“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. 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. 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; “and all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts.
In a recent article I mentioned that change is coming. Here is the first change. You might find this article a bit challenging. I’m going to stir the pot a little bit and see what comes to the surface. Hold on to your hat because we are in for a wild ride.
Some of you may already guess what I’m going to say about this particular scripture, but just in case you haven’t, I’m going to say it anyway: pastors and teachers have used this part of scripture out of context one too many times for whatever reason (I’ll leave that for you to determine).
This particular scripture has been used inappropriately from preachers who either don’t understand the context in which it was written, or they have manipulated God’s word to guilt you into giving money. If you are a pastor, I make no apologies for this statement. As a teacher of the faith I am committed to bringing out the best in Jesus’ church and that includes being a teacher for pastors as well. Pastors are not excluded from being taught, therefore, I am committed to teaching pastors so that they can be the best they can be for the sake of the church. I see it this way: teach the leader to be effective, and the whole flock benefits.
Getting back to Malachi, the context in which this verse is placed is in reference to Israel in the Old Testament under the Mosaic Law. The reason this verse even exists is because Israel had spiralled into a spiritual famine, they had descended to a place where they have abandoned the very laws that God had given them. In fact, their very culture had been tainted by their amalgamation of various pagan religions and cultural practices to the point of almost losing their identity as a nation ruled by Yahweh.
In an attempt to shake them up a little, God sent a prophet to deliver some harsh words about robbing God. The Jewish people, even back then, would have been appalled at the notion of robbing God. Thus, the message delivered by the prophet Malachi would serve as a wakeup call for them.
Tithing, in this context, pertains to the Levitical law of giving ten percent. When they followed these laws it allowed God the opportunity to bless His people. This is why He says, “Test me and see if I will open the windows of heaven.” The fact that God said to “test” Him is another notion that the Jewish people would find sacrilegious because in Deuteronomy 6:16, as part of the law, it says that you shall not test the Lord your God. It almost seems contradictory that God would go against His own word about testing Him. And yet God says to test Him. God is clearly determined to prosper his children in order to affirm the covenant and bless His children, all because He loves them greatly.
Think of the reaction the Israelites would have given when they heard they were robbing God and that they had permission to test God in the realm of tithes and blessings. It is easy to see why a modern day preacher would misunderstand this scripture and use it as the primary passage for giving. If you don’t take into consideration the entire book of Malachi— the preceding passages, the cultural setting, and the historical context in which this book was written, reading this part of scripture could be harsh for anyone to accept.
This particular passage pertains to a specific group of people at a given time, place, and situation in their lives, as they address a cultural, national and personal issue. It was not meant for us today in the same context as it was delivered back then. Also, take note that God makes a distinction between tithe and offering. This affirms that there is a difference between the two. We’ll leave that for another topic in the future.
However, all that being said, there are some spiritual applications that we can glean from this event. The primary truth we can garner is that God is a big giver and that He has a great desire to bless His children. The other thing we can walk away with is that God allows Himself to be tested in the realm of giving and that He does take care of those who give. This passage should testify to the magnitude of God’s love for His children and His desire to increase them beyond just meeting their needs. It also shows that there are certain things in our lives that must be in alignment with Him and His ways in order to receive the fullness of His blessing, such as stewardship, giving, trusting in Him, and living according to His Word.
So what exactly was Malachi referring to when he speaks of tithing in the context of the Mosaic Law? For this, it is important to examine the book of Leviticus as a whole. I know that the book of Leviticus is not the most exciting read in the Bible, but in order to glean some insight into the Law, specifically when it concerns tithing, it is a necessary read. When I taught at Bible school, one of my challenges was to read and teach from the book of Leviticus. It took some time but the students showed a little excitement when they began seeing some significant correlations between the sacrifices, and the fulfilment of Christ on the Cross.
This book is extremely precise in its details about what makes a perfect sacrifice. This was to emphasize the perfection of God, and that only Jesus meets all those standards. I will leave it up to you to read on your own time to find those interesting details such as the male offering without blemish, blood drained at the side of the altar, priests, bread, first fruits, all the different types of offerings and their purpose, and all the types of celebrations. After you get through the book of Leviticus you will have a greater love for Jesus, seeing that He is both the High Priest and the perfect sacrifice that meets all these qualifications and fulfills all the types of offerings.
But for now, I will go straight to the passages that draw our interest because of the subject of tithes.
28 ‘Nevertheless no devoted offering that a man may devote to the Lord of all that he has, both man and beast, or the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted offering is most holy to the Lord. 29 No person under the ban, who may become doomed to destruction among men, shall be redeemed, but shall surely be put to death. 30 And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord. 31 If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it. 32 And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord. 33 He shall not inquire whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; and if he exchanges it at all, then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.’”
God called Moses and spoke from the tabernacle and gave specific details on the Law: specifics on sacrifices and what they accomplish, the function of the high priest, and the types of celebrations. In the last chapter God speaks of tithing.
Pay particular attention to how God speaks about tithing. It’s almost as if God assumes Moses knows what tithing is. If Moses didn’t know, there should have been an explanation about what a tithe is. But you don’t find that here. This leads me to believe that tithing was something understood but not enforced as a law.
This particular passage brings out something that most modern day preachers completely miss or skim over. God says something interesting pertaining to making a sacrifice holy. Look at verse 32. God says that the tenth one that passes under the rod is holy to the Lord and it doesn’t matter if it is good or bad, nor shall it be exchanged. In this particular passage God is clear that the tenth of the herd or flock is dedicated to God, not 10 percent of the whole flock. This is not the same thing as a tithe as it is being taught today, where they say to give ten percent of the whole.
You see, this is where preachers will say, “Bring the tithe to church for it is holy and dedicated unto the Lord.” But that isn’t what is said here. It is the tenth one that passes under the rod that is holy. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be the best or the finest of the flock or herd. Here’s a question for you; what if you only have nine in the flock? This kind of thinking goes against preachers who declare, “you should give a tenth of your whole and it should be your best.”
Also, if you did in fact read the book of Leviticus it clearly states that the tithe is to be brought to the priests. Believe it or not, there is a practical reason the tithe is brought to the temple for the priests. But we will address that at a later time.