For Valentine’s Day this year, I decided to buy my wife a gift or two from Barnes & Noble Bookstore. It had been years since I had been inside of a Barnes & Noble, but it didn’t take long to notice something there that was different from most any other store I frequent.
People were sitting not only on the comfie sofas and chairs the business place provides, but also on the floor reading the store’s books without paying for them. It wasn’t like at the larger grocery stores where someone is offering samples of food and I get to taste things to see if I like them. Customers could choose anything from any shelf and read until their little hearts were content without investing as much as a red penny. I sure wish some other business places would follow that trend. Just imagine if I could go to the mall, put on whatever clothes I wanted to, walk around all day looking as fashionable as possible, and then change back into my regular clothes when I’m finished. Anybody know of any stores in the mall that will allow me to do that? How about a car dealership that will allow me to drive their cars around all day for my pleasure just as long as I put them back in the lot before the end of the business day?
I found it surprising that Barnes & Noble not only allows, but seems to encourage its customers to read books without paying for them. I know that’s what the public libraries do too. There are a couple of differences though. For one, public libraries are non-profit. Their funding doesn’t come from sales of books. The other difference is, in libraries the majority of patrons check out a book, take it home, and then bring it back when they are finished reading it. There are some folks who read their books at the library, but not as many folks as what I saw reading them at Barnes & Noble.
My wife and I were talking about this phenomenon last night when it dawned on me; there are a lot of Barnes & Noble style Christians.
You see, the Barnes & Noble book readers I saw shared three interesting characteristics:
- They enjoyed reading
- They didn’t want to pay for or invest anything in their reading material
- They didn’t take anything out of the store with them
It wouldn’t be too difficult to compare those customers with some Christians I have met:
- They enjoy being read to
- They don’t want to give their tithes or offerings or become invested in their church in any way (not even with their time or service)
- They don’t take anything from the service home with them
I’m not saying every Christian is like this. A large number of my brothers and sisters in Christ enjoy hearing the Word of God preached, take it to heart, and let it change them. God has quite a few children who faithfully tithe, give offerings, support missionaries, and still go out in the community and bless others. There are plenty of Christians who take their Bibles home to read, study, memorize, and meditate on what they read. That is what Christians should do.
Each of us needs to focus on being the kind of Christian God would want us to be.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying being read to. It’s wonderful to look forward to going to church and hearing your pastor share Biblical accounts and principles with you as he stands behind the pulpit. As a matter of fact, you should enjoy that! There’s nothing wrong with allowing the offering plate to pass you by without dropping anything in it – that is, if God hasn’t blessed you with any money that week. The Bible is quite clear on the fact that the Christian ought to give both tithes and offerings.
For a while, my wife and I had gotten somewhat irregular in the giving of our tithes and offerings. That was a foolish thing to do.
“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.” – Malachi 3:8-9
As embarrassing and as shameful as it is to admit it, every time my wife and I failed to put out tithe and offering in the offering plate, we were robbing God. We were stealing from Him. He had given us money and all He wanted in return was 10 percent of it to go the church and an offering of whatever amount we decided to give on top of that. We stole from God.
God punished us for that as well. During that time period, we experienced some serious trials. At one point, I was out-of-state and the radiator in my van tore up so badly I couldn’t get back home. The local auto shops were unable to fix it so I had to spend the night out of state, while my wife was home alone. Horrible feeling and a lot of money had to be invested in our vehicle.
It was around that same time period when the motor blew up in our other vehicle. It took us several weeks to locate another motor and to get it put in.
What I’m saying is, my wife and I didn’t plan to rob God. We would forget to take our checkbook to church and we never carried cash. It would be time for the offering plate to go by and we would realize, “Oops. We forgot to bring our checkbook again.”
Regardless of the reason, we robbed God and God held us accountable.
The Bible is very clear on the idea of tithing, which is giving ten percent of our income back to the Lord.
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” – Malachi 3:10
It didn’t take long for my wife and I to realize we had stepped outside the will of God. We had failed to obey a simple truth of scripture. God doesn’t take too kindly to the disobedience of His children. God dealt harshly with us – mainly through the means of our finances.
God doesn’t always provide the same form of discipline for every one of His children. He knows what will get out attention. Just like our own children, some respond better to different forms of correction. We could have gotten angry with God for correcting us, but who would that have hurt? Us or God? Perhaps both?
“If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” – Hebrews 12:7-8
Somewhere toward the end of last summer, we got tired of the spankings God was giving us and decided it was time to protect our spiritual backsides. We made a very conscious decision that we were not going to forget out checkbook anymore. If something happened and we did forget, we would make sure, that no matter what, we would make up for it the following Sunday.
So, you are probably wondering what has changed since we made that commitment and started honoring God with our finances, right? That was toward the end of last summer. Here it is – February of 2017. Our household income has more than doubled since that time. God opened the windows of Heaven and poured us out a blessing.
God will do the same thing for you! Trust Him. Obey Him. Whether it’s tithes and offerings or some other area of life in which you are robbing God or disobeying Him, remember He is your Father. What would you have preferred to receive from your earthly father? A good, heart-felt hug along with the words, “I’m proud of you,” or to hear the words, “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you,” right before he bent you over and wore you out? I know which I would have preferred.
It’s not just about tithes and offerings though. When we go to church, we shouldn’t leave empty-handed, like so many Barnes & Nobles “customers.” The preaching of the Word of God, the singing of the Godly hymns and spiritual songs, the testimonies of our fellow saints, and the sweet moving of the Holy spirit ought to do a work inside of us. We ought to take something home with us from the church service. Something life changing.
Let’s please our Heavenly Father in all things. Let’s have the strongest relationship we can possibly have with Him.
When you go to church, don’t just listen while the pastor preaches. Don’t look at his preaching like a kid listens to a bedtime story. Follow along in your Bible. Read along with Him. When the offering plate comes around, see that as an opportunity to give something back to God for what He has given you. When you go home, ask yourself, “What can I take with me from this service?”
Trust and obey, for there is no other way.