Hindrances to Prayer

by Evangelist John R. Rice

IV. Covetousness Puts One Under a Curse, Hinders Prayer

Covetousness, too, is a most respectable sin and is found in the "best families." But it is a sin that God hates terribly. It is literally idolatry (Col. 3:5), and the covetous man is an idolater (Eph. 5:5). And God's Word says that "the love of money is the root of all evil (I Tim. 6:10), that is, literally, that the love of money can lead to every kind of sin in the world.

No the Scripture expressly says that covetousness is a sin that shuts the Heavens against the Christian. In Malachi we read:

"Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kep them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? 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" (Mal. 3:7-9).

Here is a startling statement that men actually rob God. They do it in tithes and in offerings. The tithe is the Lord's; not to give it is to rob God. The offerings also are the Lord's; not to give them also robs God. And the Lord says, "Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation."

Because of this sin of covetousness, the land of Israel was under a curse, the whole land. God had withheld the rain. He had not heard their prayers. They were under a curse, and could not get the things they desired from God. And God gave them a challenge in the following verses:

"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. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts."

The simple matter of forsaking covetousness and bringing the tithes and offerings which He had expressly commanded as a token of His ownership of everything would enable God to hear their prayers, to bless their crops, and to pour out such blessings as they would not even be able to receive! The insect pests would be rebuked, the rain would come when needed, and it would be a happy land, God promised, if the people would prove God on this matter of tithes and offerings.

I well know that this was first addressed to the Jews. I have heard long arguments that the tithe was commanded only for Jews. But the truth of the matter is that proportionate giving is as clearly commanded in the New Testament as in the Old (I Cor. 16:2). Abraham, the tither, the man of faith, is held up as an example to New Testament Christians in this matter (Heb. 7:1-10). And the New Testament examples who are greatly praised went far beyond the tithe, as we see in the cases of the woman who put in tow mites (Mark 12:41-44), in the case of the saints at Jerusalem after Pentecost (Acts 4:34-37), and the churches of Macedonia (II Cor. 8:1-6). And besides, the promises given in the Old Testament about liberality have been abundantly proved true by literally thousands of New Testament Christians. I know that it pays in dollars and cents to bring God the tithes and offerings. And I have proved God, and He has opened the windows of Heaven as He promised.

And why should God demand more of an Old Testament Jew than of a New Testament Christian under grace? Should a Jew under law love God better? Should he trust Him further? Stealing, God-robbing, covetousness is the same wicked sin in New Testament times as it was in Old Testament times. And those who sing, "Oh, How I Love Jesus," but do not love Him a dime's worth out of a dollar will not get far in their praying. If you cannot trust God to supply your need and to repay you for all the tithes and offerings you bring in for Him, you have not much faith.

In Dallas, Texas, a good Christian woman who had long proved how joyful and how prosperous it is to put God first with tithes and offerings, came to church one day with her heart all set on plans for some lovely clothes. Her husband's bi-monthly pay check had come Saturday night, and she had it in her purse at church, since he could not come. She thought to herself, "This one time I'll not put in the tithe; I will give $1.00, and the rest of the money we can use so well for things we need to buy."

But that dear Christian woman was on the committee to prepare the bread and grape juice for the communion table that Sunday morning. As she filled the little glasses her heart remembered the strict injunction, "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat." She dared not partake of the emblems representing the poured-out blood of the Saviour and His broken body with any known sin or rebellion in her heart. And the Spirit of God spoke insistently to her about how she had planned to withhold the tithe and use it for her own ends. She could have no peace in her heart; and she cried out to God, "Oh, heavenly Father, I cannot take the Lord's Supper until I know You are pleased with Me!" So she solemnly promised God, 'Lord, if You'll give me the joy in my heart again and let me know that You've forgiven me, that there is nothing between my soul and the Saviour, I promise You that before I leave the house of God today I'll get that check cashed and turn in the tithe and offerings that I vowed to You that I would give." And then in sweet peace and in remembrance of the death of our dear Saviour, she took of the bread which pictured His broken body and of the cup which pictured His poured-out blood. She came then to tell me, her pastor, of her victory; and the tears of joy rolled down her cheeks as she told it! Oh, dear friend, God does not care so much about your money, but He wants you. He wants your trust, your full surrender, your willingness to give Him anything, everything, even yourself! How grieved He must be if any child of His does not believe Him enough, does not love Him enough to put Him first in money matters!

Many, many Christians have their hearts so set on material possessions, on money, on business that God cannot answer their prayers. Are your prayers hindered by this sin? Would God have to say to you, "Ye are cursed with a curse because ye have robbed me"?

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