simple word of explanation may be in order about the tithe itself. 
Tithing is a part of the Old Testament vocabulary for giving. The principle of the tithe guaranteed that giving was practical, regular, and proportionate to what a person had. Tithe literally means a tenth part. 
There is much discussion today on whether or not the tithe is still in effect for the church. They will argue that it is a part of Jewish law and is not binding on the church. Others, including John MacArthur, teach that the tithe had nothing to do with faith, but was merely a tax that God imposed upon His people to provide for the practical side of ministry and society.
But Jesus commended tithing on the part of the Pharisees, and I believe it sets a beginning point for our giving, with the idea being that our response to the grace of God would certainly go farther and spend more than the Law required.
I think compounding the confusion for the modern church is that many folks use the word "tithe" in a generic sense as if it were simply a gift or an offering of whatever amount. That's simply not correct. It meant a tenth part, period! 
It’s possible that you are a giver and not a tither. In fact, by looking at our giving records, I know that’s probably true. (not individual records)
Last year our total receipts were $543,174. Of that, $356,755 was undesignated receipts that are available for budget ministries. We also received $186,419 in designated gifts such as mission trips and love offerings. (Explain budget vs. designated receipts)
And anyway you divide it, that’s a lot of money, and only heaven knows the good that has been done for kingdom causes around the world through the faithful giving of this church. 
But did you realize that according to the US Census Bureau, the average median income for Oklahoma for the last three years is $45,507? And we have about 150 family units in this church. That means that if every family were a tithing family our tithe income would be about $682,605.
We’re at about half of that in undesignated receipts and $140,000 under it in total receipts. 
How do we explain that?
Some of God’s people are not even giving the tithe, and many are using the tithe as an offering. Rather than our designating giving being over and above the tithe, we’ll just give the same offering we were going to give anyway and designate it for the project.
And you may be saying, “What’s the difference?” Let me show you. 
In the ancient world, offerings came in the form of produce and livestock rather than checks and currency. A tithe meant a tenth part of the harvest or every tenth lamb born to the flock. The principle may be a bit more complicated in our economic world. But it is no less practical.
The practice of the tithe was always intended to be more than just a convenient and proportionate way to calculate the size of one's responsibilities. The giver was to see the tithe as a sample, a representation of the whole. It acknowledged that all of the flock, every acre of the crop, every penny of a person's bank account, actually belonged to the Lord. The tithe was a testimony to the Lord's ownership.
The God of heaven is the Lord of all, every part of your life. God dares you to act like you believe that. If I’m using my tithe for everything else BUT the tithe, no matter how worthwhile or good the project, I’m saying, God, you can only have this much of my money, and I’ll decide where to put it. 
But when I tithe, I am demonstrating that Jesus is Lord of all. It’s my way of saying, Lord, I’m taking you at your word. It’s a done deal. I’m doing at least the tithe, then beyond that if there are other projects and ministries and missions and opportunities, you’ve got the rest of it also. Just tell me how you want me to administer YOUR money!
God wants us to learn that He is Lord of all.
There is something else He wants us to learn and that is
2. He Blesses that Kind of Trust
Notice what he says in verse 10, “see if I won’t open the windows of heaven. . .” I’m going to deal with this part of the verse more fully next week, but let me just remind you that the Bible is filled with stories of God's abundant supply. 
He fed the Hebrews with manna from heaven. Later, both Elisha and Elijah experienced God's miraculous provision when the cupboard ran bare. The 23rd Psalm speaks of still waters, green pastures, and overflowing cups for those the Lord shepherds. Jesus turned water into wine and loaves and fishes into a feast for a multitude. 
Paul records in 2 Corinthians 9 "Remember this: . . . God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. . . . Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.
You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God" (2 Cor 9:6-11).
Most of you believe all of that happened then. That's the easy part. But do you believe that God still provides for those who trust in him? Notice Malachi 3:6. The God of our text says, "I haven't changed." He dares you to let him prove it to you!
I read about a a church member who was having trouble with the concept of tithing. One day he revealed his doubts to his minister: "Preacher, I just don't see how I can give 10 percent of my income to the church when I can't even keep on top of our bills."
The preacher replied, "John, what if I promise to make up the difference in your bills if you should fall short? Do you think you could try tithing for just one month?" After a moment's pause, John responded, "Sure, if you promise to make up any shortage! I guess I could at least give tithing a try."
"Let me see if I have this right," mused the preacher. "You say you're willing to take my word even though you know I probably don't have the means to keep it. Yet you won't take God at his word when he owns the universe! Go figure!" 
In fact, I’m going to make a deal with you this morning: I read about a church down in Texas that asked their members to tithe with the promise to return their offering if God didn’t come through. And I am prepared to make you that same deal today.
Try tithing, and if God doesn’t come through, that church down in Texas will return your money!
Listen: God is the one who says, “Try me in this! And when we accept God's dare to try the tithe, we give him an opportunity to prove that he is Lord of all. God delights in demonstrating that he hasn't changed. He is just as powerful now as he has always been. 
Then there is a third lesson:
God wants us to learn that
3. He Keeps His Word
God will provide. Along the way he may teach you some surprising lessons.
You will learn, for example, the truth of Jesus' statement, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." 
J. L. Kraft, founder of the giant Kraft Cheese Corporation learned this. Kraft was very wealthy and very generous. He regularly gave away twenty-five percent or more of his enormous income to Christian causes. Near the end of his life, he noted, "The only investment I ever made which has paid consistently increasing dividends is the money I have given to the Lord." 
Martin Luther put it like this, "I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess".
Listen: tithing will never be any easier than it is right now. We often persuade ourselves that all this might be a good idea, but not now. If we were richer, had less debt or obligations, or could have more confidence in the future of the economy, we might be able to tithe. But not now! Not true!
There will never be a better time to begin than right now!
J. D. Rockefeller was at one time the wealthiest man in the world. Eventually he would become better known as a philanthropist than as an oil tycoon. He donated millions to a variety of causes. Rockefeller once said, "I never would have been able to tithe the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary of $1.50 per week."
You will learn that the Lord can make 90% go farther with his help than 100% without his involvement. 
I heard about a little boy and his mother who were in a drug store. The owner spotted the lad eyeing the candy counter. When the mother went to pay, the owner asked the boy if he would like a sample of candy." Silly question, don't you think! The man smiled and said, "Go ahead and take a handful." The boy just stood there. 
Again the owner said, "Go ahead. Help yourself. Take a big handful of candy." The boy still stood there. Finally the owner reached in the jar and pulled out some candy and gave it to the boy. The boy filled his pockets. Later outside the mother asked, "Why didn't you take a handful when the man offered? He said it was O.K." The boy simply smiled and said, "His hands were bigger than mine." 
That's what tithing will prove. God wants to prove that his hands are bigger than yours! St. Augustine was right, "God is always trying to give us good things, but our hands are sometimes too full to receive them."
Now next week, we are going to have a “Prove the Tithe” day. I want to assure you, no one is going to be checking the records to see who did what. 
But let me ask you to do this: Would you give prayerful consideration to this promise of God regarding the tithe? 
If you are not a storehouse tither, would you consider taking God at His word? If you are a giver and not a tither, would you consider growing into that next level of commitment and trusting God with everything? 
I dare you. I double dog dare you!
In fact, the Lord of All triple dog dares you to tithe! When you do, you will discover that God really is Lord of all. He hasn't changed. He is the same providing, faithful, promise keeping God he has always been. You will learn that he keeps his word. 
God challenges you to tty him and see what happens.   He already knows.   He just wants you to find out for yourself. 
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