Christian Tithing: The True Meaning of Malachi 3:10
One of the most misunderstood teachings of the entire Bible has to do with tithing. Many Christians are taught, especially in certain denominations that overemphasize the subject of money, that if they do not give ten percent of their money that they will be cursed by God. The scriptures that are used to justify this heresy are Malachi 3: 8-10, which is as follows:
“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say. Wherein have we robbed you? In tithes and in offerings. You are cursed with a curse: for you have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring you all the tithes in the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now herewith, says 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” (KJV).
Teaching such a notion that people are cursed by God for not giving a specific amount of their income is problematic for many reasons. First, there is the empirical evidence. I have personally known many people who are faithful tithe payers that have had serious and consistent financial problems that never seem to end. Therefore, if paying tithes were the only criteria for leading a financially prosperous life as these preachers seem to suggest, then these people should not be experiencing any financial difficulties at all.
Of course these so called ministers will even go further and teach that ten percent is not enough, and people will need to dig deeper into their pockets in order to receive a divine financial blessing. However, many of these people have limited resources and are simply unable to give anything extra. These wolves in sheep’s clothing do not teach the fact that the Book of Deuteronomy institutes a tithe for the poor. Therefore, in order to be biblical, poor and struggling people are not commanded to pay tithes, but to receive tithes according to Deuteronomy 14: 28, 29.
“At the end of three years thou shall bring forth all the tithes of your increase the same year, and shall lay it up with your gates: And the Levite, (because he has no part or inheritance with you,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within your gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of your hand which you do”.
Secondly, there is the contextual evidence. This passage in the Book of Malachi is not dealing with individual Israelites, but with a corrupt priesthood. The priesthood, at that time, was not guilty of not paying tithes, since nowhere in the Bible is a priest ordered to pay tithes; he is essentially the receiver of tithes. This priesthood was guilty of offering God blemished offerings and withholding and not dispersing tithes to the poor as commanded in the Mosaic Law.
Therefore, the problem which resulted in the divine rebuke did not concern the quantity of tithes being paid by individual Israelites, but the quality of tithes and offerings being offered and withheld by a collective corrupt priesthood. Not only God, but even the whole nation was being robbed by these scoundrels according to Malachi 3: 9. Notice Malachi 2: 1, and who this prophecy is being addressed to.
“And now, O you PRIESTS, this commandment is for you. If you will not hear, and if you will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, says the Lord of hosts, I will even send a CURSE upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because you do not lay it to heart.”
Again, God was not being robbed by not receiving ten percent of an individual Israelite’s income or increase. The factor was not monetary at all. The fact is that God was being robbed of his glory in two aspects. First, by being offered blemished offerings while the good offerings were being sold on the marketplace. Secondly, he was being robbed of his glory when the poor of the nation was being marginalized. However, tithes and offerings was the method by which these priests were robbing God of his glory.
Therefore, considering the true interpretation of this passage, if this has any application for today, it would be for those fraudulent Christian priests and pastors who twist the scriptures for their own personal gain. Remember the warning of the Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 2:3:
“And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingers not, and their damnation slumbers not”.