Before we get to the verse most frequently used to teach tithing as a requirement for Christians, let’s make sure we have a firm foundation for understanding the context of Malachi. If you haven’t read my discussion on 2 Chronicles 31 and Nehemiah 10, 12, and 13, please take the time to go back and study those articles. This post will still be here for you to read later. It’s important to have the right historical context for Malachi before reading and interpreting it. (Nehemiah and Malachi probably lived in the same place at the same time, so studying Nehemiah will help you better understand Malachi.)
Robbing God’s Tithes and Offerings
Malachi 3:8-12 begins by accusing the sons of Jacob of robbing God in tithes and offerings.
6 “For I, Yahweh, don’t change; therefore you, sons of Jacob, are not consumed. 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my ordinances, and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says Yahweh of Armies. “But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In tithes and offerings.”
Malachi 3:6-8 (WEB)
As we’ve studied already, these tithes and offerings are the things God specifically commanded to the Israelites. Although tithing advocates use these verses to support a single 10% tithe to the church, they do not discuss the other tithes God required of the Israelites or the various offerings (sin, peace, wave, etc.) He required of them as well. God was calling the people and the priests to return to keeping all of His commandments, statutes, and ordinances – not just those concerning a single 10% tithe. Using this passage of Scripture to teach a requirement of tithing to a church without including the requirement to follow all of the Law is abusing the Scriptures and twisting it for man’s purposes.
Cursed with the Curse
God makes it clear that He is specifically speaking to the nation of Israel (and not to Christians) by cursing them with “the curse”.
You are cursed with the curse; for you rob me, even this whole nation.
Malachi 3:9 (WEB)
The nation of Israel had bound themselves to follow all of the commandments, statutes, and ordinances found in the Law under penalty of the curse (see my discussion on Nehemiah). What is “the curse” if not the curse that applied to those who did not keep the whole Law?
Those who use these verses in Malachi to teach Christians that they will be cursed if they do not tithe are seriously misusing the Scriptures. You must understand that the curse God is referring to here is the same curse found in Deuteronomy 27 and 28, which applies to the Israelites who do not keep the Law of Moses.
So if you want to teach Christians that they must tithe or else be cursed by God, then you must also teach them to keep every single commandment in the Law or else be cursed. And if you want to do that, you might as well ignore the fact that Jesus came to die for our sins and take away the curse of the Law. But we know that we (Christians) no longer live by the Law but by faith because Christ redeemed us from the curse.
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse. For it is written, “Cursed is everyone who doesn’t continue in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them.”
11 Now that no man is justified by the law before God is evident, for, “The righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not of faith, but, “The man who does them will live by them.”
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us. For it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree,” 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Galatians 3:10-14 (WEB)
So we should not be teaching that Christians must tithe under penalty of a curse from God, or else we completely ignore all that Jesus did for us. We cannot place ourselves under the yoke of the Law with regards to tithing and choose to ignore all of the other commandments, statutes, and ordinances that are found in the Law.
The Tithe in the Storehouse
Verse 10 then says to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse so that there may be food in God’s house.
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and test me now in this,” says Yahweh of Armies, “if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough for.”
Malachi 3:10 (WEB)
As we learned in our study of Nehemiah and 2 Chronicles 31, the Temple storehouse was not designed to hold the entire tithe of Israel. Only the Levites received the tithe, and they received it in their Levitical cities (not at the Temple). It was then the duty of the Levites to bring the tithe of the tithes to the Temple so there would be food available for the Levites and priests serving at the Temple during their shifts. Nehemiah specifically notes that the priests had stolen the Levites’ portion of the tithe of the tithes and the Levites went home so they could eat. (And remember that Nehemiah and Malachi address the same time period in Israel.)
Tithing advocates stretch the meaning of this verse to include the full tithe that went to the Levites and say that the storehouse is the local church. However, the clear context of these verses and the Bible’s teaching on the tithe do not support these ideas. Furthermore, placing Christians under the burden and curse of the Law entirely ignores Christ’s sacrifice for us.
The Tithe Was Still Food and Only Food
Finally, these verses continue to make it evident that God’s tithing statutes for the Israelites only included food and never money.
10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and test me now in this,” says Yahweh of Armies, “if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough for. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast its fruit before its time in the field,” says Yahweh of Armies. 12 “All nations shall call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,” says Yahweh of Armies.
Malachi 3:10-12 (WEB)
Every single instance of tithing in the Bible, including this one, refers to the tithe containing only food and never money. The entire description of how God would bless the Israelites in this passage relates to the production of food. It’s all about how God would send them rain (open the windows of heaven means to send rain) and protect their crops. It says nothing about money or income – only food because that’s all the tithe ever contained. It was not that the Israelites did not have money – there are plenty of Biblical examples that show the use of money before, during, and after tithing was enacted among the Israelites. God never intended for the Israelites’ tithes to contain money.
But modern tithing teachers tell you that you must give 10% from any and all sources of income – not just agricultural produce. At the same time they claim to be holding to the Bible’s teaching about tithing. It should be very clear by now that the Bible never taught anyone to tithe money, but men today want your money and teach false doctrines in an effort to get as much as they can. When will we open our eyes to this truth?
No More Lies
I challenge you to study the truth of what I am saying and to read what God has to say about this issue. Stop listening to men long enough to hear God and then you will find His truth. We have seen that Malachi 3:8-12 plainly does not apply to Christians, but it is constantly used to force Christians to tithe out of fear of a curse from God. Do not let these lies infest your church any longer! Stand up for the truth and follow God’s principles for New Covenant giving.
With this we’ve looked at all the Old Testament examples of tithing. (I didn’t look at Amos 4:4-5, but it barely mentions tithing and hardly applies to our study.) I’ll begin looking at New Testament verses on tithing next week. Make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning if you don’t want to miss anything!