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!