Today’s post is a continuation of sorts from Monday’s CTT post, “Sow a Seed?”
It is time to deal with the issue of the Tithe. This will not be a short post. The issue of “tithing” is one of great abuse in modern-day churches. Let us begin with the most abused proof-text found in Malachi.
8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.10 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.
Sometimes, even this proof text is reduced only to verse 10 in order to present a quid-pro-quo promise of prosperity. Is this valid? No. Let’s work through the context of this passage.
The Context of Malachi
This book is one (of many) of Prophecy. Though an exact time-frame isn’t possible to nail down for Malachi, this book was written after the Exile from Babylon and after the temple was rebuilt and worship resumed. This book of prophecy is intended for a specific people for a specific purpose. Let’s look at the first chapter to see how it plays out.
Malachi 1:1-5 (ESV) | The Lord’s Love for Israel
1 The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. 2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” 4 If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’” 5 Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!”
The very first section is addressed to Israel. God declares “I have loved you” to Israel, and then God repeats Israel’s complaint of “How have you loved us?”. Israel is suffering and blaming God for it. They question God’s love for them. God’s answer to them is interesting. He points to Jacob (whose name God changed to Israel) and Esau. God’s Covenant with Abraham didn’t extend to Esau, but to Jacob. Indeed, Israel is suffering, but not like Edom. God declares that once Israel sees Edom remain in ruin while they receive His promise, they’ll Praise God for His Greatness. Now the next section.
Malachi 1:6-14 (ESV) | The Priests’ Polluted Offerings
6 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ 7 By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. 8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. 9 And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. 10 Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. 11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. 12 But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. 13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.
After addressing Israel as a nation, the Lord specifically calls out the sin of the priests. This is no small matter. We’ll see just how serious in the next chapter.
Malachi 2 (ESV) | The Lord Rebukes the Priests
1 “And now, O priests, this command is for you. 2 If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it. 4 So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the Lord of hosts. 5 My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name.6 True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity.7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. 8 But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, 9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”
God is invoking His covenant with Levi. The priests had forgotten their place. They had profaned the Covenant of Levi.
Malachi 2:10-16 (ESV) | Judah Profaned the Covenant
10 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the Lord of hosts! 13 And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
Malachi narrows the language a bit in the next portion to that of Judah, which brings God’s current reproach into the present-day of Malachi, for only Judah, the Southern Kingdom remains after the Assyrian and Babylonian Exiles. God preserved Judah by covenant, for the Messiah is to be the Lion of Judah. Jerusalem and the Temple are within Judah, so God has not moved away from the Priests just yet, God is calling out the sin of Judah that have been blessed off on by the Priests. Malachi is confessing the sin of Judah before God and before the Priests by way of accusation. This confession should be coming from them, but Malachi is offering them while prophesying the consequences should they refuse to repent. He closes out this section with a Word from the Lord. This is another one of those places in Scripture where Adultery and Idolatry are held in equality. Both demonstrate faithlessness.
Malachi 2:17 (ESV) | The Messenger of the Lord
17 You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”
Not only has Israel doubted, the priests profaned the covenant of Levi, and Judah been faithless… they have declared evil doers “good in the sight of the Lord” and even claimed that He delights in evil doers. Remember what the Apostle Paul closes out Romans 1 (ESV)
Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Now, we’ve caught up to Chapter 3. Let’s see how it flows into our proof-text.
Malachi 3 (ESV)
1 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. 5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.
Here we have a Messianic prophecy. If you’ve ever been puzzled by Jesus’s harshness toward the Chief Priests, the scribes, and the Pharisees, think back to Malachi.
Malachi 3:6-15 (ESV) | Robbing God
6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 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. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts. 13 “Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ 14 You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts? 15 And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’”
So, here we are. It really didn’t take very long, 3 short chapters. Is this some generic proclamation of “principles” such as Proverbs? No. This is a specific rebuke to the children of Jacob, regarding the covenant with Moses and Levi. God points out that they had turned aside from His covenants and statutes from the days of their fathers. That would be the covenants and statues handed to them via Moses. They were indeed under a curse, the Mosaic Curse. You don’t need to guess or divine what curses were being invoked, they come from the Law. Deuteronomy 28:15-68 (ESV). Here are a few relevant examples:
- Deu 28:23 And the heavens over your head shall be bronze, and the earth under you shall be iron. 24 The Lord will make the rain of your land powder. From heaven dust shall come down on you until you are destroyed.
- Deu 28:32 Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and fail with longing for them all day long, but you shall be helpless.
- Deu 28:33 A nation that you have not known shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually, 34 so that you are driven mad by the sights that your eyes see.
So you see, Malachi isn’t saying that failure to give 10% (tithe) is the root of the curse, nor is he saying that simply tithing unlocks divine financial blessing. God is calling Israel to repent and return to Him under the Mosaic Covenant.
Bro, Do You Even Tithe?
The obligation of the Tithe can only be found in the Mosaic Covenant. Before the Covenant, it was freely given as an act of worship and thanksgiving to God by Abraham. So, if we are talking about the “cursed portion”, “robbing God”, “bringing the full tithe to the storehouse” we must be talking about the Mosaic Covenant. Let’s give it a look.
Deuteronomy 14:22-29 (ESV) | Tithes
22 “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. 23 And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 24 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27 And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.
28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.
What does it mean that the Levite has no portion or inheritance? Well, let’s look to their portion as recorded in the book of Numbers.
Numbers 18:21-32 (ESV)
21 “To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting, 22 so that the people of Israel do not come near the tent of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. 23 But the Levites shall do the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the people of Israel they shall have no inheritance.24 For the tithe of the people of Israel, which they present as a contribution to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance.Therefore I have said of them that they shall have no inheritance among the people of Israel.”
So, are they then expected to offer a Tithe? Yes.
Numbers 18 (ESV) cont…
25 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 26 “Moreover, you shall speak and say to the Levites, ‘When you take from the people of Israel the tithe that I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present a contribution from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe. 27 And your contribution shall be counted to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor, and as the fullness of the winepress. 28 So you shall also present a contribution to the Lord from all your tithes, which you receive from the people of Israel. And from it you shall give the Lord’s contribution to Aaron the priest. 29 Out of all the gifts to you, you shall present every contribution due to the Lord; from each its best part is to be dedicated.’ 30 Therefore you shall say to them, ‘When you have offered from it the best of it, then the rest shall be counted to the Levites as produce of the threshing floor, and as produce of the winepress. 31 And you may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward in return for your service in the tent of meeting. 32 And you shall bear no sin by reason of it, when you have contributed the best of it. But you shall not profane the holy things of the people of Israel, lest you die.’”
Finally, we’ll look in Leviticus at a key conclusion statement after the instructions on Vows and the Tithe:
Leviticus 27:30-34 (ESV)
30 “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. 31 If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. 32 And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord. 33 One shall not differentiate between good or bad, neither shall he make a substitute for it; and if he does substitute for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.”
34 These are the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai.
The Mosaic covenant cannot be kept anymore. There is no Earthly Temple where God chooses to Make His Name Dwell. You don’t Tithe, not in accordance with the Law of Moses. Therefore, you do not incur the curses or the blessings of the Law as found in Deuteronomy 28. You simply don’t. We are not grafted into the Mosaic Covenant. We are partakers in a better covenant.
Jesus, High Priest of a Better Covenant
Hebrews 8 (ESV)
8 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
8 For he finds fault with them when he says:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”
13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Is it a sin to give a tithe, as in 10% of your income? No. Not at all. Is it a sin to encourage brothers and sisters to shoot for 10%? No. But be very careful in your “encouragement”. Do not offer them promises that are not for them, and do not place a yoke on their necks that you are unable to bear. We cannot keep the Law of Moses by our own doing. Jesus kept the Law and His righteousness is imputed to us by Faith, not by works of the Law. God loves a cheerful giver, indeed. God blesses those who give freely and not under compulsion. He also punishes those who would abuse His children and cause even the littlest one to stumble. Fear the Lord, and know that we are part of the New Covenant, secured by the Blood of Jesus, our Great High Priest.
Hebrews 9:23-28 (ESV)23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Amen. We look forward to the Great Day of His Return.
In Christ Jesus,