There is a very interesting question that comes up when reading a key Bible text on stewardship. Malachi 3:10 states, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” Wow! God tells His people to test Him and see what He will do when they obey Him. But WAIT! Doesn’t the Bible tell us we should never test God? Which is it?
Here is a quick summary on what we see in the Bible. There are three cases in Scripture where God commands that He be tested (Isa 7:10-14, Malachi 3:10, 1 John 4:1). Yet there are at least nine times where Scripture records God’s condemnation of those who tested Him.
Testing God was commanded in three cases where God wanted to strengthen the faith of His people: King Ahaz when he feared the attack of a league of enemy armies, the Hebrews concerning faithful tithing, and New Testament believers concerning discernment of deceiving spirits. God’s condemnation of those testing Him centered around two occasions: the Hebrews testing Him in the wilderness and Satan’s testing Jesus during His wilderness fasting. The comparison of these texts do not represent a contradiction in God or His commands. Rather, there is a difference in the nature of the testing. On the one hand God commands that His people test Him in specific ways in which He aims to strengthen their faith in Him. On the other hand the testing of God which denies God’s goodness and embraces idolatry is condemned.
Malachi 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.
Exodus 17:2-3; 7 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” …And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
Numbers 14:22-23 None of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, 23 shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it.
Deuteronomy 6:14-17 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth. 16 “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. 17 You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you.
Psalm 78:18-19; 41; 56-57 18 They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. 19 They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?…41 They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel…56 Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God and did not keep his testimonies, 57 but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers; they twisted like a deceitful bow.
Psalm 95:7-10 7 Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 10 For forty years I loathed that generation.
Psalm 106:13-15 But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel. But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert; he gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them.
Isaiah 7:10-14 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Matthew 4:5-7 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, He will command his angels concerning you, and On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test. (Also Luke 4:12)
Acts 15:8-10 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?
1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Hebrews 3:7-10 Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways. y in their heart; they have not known my ways.’