(Image courtesy of http://www.venturesofsean.com.)

When I was about seven years old, my family went on a trip to Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin to visit some of my parents' friends.  They had four kids, the same number of kids as my family.  I don't remember much from the trip, except that they had some cool toys.  One toy in particular was a rubber mouse from Chuck E Cheese.  When it came time to leave, I didn't want to leave the new toy I had discovered - so I took it with me.  It wasn't until about halfway home that my parents asked me about the toy.  I told them it wasn't mine.  Needless to say, they weren't happy.  But instead of scolding me with words, they turned around and drove back to their friends' house, making me walk up to the front door and give them their toy back.  And on top of all that humiliation, I had to apologize.  I definitely learned my lesson early on that thievery is a sin.

Robbery is a serious offense punishable by jail time in some cases.  Robbing a man can incite retaliations and hurt feelings; robbing God, then, must incite far worse punishments.

Robbery can be equated with the term "breaking and entering."  Robbery is force-able, unwanted entry into a place in order to take another's rightful belongings.  Keep that definition in mind for later....

In Malachi chapter 3, God speaks to His people, questioning them and calling them out about their behavior:
6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.
Firstly, in verse six, God reminds His people that it is because of His character and His unchanging love that He had not wiped them out in His wrath up to this point (nor will He ever, since He does not change). Of course, God has every right to be upset with sin.  In fact, upset is the softest word to describe how God feels about sin.  In short, He hates it so much He cannot even be around it.

In verse eight, God questions His people and asks them: "Will man rob God?"  He goes on to say that His people are robbing Him, even though the people do not know it.  Remember that definition of robbery I asked you to remember earlier?  This is where it gets convicting.  God's people figuratively (and sometimes literally) broke into God's "house" and force-ably took things that did not belong to them.  But what exactly did they take?

They took His tithes and contributions (verse eight).

This logically comes to the conclusion, then, that all things belong to God.  Everything we "possess" on this earth was made by God; therefore, it all belongs to God.  Yet we as humans have been deceived by the sinful nature to believe that we can actually possess and own things on this earth.  Psalm 24:1 states: "The earth is the LORD's and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it."  Therefore, anytime we withhold tithes or contributions from God, we are actually not withholding things from Him, but we are robbing Him.  And Exodus 20:15 is very explicit in it's command to not steal.

But we can also rob God of other, non-monetary possessions.

Jude 24-25 says that "all glory, majesty, power, and authority" is God's.  Therefore, whenever we accept glory or fame, or if we ever go in search of glory and desire fame, we are stealing from God, literally breaking and entering into His heavenly storehouses and taking what is not rightfully ours.

This is not to say, however, that God does not bless us - or give us - parts of His glory and riches.  But we only are given those gifts from the Creator of all things after we give Him back what belongs to Him in the first place.  Look at what happens after God calls His people out for robbing Him:
10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.
In verse ten, God challenges - no, commands! - that His people bring everything into God's storehouse: their money, their belongings, their fame, their riches, their glory - EVERYTHING!  And then He says, "Test me in this, and see if I don't bless you because of it" (my paraphrase).  God says that then He will "pour down blessings until there is no more need."  Not only that, but He will also "rebuke the devourer" and cause all peoples everywhere to "call you blessed."  That is a promise from God, so you know it can be trusted.

In closing, A.W. Tozer has five vows that he tried to live by and that I adhered to at an early age and wrote in the back page of my Bible (perhaps it should have gone in the front).  Two of them were as follows: "Never possess anything" and "never accept any glory."  A.W. Tozer lived a life of great and rich blessings because he strove to do these things.  (If you do not the story of Pastor Tozer, I encourage you to research his life and also read his influential, Spirit-filled book, The Pursuit of God.)

And while this message in Malachi was particularly written to the Israelites of that day, the message still applies to God's people today; for the people of God are still born of the same Spirit as they were in the days of old.

Therefore, let us stop robbing God.  It's as foolish as trying to steal from a man's back pocket even as he holds out a check for one million dollars with your name on it.  It is deceptive and just doesn't make sense.  Give to God what is His!

16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. 17 “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him (Malachi 3:16-18).