Malachi 3:8 – Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.
Last time, in verse 7, we saw God make a gracious promise to his people – ‘Return to me, and I will return to you’. The implication was clear. If the people would forsake their wicked ways and repent, God would remove the curses that they had placed themselves under by their own actions.
Yet, that verse ended in stubborn rebellion, as the response of the Jews was ‘How shall we return’, or in other words, ‘What are you talking about? In what area have we forsaken you?’
God replies with another question: ‘Will a man rob God?’ In the Hebrew, the word for God is Aleim, which is a pleural word that is often applied to the true triune God, Yahweh.
But that word is also used when referring to false idols, which are multiple in number. This leads many scholars to believe that God is chastising his people by comparing them to the Gentiles. Let me explain.
The Gentiles worshipped multiple false gods and they were actually very faithful in their false worship. They had a true fear or respect for their false gods, and they very seldom failed to perform their religious duties and sacrifices. To neglect the offerings was an abomination to them. The false gods got the best they had to offer.
On the other hand, the Jews, who were in a covenant with the one true God, did not consider it a problem to withhold their offerings. They did not consider it blasphemy to bring unfit sacrifices to the Living God.
Here then, is something that defies belief – unbelievers would never even consider robbing their false gods of the sacrifices due to them, but the Jews defraud Yahweh himself! How is it possible that they have such utter disrespect for him?
As perverse and rebellious as their actions were, they would sink to an even greater level of depravity as they impudently ask ‘How have we robbed/defrauded you?’
God’s answer is specific. In the English Standard Version it is rendered “tithes and contributions”. In the original it is rendered “in the tenth and the heave offering”.
A heave offering literally means something that is ‘lifted off a larger mass’ or separated for sacred purposes. The word is used in a variety of applications, including agricultural produce (also called first fruits), the spoils of war, certain portions of a sacrifice given to the priests for food (thigh – Exodus 29:7 or shoulder – Exodus 29:27), etc.
All heave offerings were presents or contributions. Unlike the tithe, they were not specifically 10%. We generally refer to these simply as offerings. These offerings were an acknowledgement or a testimony that God had blessed the giver and that He alone had given the increase.
Offerings are optional; we give them. Tithes are required; we pay them.
Why did God require tithes and offerings of his people? Obviously, God didn’t need their produce or their gold.
He wanted them to continually be reminded that he was the source of all their blessings. This would keep them humble. If you do not acknowledge God in your success, you tend to start believing that you earned the blessings through your own wisdom and strength, which is not the case.
Deuteronomy 8:17-18 – Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth’. You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers as it is this day.
Tithes and offerings aided in the care of the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).
Tithes and offerings provided for the function and maintenance of the temple and its services. Do you own a house? If so, you know that in addition to regular maintenance, there are also unexpected repairs. Without a steady source of income, you could not complete repairs and your house would soon begin to fall apart. The same was true for the temple. It also needed maintenance and upkeep, as well as supplies such as animals, fire wood, oil, ingredients for incense and many other necessities. The tithe took care of these items.
Tithing is a form of stewardship. When God puts anything into our hands (money, talents, opportunities, influence, etc), he always expects us to be good stewards of it. This means that we use our resources wisely, providing for ourselves, for others and for the work of God’s kingdom.
The tithe also reflects God’s fairness – it is 10%, no matter how much or how little you earn. By requiring everyone to pay the same small percentage, God ensures that the burden is equitable across the board.
Now, let’s take a moment and consider a scenario in which the tithes and offerings stopped.
Once the tithes and offerings ceased, there would not be any food or money coming into the temple. The building would soon fall into disrepair. The daily sacrifices and services would stop. The priests would be left without provision, and in response they would either have to abandon the priesthood to take care of their families, or they would begin to accept diseased offerings just to have something for themselves. Soon, they would be corrupted and disillusioned with their service to God. Their perverse example would cause sin and corruption to spread to the common people.
Does any of that sound familiar? It should – it was the exact situation that we saw in Malachi chapter one! The Jews discovered that stealing from God did not enrich them in any way. It only brought about misery and destruction.
What about today? Should Christians tithe?
Jesus gives us the answer in the gospel of Luke:
Luke 11:42 – But woe unto you, Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over justice and the love of God: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
In this rebuke of the religious leaders, Jesus is telling them to observe the principles required in the law (justice, mercy, love), but at the same time, they should continue to tithe.
The purposes for tithing have not changed. We still need to be reminded that our material blessings are the result of the hand of God, so we remain humble. We still need to maintain our houses of worship. We still need to assist the poor, spread the gospel and provide for our ministers. We still need to practice good stewardship.
No improvements need to be made to God’s plan for tithe – it remains perfectly fair and equitable for all Christians, no matter how great or small your income.
Despite this, there are still some people who refuse to tithe. Why is that?
Perhaps they are not fully committed to God. I admit this sounds harsh, but look at the facts:
Matthew 6:21 – For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Those who tithe into their local church have ‘skin in the game’. They have invested part of themselves in the local body of Christ and they will support and grow that investment by volunteering, serving, praying, seeking the lost, correcting error and generally being involved in the work of the church.
Those who do not invest in the local body tend to be those who either leave over minor issues, or sit back and criticize others, while doing nothing themselves. Since they have nothing invested, they lose nothing by leaving or by tearing others down.
Jesus made it clear that our attitudes, efforts and resources are a kind of spiritual barometer of our commitment to his kingdom. Want to know where your heart lies? Look at what you do with your money!
Or perhaps some people do not tithe because they have not received sound biblical teaching on this topic. We seem to have two extremes coming from the pulpit; one in which money is the central topic of every service, and one in which money is never mentioned at all. Both extremes are harmful to the people of God. Ministers should not be afraid of preaching sound biblical doctrine in this area. In fact, if they fail to do so, they are hurting their congregation and their ministry.
In short, I believe that an examination of the bible shows that the Christians of today SHOULD tithe. Unfortunately, this blog is not the right format for an in-depth, all encompassing look at this issue. For that reason, I encourage all readers to look for some outside sources on this topic. Look at what the authors have to say, make sure it is backed up with scripture, seek Holy Spirit, then (and only then) make your decision on tithing.
Malachi 3:9 – you are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.
The first thing to notice here is that God is not punishing everyone for the sins of a few. All of the people were guilty, from the least to the greatest. Consequently, the entire nation will be chastised.
Here is the essence of their situation:
The people find excuses to stop paying tithes and offerings, which is a sin against God. In response, or in effort to bring them back to righteousness, God withholds some of his blessings. At that point, the people should have humbled themselves before God and inquired about the reason for their ill fortune, or poverty.
If they had, God would have revealed that the cause of their distress was sin. If they repented and changed their ways, God would restore their prosperity.
But they don’t humble themselves before God. Instead, they begin to murmur and complain about God’s goodness. They blame him for their current hardships. They withhold even more tithes and offerings (or give polluted offerings), rationalizing their behavior by saying they could no longer afford to honor God with acceptable tithes and offerings.
Since they did not heed the warning that God gave them (seasons of lack/withholding divine blessing), God turns their warning into a curse. Nothing they do will prosper.
God is perfectly just in consuming them with poverty. Should God bless them for sinning? Has God ever rewarded wickedness with blessing? Should God enrich them with his bounty for robbing Him, his temple, his priests and the poor? Of course not!
Take a moment to examine your own situation. Do you believe God requires you to tithe? If so, do you fail to give because you have too many bills or you have a need/want or you are making less than you used to? If so, why not do what Israel should have done – ask God about your situation and how you should handle it.
Again, the Israelites will take no responsibility for their own sin. They refuse to repent. Instead, they further malign God and begin to despise his name and his ways.
But contending with God is never profitable. If they continue to harden their hearts while under judgment, they will soon be reduced to nothing. (That’s what Pharaoh did. How did it work out for him?) They are in a hopeless circle of sin, which they brought upon themselves.
This is not what God wants for his people. There is a solution to their problem; there is a way to reverse this curse and return into favor with God. He reveals the remedy through his prophet, Malachi:
Malachi 3:10 – Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
The first thing they need to do is repent. While that is not clearly spelled out, it is implied. They have to stop, humble themselves, confess their sin, turn around and do what is right.
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. The right thing to do is to bring the FULL tithe to God. Not a portion of their choosing, not ‘more or less’ a tenth, not whatever is left over at the end of the week, not what is diseased or maimed, but the full amount due.
A full tithe shows reverence to God as well as faith in his provision. It acknowledges his blessing in their lives. After all, who created them? Who gave them possession of the land? Who gave them seed? Who provided the sun and the rain? Who multiplied their flocks and herds?
When you look at it that way, God would be justified in asking for 90% while leaving us only 10%! But all he asks is a mere pittance of what he has provided for us.
God says that he wants the full tithe so that there will be food in his house. This was the literal situation for the post exilic Jews. The priests and Levites fed their families from the offerings given to the temple. But things had gotten so bad, that the Levites had no choice but to flee the temple and return to their own homes to try and scratch out a living for their families.
Eventually, under the guidance of Nehemiah and Malachi, the tithes were restored to the temple. You can read about it in Nehemiah 13:10-23.
And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts… God pledges himself to his people in a verifiable way – if they bring the full amount required, he will bless them with what they needed for a super-abundant return.
By this, God will settle once and for all their guilt and His innocence. They accused God of abandoning them and blessing the wicked, but God assures the Jews if they do as they had been commanded (bring the whole tenth), they would immediately receive a reversal of fortune.
For example, if they planted wheat, God would provide the rain and sun and he would protect the wheat from locusts, etc, so they would have an abundant harvest. The point being that God was not going to ‘magically’ fill their barns with wheat; they still had to do the work, but the work they did would be blessed.
This will be proof to everyone that evil/sin was the cause of Israel’s barrenness, not their righteous heavenly Father.
…if I will not open the windows of heaven for you… The windows of heaven refer to rainfall. In the past, God had used both drought and flooding as a warning to bring his people back to righteousness. For instance:
- In I Samuel 2:17-18, God sends a sudden thunderstorm to ruin the wheat crop when Israel rejects him and requests a king.
- In II Chronicles 6:26-27, when Solomon prayed his prayer of dedication over the temple, he included a provision that God would hear his people when the heavens were shut up and there was no rain because of their evil deeds.
- In I Kings 17:1-7, Elijah prays that that there will be no rain for 3 years, and God honors that prayer.
- In Zechariah 14:17-18, the prophet declares that whoever does not come to Jerusalem to worship the King will not have rain.
- And of course, we are all familiar with God destroying the world with a flood because of evil in the day of Noah.
If there is no rain (or too much rain), then the earth cannot produce crops. If there are no crops, then men have no hope of life. During a drought, rivers, streams and wells dry up, causing further death to animals and people. So water is a key to abundant life. But the rain itself is not ‘magic’. It must be mixed with the blessing of God.
…and pour down for you a blessing… It literally means ‘to pour you out or empty out to you’. In other words, God will hold nothing back. He will bless the rain and the earth which will then provide all that men need in order to thrive (corn, wine, oil, etc). I just want to point out once again, the people would still have to do the work, but God was going to bless the work they did.
…until there is no more need, or until there is no more room to receive it. God will bless his people ‘beyond sufficiency’. He will not limit them to ‘just enough to get by’, but he will provide an opportunity for super abundance, that overflows their capacity to receive and store it.
Proverbs 3:9-10 – Honor the LORD with your substance, and with the first fruits of all your increase: So shall your barns be filled with plenty, and your presses shall burst out with new wine.
So basically, you can’t out give God! If Israel will be faithful to honor God with their tenth and their offerings, so that God’s house/temple has provision, then God will turn around and bless the people with an opportunity for abundance, so that they can have more than they need – and they will not miss the tenth at all! That was exactly the case during the reign of King Hezekiah:
2 Chronicles 31:10 – And Azariah the chief priest of the house of Zadok answered him [Hezekiah], and said, Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat, and have plenty left: for the LORD has blessed his people; and that which is left is this great abundance.
Now there is a cycle that I want to be a part of – you give your tithe to God and he blesses you with an opportunity for abundance. You tithe on the abundance, and he gives you even more! There is no way to out give God!
Again, we cannot help but ask how this applies to our generation.
If it is possible to open the windows of heaven over your life, then it is also possible to close them, just as the people of Malachi’s day did.
Here is a short list of things that can close God’s blessing over your life: Not tithing, fear/unbelief, unforgiveness, loving money, improper thinking and/or speaking, wrong desires or motives, tradition, ignoring the poor, and wrong priorities.
Again, I suggest you do your own research on this issue and consult other outside sources. Meditate and pray on what you find, and make changes if needed. You don’t want to be living under a closed heaven!
Malachi 3:11 – I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts.
This is another aspect of the blessing that God mentions in verse 10. We know that crops may receive plenty of rain, then spring up and grow, but it is still possible to be cheated out of a harvest, even at that point.
Locusts, worms, other animals, other people, hail, storms, mildew, etc still have the capacity to destroy a crop before it is harvested. But here, God promises to watch over the fruit of their labors and preserve it, until they are able to gather it in for their use.
Thus God will not allow them to be deprived or bereaved (the literal translation) of their harvest.
Do you believe that God watches out for your income, talents and resources so that they are not lost? If not, why do you suppose that is?
Malachi 3:12 – Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.
Back in Deuteronomy 28, God gave his people a lengthy list of blessings that would be theirs if they were obedient, and a lengthy list of curses that would be theirs if they weren’t.
During the time of Malachi, they were disobedient, and consequently, they were under a curse. They were so poor and miserable, that the Gentiles of that land detested them, and mocked their God.
But in this verse, God promises a reversal of fortune for his people. When they become obedient to God’s commands, their lack will be turned into abundance, and their misery into joy. Those around them will certainly take notice and acknowledge that God has blessed them.
Malachi 3:13 – Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. But you say, “How have we spoken against you?”
Now God moves on to another topic. Not only have they cheated him in the tithe and offering, they have blasphemed him with their mouths.
God declares that their words have been ‘hard’ or ‘bold’ against him. In this case, ‘words’ actually means ‘discourse’. The implication is that the Jews were talking among themselves about their situation. Using their own faulty human reasoning, they determine that God is unjust and unfaithful.
As a result, they have banded together and determined to contradict the laws of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In pride and haughtiness, they flatly refuse to follow his commands or accept his authority.
They speak against his ways with an air of insolence, encouraging all those around to join in their rebellion. The minds and hearts of the righteous remnant were filled with poison as they heard these words. This amounts to nothing less than an act of treason against the God of heaven! These are harsh words indeed!
In their reply, they try to downplay their guilt. They cannot deny that they have spoken against God, but they try to justify themselves by making light of it. Can you picture them looking surprised and innocent as they say ‘What are you talking about? What have we spoken against God and his ways? Besides, others have said far worse things!’
But they are presented with a lesson that is still valuable for us today – God not only hears, but keeps a record of all that we say – the good, the bad and the ugly:
Matthew 12:36 – I [Jesus] tell you, on the Day of Judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak…
The truth is that words have power. They can bring life or death (Proverbs 18:21), so we need to take them seriously. Think of them as seeds. Do you want to sow seeds of discord and failure into your life, or seeds of peace and prosperity? Keep this in mind – every time you open your mouth, you are planting your future!
Malachi 3:14 – You have said, “It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts?
The post exilic Jews assert that there is no benefit to serving God. They claim their labor for him has no purpose and no reward.
Let’s start with their claim of ‘walking in mourning’. This indicates that they clothed themselves in sack cloth, and participated in voluntary fasts crying out to God about the country’s afflictions. That sounds like a pious thing to do, but it wasn’t, because their hearts were not right before God.
Here we find a sin that continued among the Jews, even until the days of Jesus. In fact, it may have reached its zenith around that time. Specifically, the Jews participated in outward forms of religion (fasting, mourning, tithing on spices, public prayer, etc), while inwardly their hearts were far from God.
Matthew 15:8-9 – This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
God is never moved by empty religious acts. He is looking for true devotion. Therefore, the mourning of the Jews of Malachi’s day was no more acceptable to God than the false worship of the Jews in the days of Christ.
Whose fault is it that their worship and service is in vain? It’s theirs, not God’s!
Further, God has not called his people to a lifetime of mourning and misery. The scriptures tell us that:
- God gives us a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness and the oil of joy for mourning (Isaiah 61:3).
- God’s yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30).
- Weeping lasts for only a night; God brings joy in the morning (Psalms 30:5).
- With joy we draw upon the well of salvation (Isaiah 16:10).
- The righteous shall be glad in the Lord (Psalms 64:10), etc.
The point is that the Jews insisted they were righteous because they mourned, but God wanted them to serve him in gladness and with joy. God wants us to be cheerful and full of hope in our service to him.
You may not be able to control all of the circumstances in your life, but you can choose how you react to them!
Malachi 3:15 – And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.
Finally, they complain about their poverty. These Jews are clearly focused on worldly things to the exclusion of the next life. It is true that if God’s people did not have hope of another and better life, it would be senseless and worthless to bear the afflictions of righteousness.
I Corinthians 15:19 – If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
However, that is not the case (see the ENTIRE bible!). We know that there is a life after this one; an eternity full of goodness and blessings are waiting for those who trust in Jesus!
It is folly to envy the wealth of the wicked. God abhors their actions and eventually, if they do not repent, their final destination will be hell.
Malachi 3:16 – Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name.
But the news is not all bad! As we would expect, God has a remnant who are true to him. In that age of great corruption, there were still people of God who retained their integrity and zeal for God! I don’t know about you, but this gives me hope for today.
Make no mistake – this will take work on our part. The enemy wants to destroy our country and he is not going to just roll over and give up. But through Jesus, we can win this victory for ourselves and our children!
In pride and arrogance, America has thrown off the yoke of God and rebelled against his laws. And we are currently paying the price for these decisions. But there is still hope! There are still true Christians in America, who are righteous before God! Through us, God wants to spread a spirit of repentance and revival that will sweep across our land! What a glorious day it will be, when great masses of Americans come to know Christ, and our nation returns to its godly heritage.
The righteous remnant in Malachi’s day feared the Lord. In other words, they had great respect and deep reverence for God. The scriptures tell us that fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Job 28:28, Psalms 111:10, Proverbs 1:7). Not only did they respect God, they submitted to his authority, and obeyed his laws.
They spent time thinking about Him/His Name. They meditated or seriously considered what had been revealed to them about their God. They were familiar with his ways, his delights and his dislikes. These meditations had an influence on their actions; they wanted to honor the name of God by what they said and did. His glory was the ultimate end of all they did in life.
The wicked Jews were not the only ones gathering together to discuss religion. The righteous were also gathering together and speaking about the God they loved and respected. This makes perfect sense, because out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Since the righteous remnant had their minds set on God and his goodness, that’s what came out when they spoke with others.
This type of discourse provides essential strength to all involved. Testimonies of God’s goodness always strengthen the faith of others. Testimonies keep us from ‘waxing cold’ in our service to God. Testimonies inspire us to continue on the path of holiness. Testimonies increase our faith and give us reasons to rejoice in God.
Have you testified lately?
We can be sure that there was friction between the group who gathered together to blaspheme God, and the group who practiced true religion. We can also be sure that the righteous group was probably ridiculed and mistreated by the blasphemers. But they had no reason to be offended by that, or to give up, because God was on their side!
He took notice of their faithfulness to him. The scriptures say that where 2 or 3 are gathered together in his name, he is there in their midst. I suspect this was the case back in the time of Malachi, too. God was there listening to the praise and gracious encouraging words that proceeded out of their hearts and mouths. There can be no doubt that He was pleased with them.
In fact, God was so pleased, he created a special journal specifically for their words of faith and truth. He also promises they will share in his glory in eternity:
Malachi 3:17 – “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.
Treasure is something that is highly valued; collected and deposited (hoarded) for future use.
When you think of the word ‘treasure’, what picture pops into your mind? Do you see a sunken pirate chest? Or do you picture the crown jewels or maybe even your local jewelry store? If you had a great treasure, how would you treat it? Wouldn’t you keep it safe and secure, close by you, so that you could enjoy it at any time? That’s what God has planned for his treasure!
Again, God is presenting his people with a long term picture. The righteous in Malachi’s day were in the minority. They were ridiculed and troubled by unbelievers and Gentiles. But God assures us that the righteous do not serve him in vain.
Just as the wickedness of evil men has been noticed by God, so too has the obedience and faith of the righteous. Just as God has an appointed time set for judgment, so too he has an appointed time to reward the righteous and gather them to himself like a man who hoards precious treasure!
This is how God thinks of believers! You are his special treasure and he values you very highly. We all dream of finding treasure. But God didn’t find or stumble across his treasure – he paid a very high price for it; you and I were bought with the precious blood of Christ.
As believers in Christ, we will be spared from the judgment that the wicked will experience on the final day.
The same is true for the church. For now, the tares grow alongside the wheat. But it will not always be so. A day of separation will come. All those who have trusted in Christ as savior from the thief on the cross until the very last soul accepts him on the last day of grace, will be spared by the mercy of God. Then we will have all of eternity to enjoy fellowship with Father God, Jesus and Holy Spirit, while the wicked are burned up like worthless chaff.
This great mercy is a result of the Lord ‘coming into his temple’, mentioned at the beginning of this chapter (Malachi 3:1).
Malachi 3:18 – Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
This verse is in answer to the blasphemy of the Jews, who claimed it was vain to serve God, for the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer. Here God is telling them that even though judgment is delayed in their eyes, they can be assured it will happen. At the appointed time, everyone will clearly see a distinction between the righteous and the wicked.
Let me offer you some encouragement and strength:
The righteous people of Malachi’s day met to discourse or speak with each other about the goodness of God. This pleased the Lord so much, that he ordered a book to be written that included the things they declared or testified about.
Testimonies are important. Scripture states that we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11). If it’s been a while since you shared a testimony, I encourage you to step up and share. If your church does not provide opportunities to testify, why not just raise your hand and ask to share? Alternatively, you could share your testimony on social media. It would be nice to have good things seen there, instead of just drama!
Listening to testimonies can strengthen and encourage you on your Christian journey, while sharing your own testimony can strengthen the faith of others.
Let me offer you some relief:
The people of Malachi’s day closed the windows of God’s blessing on their lives. But there was a remedy – if they would humble themselves and change their ways, God was willing to open up his blessing on every aspect of their lives.
God has not changed. If you have sin in your life that is closing the windows of God’s blessing upon you, you can find relief. Humble yourself and repent. Change your thinking and your ways and see what God will do for you!