Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. – Malachi 3:10 (NRSV)
One of the things I love about Scripture is how unruly it is.
Here, for instance, in the last book of the Old Testament, the prophet Malachi challenges Israel to stop with the half-hearted giving and offer up a full tithe. “Put me to the test,” says the Lord; “see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you.”
But just several pages later in the first book of the New Testament, Jesus says, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Which is it? Test or not test?
What I hear Malachi saying is, get in the game. Are you, am I, standing on the sidelines, or are we in the game — all the way in? It’s difficult to win if you don’t get on the field.
There’s an old story about a Mr. Goldberg who, each time the results of the lottery are announced, complained loudly to God. “Is it too much to ask,” lamented Goldberg, “that just once I should win?” Next week’s lottery results are announced and once again Goldberg is disappointed. “All this time, Lord, I have been so faithful, so righteous. Could I not win the lottery just once?”
Suddenly a voice booms forth from the clouds, “Goldberg, give me a chance — buy a ticket.”
God asks us to invest ourselves, to take a chance, to lean in, to get off the sidelines. Or as the poet Goethe put it, rather more eloquently:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.”
As we wait this Advent, grant Holy One that ours be an active, risk-full, leaning-in kind of waiting. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book, Useful Wisdom: Letter to Young (and Not So Young) Ministers will be published early next year by Wipf and Stock. You can read and sign up for his blog at www.anthonybrobinson.com.