When it comes to the subject of tithing, the most quoted reference is Malachi 3:9-10 (ESV) which reads,
“You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 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.”
These verses are often used by pastors to teach their flock about tithing. But before we argue whether it commands modern-day Christians to tithe or not, it would be best to look at this passage more closely and read it in its proper context.
It is important when studying the Bible to find out who a particular passage (in this example, tithing) is originally addressed to and who the author had in mind when he wrote the passages.
In his blog, Redeeming God, author Jeremy Myers says,
“With Malachi, this question is easily answered, for Malachi refers to them directly several times. In several places, Malachi reveals that he is addressing the priests of Israel (1:6; 2:1), and the sons of Levi (3:3).
So it appears that the section on tithing in Malachi 3:8-10 is not so much addressed to the people of Israel, who apparently were doing a good job of bringing their tithes and offerings to the storehouse, but to the wicked and wayward priests, and specifically, Eliashib, who were removing the tithes and offerings from the storehouse for their own personal gain. Maybe they were selling them or hoarding them for themselves.”
In the e-book, Wrestling with the Tithe, published by the GenerousChurch, it affirms that the original audience for which Malachi 3:8-10 was written, was the priesthood.
“Consider the rest of the book of Malachi. Up to this point in the book, God has been using the prophet Malachi to chastise the priests of Israel. Doesn’t it make sense that He is doing the same here? When Malachi refers to the ‘storehouse,’ he is speaking of the storage room at the temple which was used to house the tithe from the land. While priests were serving on their rotation of ‘temple duty,’ they would eat these tithes from the storehouse. (Only 10% of the total tithe was ever brought to the storehouse. The other 90% stayed with the families of the Levites in the towns that were designated for them.) Also, we need to remember that the individuals of Israel were never commanded to bring their tithe to the storehouse. They gave their tithe to the Levites and the Levites brought 10% of the total tithe to the temple storehouse.”
From these two studies on the book of Malachi, we learn that this passage is a rebuke to the priests for stealing the tithe from the storehouse rather than a rebuke to the people of Israel for failing to tithe.
Does it mention tithing? Yes! Does it tell us to tithe today? Not really.
As such, it would appear that this passage does not support the contention that members of the congregations should give ten percent of what they earn to the Lord, in obedience to that law on tithing.
If we were then to apply Malachi 3:8-10 today, it would be to speak to modern-day priests and pastors, rather than to the people in the pews. The purpose would be to ask how they are spending the tithes and offerings of the people, and whether these offerings are being used for their intended purpose: such as to take care of the pastor’s needs (equivalent to a Levitical priest), and to feed the hungry in the community and look after orphans and widows in need (Deut 26:12).
This passage affirms that Old Testament Jews were to give a tithe as part of the temple worship, but it does not teach that Christians are to give to churches. Malachi was written more than 400 years before the start of the first church in Jerusalem. Applying its command of temple giving to the local church takes these verses out of their original context.
What we do glean from these passages is that we serve a good God that provides for all our needs, and pours out His blessing so that we might bless others. God’s generosity is unquestionable. He dares us to test this!
If we want to be blessed and to live under an open heaven, then we must honor God with our money.
It’s that simple.