Tithing - Full Circle Pt 2
Hopefully, you've read part 1 so that you won't be confused. There were some questions asked at the end concerning Malachi 3 that will be engaged in this installment of the series. As a reminder those questions were the following:
1. What if I told you that the context of how you were taught this scripture wasn't accurate?
2. What if I told you from a biblical context standpoint that God wasn't talking to the entire church in this scripture, only a select few?
3. What if I told you that money still isn't the commodity for tithing in this scripture?
4. What does it mean when this scripture mentions the storehouse?
Are we ready to continue where we left off? I hope so, cause here we go.
Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me!” You ask: “How do we rob You?”“By not making the payments of the tenth and the contributions. You are suffering under a curse, yet you—the whole nation—are still robbing Me. Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this way,” says the LORD of Hosts. “See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not ruin the produce of your land and your vine in your field will not fail to produce fruit,” says the LORD of Hosts.
Observation 1: The bible doesn’t contradict itself here when speaking of the tithe, or tenth, and contributions. V10 seems to be the key in this passage of scripture. First, let’s look at the definition of storehouse. According to dictionary.com, the first definition of storehouse is a place where things are stored. The second definition states that a storehouse is a repository or source of abundant supplies. This indeed is key to understanding tithing in this passage of scripture.
Before going on to other observations surrounding this scripture, let’s look at the whole picture that was painted here. If you jump back to Malachi 2, you will see God reprimanding the Levites (Priests). Beginning at verse 1,
“Listen, you priests—this command is for you! 2Listen to me and make up your minds to honor my name,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “or I will bring a terrible curse against you. I will curse even the blessings you receive. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you have not taken my warning to heart. 3I will punish your descendants and splatter your faces with the manure from your festival sacrifices, and I will throw you on the manure pile. 4Then at last you will know it was I who sent you this warning so that my covenant with the Levites can continue,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
If you go back even further, you will actually notice that the reprimanding started in the 1st chapter and it spilled over into the 2nd and 3rd chapter, where we come across the famous “will a man rob God” scripture. However, if you jump down to verse 6 in Malachi 3, he says,
“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.
So that leads to this:
Observation 2: In harmony with popular tithing sermons, God wasn't necessarily talking to everybody in the church when He asked will a man rob Him. He could have been,however, it's obvious that He was mainly addressing the priests. So the first two questions I asked at the beginning of this segment are sort of trick questions (I have to keep you on your toes). The heat was more on the Priests than the rest of the children of Israel because God said in Malachi 1:6-8a,
"A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty. It is you priests who show contempt for my name. But you ask, how do we show contempt for your name? By offering defiled food on my altar. But you ask how have we defiled you? By saying that the Lord's table is contemptible. When you offer blind animals, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong?"
Let's jump back to Malachi 3. Do you see the correlation? The priests were offering sick, lame, and diseased animals on God's altar, showing complete disrespect for God and the covenant He made with them. With that made clear, let's address another question. When God commands to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, what exactly is meant by the word whole? Obviously, at this point, it isn't money. In correlation to what was the tithing commodity at that time, I believe the word whole would have to mean healthy and unblemished animals. If you don't see it, please go back to Malachi 1 and read to Malachi 3 to get the full picture. Why was God only addressing the Levites (priests)? Shouldn't He have reprimanded the other tribes as well? Read Nehemiah 10:36-39, where it clearly reads,
"As it is also written in the Law, we will bring the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, of our herds and of our flocks to the house of our God, to the priests ministering there. 37“Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and olive oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work. 38A priest descended from Aaron is to accompany the Levites when they receive the tithes, and the Levites are to bring a tenth of the tithes up to the house of our God, to the storerooms of the treasury. 39The people of Israel, including the Levites, are to bring their contributions of grain, new wine and olive oil to the storerooms, where the articles for the sanctuary and for the ministering priests, the gatekeepers and the musicians are also kept."
From these passages of scriptures, we see a couple of things here that need to be highlighted.
1). The Levites were the only group of individuals ordained by God to collect and handle (manage) the tithe.
2). The tithe was to be collected and stored in the storerooms of the Temple of God (as commanded by God in Malachi 3).
3). Money still wasn’t the commodity for tithing.
4). The other tribes of Israel were offering lame animals, but the priests should've used better judgment and even reprimanded the tribes for offering lame animals. Remember, the tithe came from the people, and the priests would offer it to God.
Those scriptures in Nehemiah 10 validate the original context of Malachi 3, including the storehouse concept. Now let’s jump back to the observations.
Observation 3: The reason why the tithe is to be given is in v10; “that there may be food in My house”. In relation to modern day teaching about tithing, some questions have to be asked. 1) How does produce relate or translate into money? 2) Why did God want produce stored instead of money?
Thoughts: Here in Malachi, God says we are robbing Him by not giving the whole tithe and contributions. What’s clear and consistent is that again God describes the tithe as produce items, not money. In Deuteronomy 14, God specifically said money, and what to do with that money if the place of collective fellowship was too far for travel. It appears that the bible is consistent again about the aspect of not using money as the tithe itself. Let’s look at it from this perspective: money is something not to be stored up, but to be given and used properly in a manner worthy of God (1 Tim 6, Deut 15:10) based on various scriptures of the bible. To think that money is inferred or implied in Malachi 3:8-11, from an original context standpoint, is a little silly.
If you would, please humor me just a bit. If God is talking about produce, then why would or should produce be stored? Could it be that God intended for produce to be stored in the storehouse so the poor of the community could come to the church to get what they need without a payment system? Could it be that God intended that the poor get what they need because God’s people were focused on love and showing God as merciful through giving, and not through making a profit from items in the storehouse? Deut 14:28-29 makes this very clear. Verse 11 of Malachi 3 might clear this up for some as well. God said if we were to tithe properly, he would rebuke the devourer for our sake, so that our produce of the ground won’t be ruined and the vine in the fields won’t be barren. God didn’t say to keep our finances in order to avoid debt; He didn’t say to bless us with houses and other items that some ministries have implied; not sure how either could be inferred or implied. Please think about it. If God wanted food in the storehouse (v10), then bad or spoiled produce would hinder the church’s opportunity to show God’s mercy and love. God can’t be glorified with bad food or spoiled produce. The land would be considered bad or cursed by the other inhabitants of the land, which was the very thing God was trying to avoid (v12). This idea seems to validate the reason why God gave the stiff warning to the Levites for robbing Him.
Review: We see that tithing is covered extensively in the Old Testament, but it wasn’t involving money. Old Testament tithing scriptures (including the often quoted Malachi 3:8-12) spoke of tithing produce and livestock, not necessarily money. So should we tithe money? Should we tithe in general (tithe meaning ten percent of earnings)? Should we tithe according to the Old Testament law if we are the New Testament church? Let’s transition to the scriptures in the New Testament to see its idea behind tithing and/or giving.
The first NT passage we will look at is in 1 Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 16:2
"On the first day of the week, each of you is to set something aside and save in keeping with how he prospers, so that no collections will need to be made when I come."
Observation 1: In this passage of scripture, we see that Paul states to set something aside and have it ready on Sunday (1 day of the week). What’s interesting is the way in which he said it. He said it in a manner like he didn’t want to bother the Corinthian church with matters of financial giving. Another interesting fact here is that Paul doesn’t say tithe or anything related to giving 10 percent of earnings. Paul didn’t even suggest, hint or imply what amount to give. He specifically stated set something aside and save in keeping with how he prospers. Allow me ask some specific questions before moving on.
1. What does that mean exactly?
2. Shouldn’t we give tithes in accordance with the law?
3. Since we are the NT church, are we cursed if we don't tithe?
The law, and anything surrounding it (which includes tithing), is a very deep subject, but I’ll do my best to keep it short (and full of knowledge that we can understand). Unfortunately, you'll have to wait until next time.
Until then, grace and peace.