Tithe – Not what Malachi 3 is about

I first wrote about Malachi 3 on this blog in 2008, and since then it’s been a driver for the blog. It is often the most popular post on the blog, and for your interest, I thank you. I am updating all posts on the topic, because I think there are some powerful things often missed.

If all you have heard or read of Malachi is the popular verse recorded in 3:10, you have really missed the message of the book.  It’s like only listening to the closing argument of a trial to make a decision or overhearing a few sentences in a long conversation and drawing a conclusion. Did you know early in this argument between Israel God says He will not accept their offerings? 

Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. Malachi 1:10

How then do they go from I will not accept… to bring ye all the tithe?  Knowing this will give you a better understanding of Malachi 3, et al.  All of Malachi is a case that God is bringing against His people, Israel. Before you get to God dealing with them robbing Him of the tithe and offering, he deals with so much more that they are robbing Him of. God is extremely unhappy with the people, because while they still go through the motions of bringing sacrifice and offerings, they grow cold, distant, and disrespectful in the their relationship with God.

In the first 5 verses of the book, we see what I believe to be the major problem. God says to them, “I love you,” and they say to God, “Really? How have you loved us?”

They accused God of robbing them of His Love. From the very Garden, humanity has had a problem with our tendency to judge God. Worship at it’s core is about the assessment of worth.  The old english word used to be ‘worth-ship’ for that reason. Eve, in the midst of all that God had created for her and blessed her with, judged God to be a withholder of good. Eve allows the serpent to sway her into stinking thinking about God. In the face of substantial evidence, Eve chose to believe lies instead of God’s demonstrated love.  This is the case with Israel. They have judged God unworthy, and as is the case whenever we do this, it showed up in their attitude, actions, and assertions about God. What do your attitude, actions, and assertions reveal about your judgment of God?

  • They rob God of Trust by doubting His proven love for them. (1:1-5) God has to remind them that they are his chosen people, that he has been for them and will always be. God rebukes them, for He is and remains faithful to them even in the face of their unfaithfulness towards Him.
  • They rob God of Honor by considering worship as unimportant and refusing to bring their best to God. (1:6-14) The people bring God what they wouldn’t dare present even to a governor. They keep what is acceptable for themselves and offer God what they do not want. They give blind and crippled animals for sacrifice, yet they seek the favor of God in their lives. They act as if God is not paying attention. They have concluded that what they put on the altar doesn’t matter. How often do we struggle with what we give God because we too focus on what we don’t have and what we want instead of being grateful for all that God has blessed us with?
  • They (The priests) rob God of obedience. Instead of leading the people to God, they cause the people to stray far from God because of their greed. They refuse to live the way God has told them to live and teach with partiality instead of protecting truth and giving God’s guidance (2:1-9)
  •  They rob God of faithfulness in their marriages and then weep and groan when God refuses their offerings. (2:10-16) God takes issue with whom they chose to marry, as well as the lack of commitment they have in marriage. They enter into marriages not blessed by God because the people they marry serve other gods. God calls for the cutting off of the descendants of anyone who does this and brings an offering. They are also unfaithful to their wives. God declares He has joined them together and that He hates divorce.
  • They rob God of reverence by their sayings. “He delights in evil doers and is not a God of justice,” is what they said. They wanted God to act when they saw fit. They spoke harshly towards God and he heard  them.

In Chapter 3:1-5 God deals with the underlying problem and tells them of John the Baptist. John will make the way for the Promise they seek.  He also tells them that Jesus, who is the Promise, will come.

Don’t miss this. A major part of their problem is that they were tired of waiting for the manifestation of the promises of God. We see this repeatedly in Israel’s history. They get tired of waiting on the promise, so they compromise. They get tired of waiting on the promise so they question God’s purpose, God’s promise, and God’s power.

Their attitudes, actions and assertions about God caused Him to reject their offerings and call them to repentance. Repentance first. Obedience first.

Chapter 3:6-13 Sums up the message of the robbery and the required action — return to God. How shall you return?  How are you robbing God?  You are robbing God in tithe and offerings.  You are robbing God with your words, attitudes, and actions that make your tithe and offering insulting, infuriating, and unacceptable to God. Return to Him and He will return to you.

Return to God Trust, Honor, Obedience in living, Faithfulness in marriage, and Reverence in your speech, and only then can you bring all the tithe to the storehouse… 

This is ironic because Malachi 3:10 is sometimes used in a way to make people think that they can manipulate God. I have heard the following said or implied.

  • If you tithe, then God will move faster at giving you what you want. False!
  • If you tithe, God will guarantee you perfect health now or in this lifetime. False!
  • If you tithe, then God will give you riches beyond your wildest dreams. False!
  • If you tithe, God doesn’t care about how you live. False!
  • If you tithe, then God doesn’t care about the way you handle the covenant of your marriage. False!
  • If you tithe, you can speak of God any way you like. False!

What the book of Malachi demonstrates to us is that obedience is better than sacrifice. That you’re obedient in living is better than your tithe and contributions. God wants your Trust, Honor, Obedience in living, Faithfulness in marriage, and Reverence in your speech before you bring anything to the altar. And then, yes, he expects you to bring all of the tithe and contributions. Not because you want more from God, but with the understanding that God Loves you and is out for your good.

Tithe is a biblical thank you and gratitude is a matter of the heart. Worship is about how you judge God. Is he worthy of your trust? Is He worthy of your obedience? Is He worthy of your honor, faithful living, and reverence?

Chapter 4 reminds us that God remembers faithfulness; for the faithful there is a great day of the Lord coming.

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