Some time ago, when doing another in-depth study of Tithing and why I believe it does not apply to the New Testament church, as it was commanded as a taxation law of the Old Testament, I stumbled upon the revelation about the misuse of Malachi 3:8.
Namely, I’ve come to believe that this passage (indeed the entire chapter) was a prophetic dialogue regarding the restored Jewish community in what many Christians call the Millennial reign, after the catching away of the New Testament Church. (The -bride of Christ)
Why does this matter? Well, primarily because I spent 15 years listening to this verse, Malachi 3:8, being taught as justification for teaching a Tithing requirement in New Testament Church, and more importantly, to cause fear amongst those who might not be ‘Tithing’.
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. ~ Malachi 3:8, KJV
This has been used across churches globally to cause people to believe that they are robbing God if they do not give a minimum of 10% of their income to the church and/or pastor/priest and also includes the ‘offerings’ word, an additional contribution for some.
But does it actually apply to the New Testament Church? Did it even apply to Old Testament adherents to the Judaic religion?
Frankly, No, and No.
While the majority of Christianity believes that ALL Scripture is given by inspiration, and is profitable for us today, we know that it doesn’t ALL specifically apply to you and I, as a commandment to follow. The New Testament Church, we Gentiles, those who, as Acts 16 declares, are not to be yoked under the burden of the Mosaic Law.
Furthermore, this commandment and conversation was specifically directed at the sons of Jacob, the Jewish people, but most specifically, the Priesthood. This was not a blanket statement, a ‘You All’ if you please. It was pointed, direct, and for the one willing to read, quite obvious.
The entire book of Malachi, the last writings considered to be Old Testament is full of dialogue between God and the Hebrew people, and his love for them. In fact, chapter 1 verse 2 says, “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?”
This dialogue continues throughout all four chapters, yet these chapters start with the first clue as to exactly who God is dialoguing with, and why.
The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. ~ Malachi 1:1, ESV
This entire chapter is replete with conversation specifically about Israel, the Hebrew people, God’s love for them, and God’s jealousy and anger over their pollution and infidelity. This book is written to Israelites alone and moves on to focus specifically on the Priesthood.
As chapter 1 ends with God reprimanding the Priesthood for bringing polluted and improper animal sacrifices to the temple, Chapter 2 begins with God promising retribution for those who have done this wrong before God, but verse 1 of this chapter is incredibly important and telling.
“And now, O priests, this command is for you. ~ Malachi 2:1, ESV
What command? Verse 4 tells us, “So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the LORD of hosts.”
Levi, who was the son of Abraham, and head of the Levite tribe. This tribe was chosen by God to be the priests of God’s people. The Levitical Priests.
In this chapter and dialogue, God refers to the priests profaning of His commandments as being unfaithful, as in infidelity with the wife of their youth. Adultery. This comparison was made because the priests were taking wives of foreign gods and sacrificing on God’s alters meat sacrificed to idols.
This leads us into the prophetic (I believe) dialogue of Malachi 3.
Considering this dialogue from Chapters 1 and 2, and knowing that it was specifically directed to the Israelite nation and more importantly, to the Priesthood (Levites) puts into context the next chapter, and paves the understanding of who God is speaking to, which is not the New Testament Church.
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. ~ Malachi 3:1, ESV
This is clearly speaking of John the Baptist, who came as a messenger, who prepared the way of the Lord, as prophesied also in Isaiah, and mentioned in Matthew 3:1-3. And the Lord, who the people saught, was the Messiah, the Christ, who did come to His temple, Jerusalem.
But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. ~ Malachi 3:2-3, ESV
Clearly, and prophetically, this spoke of the judgment of God, the second coming of the Christ, who will come and judge with an iron rod according to Revelation 2:27. And again, consider who was going to be refined by God in what is considered to be the Millenial reign, or restoration of the Judaic covenant – the Sons of Levi.
Furthermore, this restoration of the Judaic covenant will restore the offerings upon the altar of the temple that they are to bring in righteousness, not the pollution spoken of in Malachi 1 and 2.
“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ ~ Malachi 3:6-7 ESV
And finally, before we reach the pinnacle of this article, the abundantly misused Malachi 3:8 verse, we again see a direct reference to the audience in which these passages are meant for. The Children of Jacob. The Sons of Jacob. Jacob, the son of Isaac, whose name was changed to Israel and who became the figurehead of the Hebrew nation.
Malachi 3 is a prophetic dialogue to the sons of Jacob, during their restoration after the Gentile church is taken from amongst the earth, according to prophesy. This is primarily known as the Millennial Reign. This is also known as the Restoration of Israel when they return to God and the covenant, those who rejected the Messiah.
And how shall they return?
Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions (offerings). ~ Malachi 3:8 ESV
So many times this Scripture has been used to scare New Testament Gentile believers into thinking God was going to curse them for not giving their Tithe, now seen as 10% of their income. Yet clearly, this commandment was to the nation of Israel, it was to the sons of Levi, the Priesthood, and as I believe this chapter makes clear, to the restored nation of Israel, not the New Testament Gentile church.
Consider a snippet from Acts 15 and the Council of Jerusalem;
Act 15:5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”
Act 15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
Act 15:19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God
Act 15:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
Act 15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
Act 15:29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
To me, it has become abundantly clear, that the use of Malachi 3 to teach and propel a message of Tithing into the New Testament church is a misappropriation of Scripture. While Paul taught clearly in II Corinthians 9:6-7 that God loves a cheerful giver, and that our reaping will be commensurate with our sowing, he equally taught that our giving was no longer obligatory (tax, tithe) and that we were to give as we felt led to in our heart.
Furthermore, God did not come (In Christ) to give us a spirit of fear (the curse) but of power, and love and a sound mind. (1 Timothy 1:7) We are taught again by Paul that the Law and all of its requirements that would be held in judgment against us (a curse) was nailed to the Cross. (Galatians 3) That Christ became cursed in our stead.
I’m looking forward to your thoughts, but for me this one is clear. Malachi 3 was a prophetic utterance of the restored Nation of Israel and using it to fear Gentile believers into obeying the law (tithing) for the gain of the church or leadership of a church is false teaching.