Not tithing, but I’m not worried: Malachi 3:11

The visiting preacher[1] said that because I wasn’t giving the first 10% of my income to this church, a ‘tithe’, then 100% of my income and all my possessions were unprotected from Satan. Wow! If I hadn’t known better, and many of those listening wouldn’t have known better, that would have been scary.

He then proceeded to make simple what is complicated and settled what is far from settled by basing his argument on one passage, Malachi 3:8-12:

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty [NIV].

Before you base your giving on the strength of this passage, can I ask you, please, to consider what I had previously found.

First up, the passage is in the Old Testament. For it to be applicable to you, you will have to get over the difficulty of applying only part of the Law:

10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,”[a] also said, “You shall not murder.”[b] If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker [James 2:10-11, NIV]. See also Paul in Galatians 5:3.

Then there is the question of Malachi’s audience. God was speaking to Israel. Are instructions within a relationship in the Mosaic law applicable to individuals? The book of Job, and a couple of passages in the New Testament make this highly questionable. Matthew 19:23-25 says

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” [NIV].

And there’s John 9:3:

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

But let’s say, for argument sake, that the passage is applicable to you. For you to base your behaviour on a particular passage, you’d expect that passage to be primarily about that behaviour, right? But Malachi 3:8-12 is not primarily about tithing. The context of the passage shows that it’s about a nation that has turned away from God, and His reaction. The tithe is secondary.

Now we come to what the preacher called ‘the kicker’. If we give 10% to our church then the 90% is ‘devourer free’. It is protected from Satan. The devourer is rebuked[2].

Putting all the above aside – and this is the ‘kicker’ for me – a transactional tithe as described in Malachi 3:8-12 is inconsistent with the guidelines for giving in the NT. We give so that we can give more. Paul says, in Second Corinthians 9:6-11,

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”

10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God [NIV].

Let’s get…Back to The Gospel.

 

 

  1. Although this is a true account, no purpose is served by identifying the preacher in the body of this post. However, if it is important to you to see that what I say is true, contact me and I will give you a link to the sermon.
  2. You might also consider the implications of applying as prevention a passage that talks about the removal of an existing curse.