“Take pleasure in the wife of your youth,” writes the wise man to his son. “[She] should be for you alone and not for you to share with strangers.” (Proverbs 5:17) “Be lost in her love forever.” (Proverbs 5:19) Don’t “be infatuated with a forbidden woman or embrace the breast of a stranger.” (Proverbs 5:20) Do not defile the marriage bed, but keep yourself only to the wife of your youth.
Your prayers go unanswered, says the prophet Malachi. Why is this? Because you abandon the wife of your youth, “you act treacherously against her, though she is your marriage partner and your wife by covenant.” (Malachi 2:14) “So watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously against the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:15) For God makes you and your wife one flesh, seeking “a godly offspring.” (Malachi 2:15)
God speaks, “If [you] hate and divorce [your] wife, [you] cover [your] garment with injustice. Therefore, watch yourself carefully, and do not act treacherously.” (Malachi 2:16)
“For [your] ways are before the Lord’s eyes, and He considers all [your] paths.” (Proverbs 5:21) “Let your fountain be blessed, and take pleasure in the wife of your youth.” (Proverbs 5:18)
“Each person should give as he has decided for himself; there should be no reluctance, no sense of compulsion; God loves a cheerful giver.”
I’m certain you’ve sat in a church on a Sunday morning and listened to a pastor tell you to “bring the tithes into the treasury, all of them.” (Malachi 3:10) And to quickly assure you that there’s a great reward if you do so. Some people refer to this as the ‘prosperity’ gospel.
I prefer Paul’s exhortation here in his letter to the church at Corinth, in which he encourages each person to “decide for himself” without “compulsion” and without “reluctance” not only the amount to give but the time to give. Paul also tells the church “it is in God’s power to provide you richly with every good gift; thus you will have ample means in yourselves to meet each and every situation, with enough and to spare for every good cause.” (2 Corinthians 9:8-9) “You will always be rich enough to be generous.” (2 Corinthians 9:11)
Jesus warns that it is an error to honor the ‘traditions of men’ at the expense of taking care of your parents; to set aside the good you should do for your family in order to please a church. Instead, we should look to the needs of those who are our dependents. If our child is unclothed and hungry and we give our money as a tithe to God, He is not pleased. If our mother is in the least expensive nursing facility we can locate and we give our money as a tithe to God, He is not pleased. If our neighbor is losing her house to foreclosure, and we give our money [under compulsion, that is] as a tithe to God, He is not pleased. (Mark 7:9-13)
God repeatedly states that He wearies of our offerings. What He desires is a contrite heart, humble and cheerful in giving to others in need. Look first to our families, meeting the needs of those we love. Then look to our friends and neighbors, then look to the poor and disenfranchised.
Decide for yourself, without compulsion, with no reluctance. For God loves a cheerful giver.