A CLOSER LOOK AT TITHING
By: Victor T. Stephens
"People often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it's served up."
~ George R.R. Martin
Who's Robbing Who?: A Closer Look at Malachi 3
Let’s now take a closer look at the most popular tithing passage cited by most teachers in the church:
"For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. Yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you," says the Lord of hosts. "But you said, 'In what way shall we return?' "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. "And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field," says the Lord of hosts; (Malachi 3:6-11)
Whenever we hear a sermon on tithing, it is with certainty that many professing pastors will emphatically invoke the words of the prophet Malachi. "WILL A MAN ROB GOD? If you do not pay your tithes, you are robbing The Almighty God. And God will get you and put you under a curse if you do not pay what belongs to Him.", they say with a threatening and thunderous intonation.
The rhetoric continues with the "Tither’s Creed": "The tithe is the Lord's. In truth we learned it. In faith we believe it. In joy we give it. The tithe!"
This oratory is the nucleus in their arsenal of mind control techniques that they employ to gain wealth from their misinformed congregants. In order to coerce Christians to tithe, their goal is threefold: To motivate fear of retribution from God; to instill guilt and shame; and to promise special blessings and riches for those who tithe. For some pastors, their psychological attack can sometimes be subtle, while others may develop an overt and threatening attitude.
For example, Word-Faith teacher, Creflo A. Dollar, pastor of World Changers Church International, stated: "To not tithe is worse than committing adultery." He then proceeded to ridicule one non-tithing Christian by calling him a "nappy-headed Negro."
(Source: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, "The Riches of God", John Blake [Staff Writer], Aug. 23, 1997, p. F01.)
In a sermon titled, "The Covenant Connector", Mr. Dollar stated that, if it were permissible, he would shoot all non-tithers. According to ESPN and other sources, former Heavyweight boxing champion, Evander Holyfield --- a close friend and supporter of Creflo Dollar --- obviously brainwashed by Dollar’s tithing doctrine, beat his wife for not tithing.
Mr. Dollar and many other false teachers have brought disgrace to the Church. We should not be surprised to hear of such comments and conduct arising from Islamic countries; but when this type of appalling rhetoric and indignation occurs within the Church, we need to take a firm stand against this ungodly abuse. Unfortunately however, these theological invectives are often ignored or applauded rather than sharply rebuked. Evidently, spiritual apathy and adoration of man has stifled the use of common sense.
As in the case regarding Mr. Holyfield’s family, it is a fact that some married couples are fighting and divorcing on account that one spouse has an unhealthy admiration for the church and/or pastor. These individuals secretly or overtly put their pastor on a pedestal and exalt "their church" over their husband or their wife … losing sight of their priorities of submitting to one another (Eph. 5.21). Needless to say, this does not please the Lord. This form of idolatry extinguishes the warnings from the Holy Spirit's attempt to unmask spiritual perversions.
Let’s now uncover the various misapplications of Scripture from the book of Malachi as taught by legalistic and predacious false teachers. If you have become a victim of these charlatans, then I look forward to eradicating the psychological bondage that has entangled you.
Error # 1: Tithing teachers use Malachi 3:6 to support the continuation of tithing under the new covenant. They allege that since the Lord does not change, then tithing must still be valid today.
Rebuttal # 1: Firstly, this verse is referring to God's nature and character. It does not signify that God cannot change his mind or modify his laws. Exodus 32:14 says:
"So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people." (Ex. 32:14)
Other passages include Genesis 6:6-7, Jonah 3:10, and Hebrews 7:12.
Next, the prophet Malachi is not addressing the Church, but rather the nation of Israel who was under the Mosaic Law.
Error # 2: Tithing teachers use Malachi 3:9 to allege that Christians will be cursed for failing to tithe.
Rebuttal # 2: The "curse" mentioned here applied only to the nation of Israel for their iniquity of robbing God of tithes and offerings. The Prophet Malachi was not addressing Gentile nations or the Christian church. Furthermore, Christ removed the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us on the cross. Galatians 3:13 says:
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree." (Gal. 3:13)
Error # 3: Tithing teachers use verse 10 to claim that the "storehouse" is equivalent to the local church; and "food" is analogous to the Word of God. Therefore, our monetary tithes should be brought to the church. Those of the Word–Faith camp, who teach their perverted "prosperity theology", use this verse as a promise of large monetary blessings.
Rebuttal # 3: The vast majority of tithes paid by Israel were not brought to the temple in Jerusalem, but rather they were taken to the Levitical cities (Neh. 10:37).
"to bring the firstfruits of our dough, our offerings, the fruit from all kinds of trees, the new wine and oil, to the priests, to the storerooms of the house of our God; and to bring the tithes of our land to the Levites, for the Levites should receive the tithes in all our farming communities." (Neh. 10:37)
The Levites who received the tithes from the people took ten percent of their tithes (the tithe of the tithe) to the temple in Jerusalem.
"And the priest, the descendant of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive tithes; and the Levites shall bring up a tenth of the tithes to the house of our God, to the rooms of the storehouse." (Neh. 10:38)
The only exception to Nehemiah 10:38 is 2 Chronicles 31:5-6. However, this was not the usual method of operation. This procedure occurred during a time when Hezekiah was quickly repairing and restoring the temple after it had been closed for many years on account of pagan practices.
All the Levites and Priests were needed at the temple to give offerings, to serve, and to give thanks to the Lord. As a result, Hezekiah commanded the people to bring tithes which they had in their local storehouses directly to the temple.
In any event, as evident from Scripture, only the tenth of the tithes were taken to the temple storehouse. Thus, in Malachi 3:10, God is speaking to the Levites. The Levites were actually the ones who were guilty of robbing God of tithes; not the people. The people, however, were guilty of robbing God of offerings (firstfruits, for example).
Next, the church today is atypical from the Levitical order. There are no longer eleven tribes providing support for the Levites. There is no longer a Levitical Priesthood or an Old Testament temple. Moreover, there is no exclusive priestly class. Under the new covenant, the priesthood consists of all believers; and the body of the believer is now the temple of the Holy Spirit.
"you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;"
(1 Peter 2:5, 9)
Other scripture references include 1 Corinthian 3:16, 2 Corinthians 3:6, Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6 and Matthew 26:61.
Next, because the tithe consisted of food substances, the word, "food", is literally referring to edible materials (fruit, grain, herd, flock). The expression, "floodgates of heaven", is in reference to rainfall (Genesis 7:11, 12). This verse is neither a guarantee nor an insinuation that Christians who pay monetary tithes will encounter "high yielding money making opportunities" that will result in a large bank account.
Error # 4: There are some tithing teachers who link Malachi 3:11 with 1 Peter 5:8 to suggest that Satan will wreck havoc on our finances, personal possessions, and health for failing to tithe.
Rebuttal # 4: This is another classic example of taking scriptures out of context for the purpose of implanting fear in the minds of incognizant Christians. In the context of Malachi 3:11, the word "pests" is precisely suggestive of insects that devour crops. It is not metaphorically indicative of Satan.
Or else, if you refuse to let My people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory. And they shall cover the face of the earth, so that no one will be able to see the earth; and they shall eat the residue of what is left, which remains to you from the hail, and they shall eat every tree which grows up for you out of the field. They shall fill your houses, the houses of all your servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians ... which neither your fathers nor your fathers' fathers have seen, since the day that they were on the earth to this day.'" And he turned and went out from Pharaoh. (Exodus 10:4-6)
Other passages which demonstrate insects devouring crops can be found in: Amos 4:9; 7:1, Deuteronomy 28:38-39,42; 2 Chronicles 7:13; and Joel 2:25.
Now ... in the first book of Peter, chapter five, verse eight is an actual reference to Satan. Verses eight and nine indicate that his goals are to devour believers through temptation, persecution, discouragement, and deception. Because Satan is known as the "Deceiver", he can potentially wreck havoc on our finances and personal possessions by our failure to discern "ministers of Satan" (false church leaders) rather than a failure to tithe money.
Error # 5: As aforementioned, Malachi 3 also mentions offerings; and tithing advocates maintain that an offering is over and beyond a tithe.
Rebuttal # 5: Nowhere in Scripture does it suggest that an offering is over and beyond a tithe. This allegation is simply another man-made invention that is designed to illegally extract additional funds from blind sheep.
In conclusion to this section on Malachi 3, I encourage you to be alert to the next time you are interrogated with the renowned "Will a man rob God?" oratory. Become conscious of the fact that the message of Malachi is addressed to the nation of Israel and not to you. Today, you are the temple of the Holy Spirit and a part of the priesthood of believers. Thus, no man has the authority to teach, suggest, or demand that you should give ten percent of your paycheck to the church; not to mention that the biblical tithe never consisted of money.