The Blessing of Jehovah Makes Rich
“The blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.”—PROVERBS 10:22.
1-3. While many are concerned about material things, what fact about material wealth should all recognize?
SOME people never stop talking about money—or their lack of it. Unhappily for them, in recent years they have had much to discuss. In 1992 even the affluent West experienced a recession, and executives as well as rank-and-file workers found themselves out of work. Many wondered if they would ever again see a time of stable prosperity.
2 Is it wrong to be concerned about our material well-being? No, to a degree it is only natural. At the same time, there is a basic truth that we must recognize about wealth. Ultimately, all material things come from the Creator. He is “the true God, Jehovah, . . . the One laying out the earth and its produce, the One giving breath to the people on it, and spirit to those walking in it.”—Isaiah 42:5.
3 Although Jehovah does not foreordain who is to be rich and who is to be poor, all of us are answerable for the way we use whatever share we have of “the earth and its produce.” If we use our wealth to lord it over others, Jehovah will hold us accountable. And any who slave for riches rather than for Jehovah will find that “the one trusting in his riches—he himself will fall.” (Proverbs 11:28; Matthew 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:9) Material prosperity not accompanied by a heart submissive to Jehovah is ultimately without value.—Ecclesiastes 2:3-11, 18, 19; Luke 16:9.
The Most Important Prosperity
4. Why is spiritual prosperity better than material abundance?
4 In addition to material prosperity, the Bible speaks of spiritual prosperity. This is clearly the better kind. (Matthew 6:19-21) Spiritual prosperity entails a satisfying relationship with Jehovah that can last for eternity. (Ecclesiastes 7:12) Moreover, spiritually rich servants of God do not lose out on wholesome material blessings. In the new world, spiritual wealth will be linked with material prosperity. Faithful ones will enjoy a material security that is not gained by bitter competition or the sacrifice of health and happiness, as is so often the case today. (Psalm 72:16; Proverbs 10:28; Isaiah 25:6-8) They will find that in every way “the blessing of Jehovah . . . makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.”—Proverbs 10:22.
5. What promise did Jesus give regarding material things?
5 Even today those who value spiritual things feel a certain tranquillity as far as material things are concerned. True, they work to pay their bills and feed their families. Or some might even lose their jobs in times of recession. But they are not overwhelmed by such concerns. Rather, they believe Jesus’ promise when he said: “Never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ . . . For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matthew 6:31-33.
Spiritual Wealth Today
6, 7. (a) Describe some aspects of the spiritual prosperity of God’s people. (b) What prophecy is being fulfilled today, and what questions does this raise?
6 Hence, Jehovah’s people have chosen to put the Kingdom first in their lives, and how blessed they are! They enjoy rich success in their work of making disciples. (Isaiah 60:22) They are taught by Jehovah, enjoying a ceaseless stream of spiritual good things provided through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47; Isaiah 54:13) Further, Jehovah’s spirit is upon them, molding them into a delightful international brotherhood.—Psalm 133:1; Mark 10:29, 30.
7 This truly is spiritual prosperity, something money cannot buy. It is a striking fulfillment of Jehovah’s promise: “‘Bring all the tenth parts into the storehouse, that there may come to be food in my house; and test me out, please, in this respect,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘whether I shall not open to you people the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out upon you a blessing until there is no more want.’” (Malachi 3:10) We today have seen this promise fulfilled. Why, though, does Jehovah, the Source of all wealth, ask that his servants bring in a tenth part, or a tithe? Who benefits from the tithe? To answer these questions, consider why Jehovah spoke these words through Malachi in the fifth century B.C.E.
Tithes and Offerings
8. According to the Law covenant, on what would Israel’s material prosperity depend?
8 In Malachi’s time God’s people were not prospering. Why not? In part it had to do with offerings and tithes. Back then, Israel was under the Mosaic Law covenant. When Jehovah made that covenant, he promised that if Israel kept their part of it, he would bless them spiritually and materially. In effect, Israel’s prosperity depended on their faithfulness.—Deuteronomy 28:1-19.
9. In the days of ancient Israel, why did Jehovah require Israel to pay tithes and bring offerings?
9 Part of Israel’s obligation under the Law was to bring offerings to the temple and to pay tithes. Some of the offerings were burned in their entirety on the altar of Jehovah, while others were divided between the priests and the ones presenting the sacrifice, with special portions being offered to Jehovah. (Leviticus 1:3-9; 7:1-15) Regarding tithes, Moses told the Israelites: “Every tenth part of the land, out of the seed of the land and the fruit of the tree, belongs to Jehovah. It is something holy to Jehovah.” (Leviticus 27:30) The tithe was given to the Levite workers at the tabernacle and later at the temple. In turn, nonpriestly Levites would give a tenth of what they received to the Aaronic priests. (Numbers 18:21-29) Why did Jehovah require Israel to pay tithes? First, so that they could show in a tangible way their appreciation for Jehovah’s goodness. And second, so that they could contribute to the support of the Levites, who could then concentrate on their obligations, including the teaching of the Law. (2 Chronicles 17:7-9) In this way pure worship was also supported, and everyone benefited.
10. What happened when Israel failed to bring tithes and offerings?
10 Although tithes and offerings were later used by the Levites, they were really gifts to Jehovah and so were to be of good quality, worthy of him. (Leviticus 22:21-25) What happened when the Israelites failed to bring their tithes or when they brought inferior offerings? There was no punishment prescribed in the Law, but there were consequences. Jehovah withheld his blessing, and the Levites, deprived of material support, left their temple duties in order to support themselves. Thus, all Israel suffered.
“Set Your Heart Upon Your Ways”
11, 12. (a) What resulted when Israel neglected to keep the Law? (b) What commission did Jehovah give Israel when he brought them back from Babylon?
11 During the course of Israel’s history, some were exemplary in trying to keep the Law, including the paying of tithes. (2 Chronicles 31:2-16) As a general rule, though, the nation was neglectful. Again and again they broke the covenant with Jehovah, until he finally allowed them to be conquered and, in 607 B.C.E., to be deported to Babylon.—2 Chronicles 36:15-21.
12 That was hard discipline, but after 70 years Jehovah restored his people to their homeland. Many of the Paradise prophecies in Isaiah were to have their initial fulfillment after that return. (Isaiah 35:1, 2; 52:1-9; 65:17-19) Yet, the main reason Jehovah brought his people back was, not to build an earthly paradise, but to rebuild the temple and restore true worship. (Ezra 1:2, 3) If Israel obeyed Jehovah, material benefits would follow, and the blessing of Jehovah would make them rich both spiritually and materially. Accordingly, as soon as they arrived in their homeland in 537 B.C.E., the Jews built an altar in Jerusalem and began work on the temple. However, they encountered strong opposition and stopped. (Ezra 4:1-4, 23) As a result, Israel did not enjoy Jehovah’s blessing.
13, 14. (a) What followed when Israel failed to rebuild the temple? (b) How was the temple finally rebuilt, but what further lapses on Israel’s part are reported?
13 In the year 520 B.C.E., Jehovah raised up the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to urge Israel to return to the work of temple building. Haggai showed that the nation was suffering material hardships and related this to their lack of zeal for Jehovah’s house. He said: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Set your heart upon your ways. You have sown much seed, but there is a bringing of little in. There is an eating, but it is not to satisfaction. There is a drinking, but not to the point of getting intoxicated. There is a putting on of clothes, but it is not with anyone’s getting warm; and he that is hiring himself out is hiring himself out for a bag having holes.’ This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Set your heart upon your ways. Go up to the mountain, and you must bring in lumber. And build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and I may be glorified.’”—Haggai 1:5-8.
14 Encouraged by Haggai and Zechariah, the Israelites set their hearts upon their ways, and the temple was built. Some 60 years later, though, Nehemiah visited Jerusalem and found that Israel had again become neglectful of Jehovah’s Law. He corrected this. But on a second visit, he found that things had again deteriorated. He reports: “I got to find out that the very portions of the Levites had not been given them, so that the Levites and the singers doing the work went running off, each one to his own field.” (Nehemiah 13:10) This problem was corrected, and “all Judah, for their part, brought in the tenth of the grain and of the new wine and of the oil to the stores.”—Nehemiah 13:12.
15, 16. For what failings does Jehovah, through Malachi, reprove Israel?
15 Likely, the prophesying by Malachi was in this same general time period, and the prophet tells us more about Israel’s unfaithfulness. He records Jehovah’s words to Israel: “‘If I am a father, where is the honor to me? And if I am a grand master, where is the fear of me?’ Jehovah of armies has said to you, O priests who are despising my name.” What was wrong? Jehovah explains: “When you present a blind animal for sacrificing [you say]: ‘It is nothing bad.’ And when you present a lame animal or a sick one [you say]: ‘It is nothing bad.’”—Malachi 1:6-8.
16 In this graphic way, Malachi shows that while the Israelites were bringing in offerings, the poor quality of these betrayed gross disrespect. Malachi also wrote: “‘From the days of your forefathers you have turned aside from my regulations and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,’ Jehovah of armies has said.” The Israelites wondered what specifically they had to do, so they asked: “In what way shall we return?” Jehovah answered: “Will earthling man rob God? But you are robbing me.” How could Israel rob Jehovah, the Source of all wealth? Jehovah answered: “In the tenth parts and in the contributions.” (Malachi 3:7, 8) Yes, by failing to bring in their tithes and offerings, Israel was robbing Jehovah!
17. What purpose did tithes and offerings serve in Israel, and what promise does Jehovah make regarding tithes?
17 This historical background shows the importance of tithes and offerings in Israel. They were a demonstration of appreciation on the part of the giver. And they helped support true worship in a material way. Thus, Jehovah went on to encourage Israel: “Bring all the tenth parts into the storehouse.” Showing what would follow if they did, Jehovah promised: “I shall . . . empty out upon you a blessing until there is no more want.” (Malachi 3:10) The blessing of Jehovah would make them rich.
Judged by “the True Lord”
18. (a) Of whose coming does Jehovah warn? (b) When was there a coming to the temple, who was involved, and what was the result for Israel?
18 Jehovah through Malachi also warned that he would come to judge his people. “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he must clear up a way before me. And suddenly there will come to His temple the true Lord, whom you people are seeking, and the messenger of the covenant in whom you are delighting. Look! He will certainly come.” (Malachi 3:1) When did the promised coming to the temple take place? At Matthew 11:10, Jesus quoted Malachi’s prophecy of a messenger who would prepare the way and applied it to John the Baptizer. (Malachi 4:5; Matthew 11:14) So in 29 C.E., the time for judgment had arrived! Who was the second messenger, the messenger of the covenant who would accompany Jehovah, “the true Lord,” to the temple? Jesus himself, and on two occasions he came to the temple in Jerusalem and dramatically cleansed it, casting out the dishonest money changers. (Mark 11:15-17; John 2:14-17) Regarding this first-century time of judgment, Jehovah prophetically asks: “Who will be putting up with the day of his coming, and who will be the one standing when he appears?” (Malachi 3:2) In fact, Israel did not stand. They were inspected, found wanting, and in 33 C.E., they were cast off as Jehovah’s chosen nation.—Matthew 23:37-39.
19. In what way did a remnant return to Jehovah in the first century, and what blessing did they receive?
19 However, Malachi also wrote: “[Jehovah] must sit as a refiner and cleanser of silver and must cleanse the sons of Levi; and he must clarify them like gold and like silver, and they will certainly become to Jehovah people presenting a gift offering in righteousness.” (Malachi 3:3) In harmony with this, while most of those claiming to serve Jehovah in the first century were cast off, some were cleansed and came to Jehovah, offering acceptable sacrifices. Who? The ones who had responded to Jesus, the messenger of the covenant. At Pentecost 33 C.E., 120 of these responsive ones were gathered together in an upper room in Jerusalem. Strengthened by holy spirit, they began to present a gift offering in righteousness, and quickly their numbers grew. Soon, they spread throughout the Roman Empire. (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 5:14) Thus, a remnant returned to Jehovah.—Malachi 3:7.
20. When Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, what happened to the new Israel of God?
20 This remnant of Israel, which came to include Gentiles grafted, as it were, into the rootstock of Israel, was a new “Israel of God,” a nation made up of spirit-anointed Christians. (Galatians 6:16; Romans 11:17) In 70 C.E., a “day . . . burning like the furnace” came upon fleshly Israel when Jerusalem and her temple were destroyed by Roman armies. (Malachi 4:1; Luke 19:41-44) What happened to the spiritual Israel of God? Jehovah showed “compassion upon them, just as a man shows compassion upon his son who is serving him.” (Malachi 3:17) The anointed Christian congregation heeded Jesus’ prophetic warning. (Matthew 24:15, 16) They survived, and Jehovah’s blessing continued to make them spiritually rich.
21 What a vindication of Jehovah! How, though, is Malachi 3:1 being fulfilled today? And how should a Christian respond to the encouragement at Malachi 3:10 to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse? This will be discussed in the next article.
Can You Explain?
□ Ultimately, who is the Source of all wealth?
□ Why is spiritual prosperity better than material wealth?
□ What purpose did tithes and offerings serve in Israel?
□ When did Jehovah, “the true Lord,” come to the temple to judge Israel, and with what result?
□ Who returned to Jehovah after he came to his temple in the first century C.E.?
[Picture on page 10]
The messenger of the covenant, Jesus, representing Jehovah, came to the temple for judgment in the first century C.E.