Let’s move on to perhaps one of the most misused portions of scripture that has been thrust upon the church and used to induce fear and increase shame and guilt among the people. The portion of scripture that I am referring to is Malachi 3:8-12 which reads, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try 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 such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. 11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the Lord of hosts; 12 “And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the Lord of hosts.”
We are going to spend a good amount of time dissecting this portion of scripture as I believe it is necessary in order to fully grasp and comprehend the gravity of this text. First, this portion of scripture has been misused by many to say that when you don’t give your money to the church then you are in turn robbing God, and that because you have robbed God you will then be cursed by God because of your lack of giving. Then the scripture is twisted to say that you can now test God by giving the church money, and in return… your wealth, health, spiritual life and success will be increased to such a degree that you won’t be able to contain it all. They even use a portion of verse 11 where it states, “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes…” to threaten people by saying, “that if you don’t give the church your money God is basically going to just take it all from you anyway and curse all of your hard work.” This type of twisting is an irresponsible mishandling of God’s word and yet another reason why all of us must be responsible for reading God’s word for ourselves. When examining any portion of scripture it is wise to ask questions such as, “What is going on in this chapter? Why is God correcting these individuals? And who are the individuals that God is speaking to? Without asking these fundamental questions you will be left confused as to what this text really means, and thus leaving you more susceptible to being deceived.
Let us look at this text one more time…
Notice that in verse 8 these individuals are being accused of robbing God of His tithes and offerings. Well we know for a fact that the tithes being spoken of here is not speaking of money given to God, because we have firmly established that the tithes were produce from the land and also animals, but what about offerings? Can offerings be money? Yes, but they can also be burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings.
Let me quickly demonstrate with two scriptures that the term offering can refer to either money or food:
For example, there was such a thing as a census tax in the land of Israel. In Exodus 30:12-13 it states, “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. 13 Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the Lord.”
And in Deuteronomy 30:9 it reads, “You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and you shall not pour a drink offering on it.” So it’s clear from these passages that an offering can be money, food or drink, but which one is being spoken of in Malachi 3? In order to discover the truth we will have to go back a few chapters to gain an understanding of the context, and this is where you will discover that a little bit of context goes a long way.
This next portion of scripture will be long but I believe it is necessary to read in order to fully understand what is going on in Malachi. In Malachi Chapter 1:6-14 it states,
“A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the Lord of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ 7 “You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ 8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the Lord of hosts. 9 “But now entreat God’s favor, That He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably?” Says the Lord of hosts. 10 “Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,” Says the Lord of hosts, “Nor will I accept an offering from your hands. 11 For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations,” Says the Lord of hosts. 12 “But you profane it, In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled; And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’ 13 You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the Lord of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the Lord. 14 “But cursed be the deceiver Who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, But sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished— For I am a great King,” Says the Lord of hosts, “And My name is to be feared among the nations.”
I want you to notice that it was the priests who were being rebuked by God for their poor offerings. Notice that all of the offerings were identified as either fruit or food, or animals from the flock. The priests of Israel were being rebuked by the Lord because they were offering animals that were diseased, blind, lame, or sick. The Lord then asks them a rhetorical question when He states, “Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” What the Lord is saying here is that the offerings that they gave to God, they wouldn’t even give to their own leaders. God corrected these individuals because they were offering the worst to God. When a person tithed and gave offerings according to the law under the Old covenant, one of the primary requirements was that the offering should be void of any blemishes or defects.
Now when we read Malachi 3 with that context in mind it becomes clear. The Priests were actually taking the good sacrifices that belonged to the Lord and were keeping it for themselves; thereby, robbing God. This is not an analogy for church giving. Also, there are some who will try to make the comparison that the storehouse in Malachi is the same as a church institution today. That could not be further from the truth. We read about the storehouses earlier in Deuteronomy being a literal place where food was stored. It was not a treasury where money was kept, so when the Lord says in Malachi 3:10, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try 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 such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it”.
It seems to me that God is echoing the promise He made to Israel in Deuteronomy 11:13-17 where it states, “‘And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. And I will send grass in your fields for your livestock, that you may eat and be filled.’ Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, lest the Lord’s anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you.”
Based on this text and the context in Malachi 3 it becomes crystal clear that the reason that the Lord threatened them with a devourer that would destroy their lands is because they were breaking God’s commands concerning sacrifices. He then states that if they obey His commands and offer Him what he has asked for… then they will prosper in their land. Again, this text is NOT saying that IF you today don’t give 10% of your money to your church that the Lord is going to curse you and take everything from you. It is also NOT saying that if you do give 10% of your money to your church that you will become rich. This specific text was written to the children of Israel under the Old Covenant in response to their disobedience. It is not an instruction for the church today concerning the giving of money. Let me stress once again. This text cannot be used as a proof text to manipulate people’s consciences with guilt and fear so that they give money. That is absolutely not from the Lord.
Additionally, in Galatians 3:13 it states, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law…” and since we have been redeemed from the curse of the law, and tithing is a law under the Old Covenant, there is absolutely no way we can be cursed for not tithing. So it is absolutely unbiblical to tell people that if they don’t tithe, they’re going to fall under a curse, because as we read, those who are in Christ are free from the curse of the law.
Let us look at one more Old Testament text that has been mistranslated in an effort to promote and mandate tithing today. In Proverbs 3:9-10 it reads, “Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase;So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine.” Some will use this text to say, “You see! It says possessions, therefore a tithe is to be given from our money to the church, and because we give money, the Lord promises to bless us.”I want you notice that even within this verse, possessions and tithing are separate. They are not one in the same. We know that the first fruits of the land are referring to the tithe of food items. If a person is to hold that this scripture speaks of what we are to do today in church, than that means that we are still to give food offerings. Yet no one does this. Why? Because we are no longer under the Old Covenant, but what about the possessions? The verse is simply stating that we should honor the Lord with what we have. For example, if I have a large home, and someone is in need of shelter than I can show honor to the Lord with my possession by taking them in, or Perhaps, someone is in need of food, and I have plenty of money. Then I can use that money to feed them; thus, I honor the lord with my money, and maybe I can take a portion of my earnings and donate it to ministry work; thereby, honoring the Lord with my possessions, but it is not a mandatory tithe. In verse 10, it makes it a point to let us know that as a result of our generosity that the Lord will be faithful to provide what we need, and based on that verse, the needs spoken of are the things we read about earlier in Malachi—like crops and animals or in today’s world, our basic needs. This verse does not mean that individuals are mandated to give 10% of their income in order to receive blessings from God. Therefore, this verse should not be used as a guilt verse to coerce people into giving, but rather to teach that the Lord honors generosity.
We will now leave the Old Testament and transition into the new, but before we move forward let us review some Key points:
- The word tithe (Masser) simply means an amount of 10%. It does not mean what the amount is to come from. For example, a ‘tithe’ of crops or animals. The word tithe is not the crops or animals themselves, but rather is a descriptive term of the percentage to be given from the crops or animals.
- Tithing was not codified into a law by God until after Mt. Sinai in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.
- The tithe (or 10% to be collected) that was commanded by God only came from the fruit of the land and the animals, and only from people who possessed land and animals. Finally……..
- There were 3 reasons for a tithe being instituted: 1. to support the Levites and Aaron’s sons for the work of the temple. 2. for the feasts and celebrations. And 3.For the poor and strangers among them.
Now that we are familiar as to what tithing was under the old covenant, we will now leave the Old Covenant behind and delve into the New Covenant to see what the Lord requires from us as believers today.
Far too often we rely on our traditions and experiences to dictate how we understand tithing. I have heard things such as, “I once had an experience where I gave ten percent of my money to the church and the next week I received an unexpected check in the mail with twice that amount.” But for every one “success” story there are 10 others who were faithful in giving who did not experience those blessings; but rather, were still struggling to make ends meet. What do we say to them? I have heard false teachers say things like, “Well, the reason you didn’t get a return is because you didn’t have enough faith.” Or “Perhaps you have some un-confessed sin in your life that’s hindering you from receiving blessings.” Or maybe “You did get a blessing, but you just haven’t discovered it yet.” Do you notice what is happening? The blame is being shifted onto the one who gave and off of the one who promised.
Also, there is another tactic that has been used to coerce believers into giving money by issuing something known as a “Tithing challenge” in which the leader states, “I ask you to test God, and give a tithe, and I am so confident in God that if for some reason you do not receive a blessing, we will refund you your money back.” This may seem as if the leader is demonstrating his confidence in God, and for some teachers and pastors they are not trying to lie to you; but they genuinely have a wrong understanding as a result of their teaching and upbringing. This is a destructive cycle and one that needs to be stopped in order for the church to truly flourish. This tactic should have no place in the church; and here is why. First, the leader is presuming upon God’s will that this will happen, this is not something that God has stated…it is a presumption. All this does is cause a rift between that person and God when that promise given by man falls through, but for the sake of argument let’s just say that this person does take that challenge and gives a 10% or even a 20% donation to the church every week, and after some time passes they realize that nothing has changed. The chances of that individual coming to the church to ask for their money back is very low due to the shame associated with it because they believe that they will be viewed by the leaders as someone who doesn’t trust God. This kind of practice should never be done in a church. Which is why it is extremely important for us to examine the New Testament so we can remove the burden of the law from off of people’s backs, and restore the freedom and Joy of giving back into their hearts?
Here is a list of scriptures in the New Testament that mandate tithing:
There are none!
I know that that was a humorous, but the fact still remains that there is no, and I truly mean, NO New Testament support for a Church to mandate their members to give 10% of their earnings. Not one! What I will do though is address some scriptures that have been misused to try to enforce tithing and place them back in context.
The first scripture I will address will be Matthew 23:23 which states, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”
First, I want you to notice how Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees by pointing out that they are so focused on the minutia of the law that they are forgetting what really matters to God. Things like: being just, having mercy, and exhibiting faith and trust in God. This is the primary focus of this portion of scripture; also, notice that when the tithe is mentioned it is immediately connected with food, not money! Mint, anise, and cumin are spices. In others words they were so focused on being exact with their contributions that they forgot God’s people. Now the primary reason I came to this scripture was for the last half of this verse where it states, “…These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” I have seen teachers take this verse and state that Jesus is telling us today to keep paying our tithes, but to also focus on the weightier matters. Let me prove to you right here and now WHY Jesus told them to pay their tithes, and why this command is not being given to us today.
In Mark 1:44 after Jesus heals a man of leprosy He states, “…See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” The reason I came to this scripture is to demonstrate the time in which Jesus was speaking. Jesus spoke to these individuals while they were still under the Old Covenant and before Jesus Christ had died for their sins. The Law was still in place. No one today will proclaim that when someone gets sick or has a disease that they have to offer a sacrifice to a priest. With that context in mind, Matthew 23:23 makes much more sense. The reason Jesus told them to keep tithing while also taking responsibility for the weightier matters of the law was because the law was still enforced because Jesus had not yet died for their sins…not because we still have to tithe today. Therefore this scripture cannot be used to mandate tithing.
In our next lesson on tithing we are going to wrap things up by discovering what giving really is under the New Covenant and why it is truly a blessing to give from the heart and not out of fear or compulsion.
Jourdan Ortiz, Founder of Servant of Christministries