“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be meat in mine house, And prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, If I will not open you the windows of heaven, And pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” — Malachi 3:10
Loved by pastors and treasurers, Malachi 3:10 is often used to teach people that they need to give 1/10th of their income to God. Tithing to my church is something that I have practised and continue to practice. So, what is this verse saying and are New Testament Christians required to tithe?
First, we must understand that there is a difference between Israel and the church. Though some teach that the church has replaced Israel and that all the promises and commands for Israel have been fulfilled spiritually in the church, I personally find that hard to accept. There are so many promises God makes to Israel about the land, the throne of David, and Christ’s universal rule from Jerusalem. The promises about Christ’s first coming were fulfilled literally, so why wouldn’t the promises about His second coming be fulfilled literally? The New Testament teaches that the church was a mystery that was not known until after the cross (Eph 3:1-12), that it is a new body formed of believing Jews and Gentiles (Eph 2:11-22), and that there is a distinction between Israel and the church (1 Cor 10:32).
So as New Testament Christians, we do not obey the obligation to tithe and bring offerings in this passage for the same reasons Israel was required to tithe. We are not under the law of Moses (Eph 2:14-15; Rom 7; 10:4) and actually, they were to give several different tithes that amounted up to more than 10% (Lev 27:30,32; Num 18:21-32; Deut 12:5-18; 14:22-29).
All of Scripture is profitable for us, however, and so we can learn from this verse. What can we learn?
- God expects His people to support His work. God wanted His temple and His priests to be cared for by His people and their giving. Notes that God says “that there may be meat in mine house”. The same is true in the church (Gal 6:6, 1 Cor 9). Interestingly, before the law of Moses, Abraham also gave tithes of all he had to Melchizedek, priest of the most high God (Gen 14:18-20). Also, again before the law, Jacob promised a tenth to the Lord (Gen 28:20-22).
- Giving is an act of faith. God said, “prove me now herewith.” As they obeyed God’s command to give, they would prove the character and the word of God. They would see that God keeps His word to them and can provide for them when they gave a portion to the Lord and His work. Giving is talking about a great deal throughout the Bible, because giving is a way to show how much we trust the Lord and a way to develop greater faith. It is called “a grace” in 1 Corinthians 8:7. It is a way to show where our heart is Matt 6:21.
- Giving brings blessing. For the Israelites, God told them that if they gave His tithes, then He would bless them. If they withheld, then he would curse them. Notice God said, “If I will not open the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Though, as New Testament Christians, we are not under the same law and consequences, there are still blessing on those who are generous (Luke 6:38, 2 Cor 9:6).
- Giving is an act of worship. More than anything else, what the Jews in Malachi’s day were doing with their possessions and resources expressed their attitude toward the Lord. Their failure to give showed that they were away from God and had the wrong attitude toward God (Mal 3:7-9). When we give to the Lord and His work, we are honouring Him and showing Him our love and respect (Prov 3:9-10). David, a man after God’s own heart, vehemently rejecting any idea of worship that did not involve him giving (2 Sam 24:24). Bringing some kind of offering was a big part of their worship. “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: Bring an offering, and come before him: Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” — 1 Chronicles 16:29
Are you honouring the Lord with your giving? Are you supporting the Lord’s work with your giving? If your giving was the only measurement of your spiritual life, what would it say about your walk with God? Are investing heavily in the Lord’s work? Have you seen the Lord pour out His blessings on you through your giving?