I spoke on Matthew’s account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert last weekend at my church. After the message, I received an interesting question.
“Jesus said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test,’ but what about the verse that says, ‘test me in this?’ I immediately recognized the verse as one often quoted by prosperity gospel preachers and pastors urging the congregation to tithe:
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
– Malachi 3:10
The question boils down to, “Do we test the Lord or not?”
It might seem too easy an answer, but I say, “Test the Lord when he asks to be tested and trust the Lord when he asks to be trusted.”
In Malachi, God was asking his people to test him because they were disillusioned and cheating him out of what was due to him. I can imagine they were scared of not having enough and trying to hold back the best of what they had to protect themselves. God urged them to test him because ultimately “testing” him would require trusting that he would hold up his end of the covenant.
In the wilderness, God intended to test his people to see what was in their hearts and whether they would keep his commandments (see Deut. 8:2). He intended for them to trust, which would indicate the right heart.By testing the Lord, they demonstrated a lack of faith.
As I said above, test the Lord when he asks to be tested and trust the Lord when he asks to be trusted. I find it interesting that in both of the above examples the desired characteristic is faith. Whether testing or trusting, God expected Israel to have a right relationship to him.