CHRISTIAN TODAY: Article Published by I’m So Blessed Daily
What You Didn’t Know About Malachi 3:10
CT: The tithe has long been a challenge for Christians to completely understand and practice freely. Some Christians may overdo it while others under-practice the grace of generosity. But some of these challenges are based on things that we fail to understand about the tithe and God’s message to us in giving this law.
The tithe was a command given by God to the people of Israel that would serve two general purposes: to fund the “storehouse”—or the office of priests and Levites—and to test the hearts of the people. More than just the action, God wanted to use the tithe to challenge the hearts of the Israelites to see where their hearts are at.
RUSSELL KELLY: The un-named author of the article begins with the error that the tithe was for “Christians” and is associated with the “grace of generosity.” No validating texts are supplied.
First, the HOLY tithe (as the term is used by Moses, Nehemiah, Malachi and Jesus) was always only food from inside God’s HOLY land which He alone had miraculously increased. God supplies that which He requests. “Second, the tithe was never a “principle” for everybody; it only applied to Hebrew food-producers living inside HOLY Israel. Non-food producers such as carpenters, tentmakers, tradesmen and craftsmen were exempt. Third, the first whole Levitical O.T. went to the servants of the priests and not to the ministering priests (Num 18:20-28; Lev 27:30-34)
CT: While we are not under the same set of laws given to the Israelites, many of the timeless principles that ruled them during that time still rule us today. One of those principles is generosity—the true litmus paper to the heart.
KELLY: First, “we” the Church are not included; there is not a single post-Calvary New Covenant text which commands the church to tithe to gospel workers. Second, in order to be an eternal moral “timeless principle,” it must be written in the heart of every person (John 1:9; Rom 1:18-20; 2:14-16). While 9 of the Ten Commandments are eternal moral principles, the 7th day Sabbath (and 10% tithing) is not. Resting and sacrificial giving are eternal moral principles.
CT: Here are a few things we must understand about the tithe and about Malachi 3:10 that will help us understand giving more.
KELLY: The most important thing to understand about Malachi 3:10 is that it must be understood in its historical context beginning in chapter 1. It is addressed only to Old Covenant Israel in 1:1. Beginning in 1:6 and continuing in 2:1 to the end, “you” refers to every priest in the nation who had stolen from God (1:6-14). The possible context of Nehemiah 13:1-10 makes sense.
CT: People Were Looking for Loopholes, Too, at That Time. The entire book of Malachi is actually an exchange that happens between God and the people of Israel where God points out their flaws and man was trying to defend himself.
KELLY: No, the whole people of Israel are only seen in 1:1 to 1:6 and 2:11-12. In every other text “you” refers to priests beginning in 1:6.
CT: Malachi 3:8 says, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.” Here the people were trying to defend themselves and looking for loopholes in what God was doing to credit their non-compliance to giving laws.
KELLY: If Nehemiah 13:1-10 is the correct context for Malachi, the priests (not the people) are guilty as in Malachi 1:6-14 and 2:1-10, 13-17; 3 to end. The priests had removed the tithes and caused the Levites to return home for food. And God is telling the priests to return the tithe.
CT: Today, we see people doing the same thing, not because they want to know what’s right but because sometimes they really just want to hold on to their money.
KELLY: Money was extremely common and mentioned 44 times before HOLY tithing was mentioned in Leviticus 27:30-34. Yet money was never a tithed commodity.
CT: God Wasn’t Mad Because He Wasn’t Getting the Money. What displeased God most was not the fact that people weren’t giving money, but that they weren’t giving God their hearts.
KELLY: Opinion, not context. See Malachi 1:6-14; 2:1-10, 13-17; 3 to end and Nehemiah 13:1-10.
CT: Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” God is not all that interested in our money, but desires first and foremost to have a relationship with us with a trust that goes beyond measure.
KELLY: True, but out of context.
CT: God trusts us fully with the 100 percent and asks us only to trust Him with the 10 percent.
KELLY: This has not been proven from contextual Scripture. Why should gospel workers receive the tithe while O. T. tithe recipients were not allowed to own or inherit property inside Israel or amass fortunes? (Num 18:20-29).
CT: It Wasn’t the First and Last Time Generosity Was Commanded. The first time the tithe was actually commanded was back when God gave the people of Israel commandments through Moses.
KELLY: True because the pre-law pagan-source tithes of Abram and Jacob were not commanded.
CT: Leviticus 27:30 says, “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.”
KELLY: Notice the true description of the HOLY tithe. It was always only FOOD from inside HOLY Israel which HOLY God had miraculously increased. It never came from what man increased. Fifteen hundred years later in Malachi 3:10 it was still only food and 400 years after that it was still only food in Mathew 23:23. This never changed!
CT: It wasn’t also the last time generosity was mentioned. Paul also spoke about generosity, and while he did not necessarily mention the tenth, he did commend and encourage sacrificial giving. In 2 Corinthians 8:3, he says, “For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord.”
KELLY: Yes, generous freewill sacrificial giving.
Russell Earl Kelly, PHD