Bring The Whole Tithe Into The Storehouse

Misunderstood Verses

 

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse”

Malachi 3:10

Does it mean to bring one’s contribution to the local church?

“’Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test  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 a blessing until it overflows.’”

How often we have heard over-zealous and perhaps unscrupulous pastors and preachers coerce their members to bring their tithe (10%) and additional “offerings” to the local church so that God will bless them! They urge the attendees to drop their money into the offering plate with the declaration that this is what God requires!

Generally, these pastors use Malachi 3:10 to “prove” the rightfulness of their plea. Further, they promise their parishioners and members that God will financially and materially bless them if they are willing to devote their tithe to the local church.  Is this really what this passage is saying? Is this what God through Malachi it is teaching?

What is the context for our passage?  Malachi was a prophet who wrote around 400 BC, the last of the Old Testament writers, and before the 400 “silent years” until the preaching of John the baptizer (about whom Malachi writes, 3:1).  He wrote to the remnant of Israel after the return from Babylonian captivity to a nation that was subject to the many requirements of the Law of Moses.

To whom is Malachi writing?

As it has been rightly said, “a text without a context is a pretext.” We need to discover the context of the passage we are examining.  When we turn to Malachi 3, we notice that the prophet has “Judah and Jerusalem” in mind (v. 4).  In fact, he directly addresses Israel: “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Judah, are not consumed” (v. 6). The “sons of Judah” would be physical or fleshly Israelites who had returned to the land of Israel after their Babylonian captivity. Notice that Christians from all nations are not being addressed here.

When Malachi quotes God in verse 8, the Lord says, “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me!  But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” The “you” in the verse would refer to the people of Israel in verse 6.  He then continues in verse 9: “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!”  What “nation” is being addressed here? It would be the returned Israelites who were living in the land once again.  Then, in verse 12, we read: “’All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,’ says the LORD of hosts.” The surrounding Gentile nations would call the nation of Israel blessed and their land (the restored land of promise) would be a delightful land. 

Surely we can see that God through Malachi is addressing the people of Israel in this section. What right do we have to apply this to Christians who come from all of the nations of the earth and who constitute a different nation, a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9)?

What additional points reveal the persons addressed?

In our text in Malachi, God reprimanded Israel for their neglect in bringing “tithes and offerings” (v. 8). This is a direct reference to the Mosaic Law that specified that these tithes were to be given to the Levites (cf. Nehemiah 13:10-13). 

What is the “storehouse” to which God referred in verse 10?  Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, one that David his father had planned.  We read that the silver, gold, and vessels were stored “in the treasuries of the house of the LORD” (1 Kings 7:51, ESV).  Later, Hezekiah prepared “chambers in the house of the LORD” and they brought “the contributions, the tithes, and the dedicate things” (2 Chronicles 31:11-12). After the captivity, in the rebuilt temple, “all Judah brought the tithe of the grain, wine, and oil into the storehouses” (Nehemiah 13:12). As can be seen, the “storehouse” would not be the local church/assembly, but it referred to the portions along the outside of the restored temple in Jerusalem.

We also see another indication that the context would be the Jerusalem temple.  God calls on Israel, “’Test 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 a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground, nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:10b-11). This would be a restatement of the promise of God through Moses to the nation of Israel found in the Old Covenant (or the First Covenant).  The promise reads:

The LORD will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow” (Deuteronomy 28:12). 

This was a physical promise to a physical nation—the blessing of rain and material blessing and even economic prosperity—given to the people of Israel if they would obey the provisions of the Law of Moses. This can’t be applied to faithful Christians who are scattered on the face of the earth. Besides, we know that many true and obedient Christians are poor, despised, rejected, and persecuted—a very different picture from what we get when we read the promises of health and prosperity given to Israel if they would obey the Mosaic Law (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28).

When the passage says, “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land” (Malachi 3:12), we again have a clear indication that the physical nation of Israel is being referred to. Other “nations” will consider Israel blessed when they observe how God has blessed this holy nation that has obeyed the Lord. Further, the land itself would prosper through the blessings of the Old Covenant—the Law of Moses.  Christians are a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). They are saints who come from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9), thus the matter of God blessing a physical nation that dwells in a given earthly land is not at all in mind in this passage.

Another interesting and important observation is that nowhere do we read that Christians are to tithe their income to the Lord or to the local assembly of believers.  It is true that Jesus reprimands the Pharisees in the way their gave their tithe (Matthew 23:23-24) but there is no indication that the tithe (10%) was to be bound on Christians.  Actually, maybe you have heard that the ancient Israelites were to give two tithes (10% and 10%) of their income to the Lord and every three years they were to give another tithe (10%). This would be about 23% each year.

Christians are urged to give to the Lord and to the needs of others as God gives to them (see especially 2 Corinthians 8-9; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Galatians 6:6). However, there is no indication that this was to be a tithe. In fact, the tithe has been used to justify a greedy spirit in the hearts of millions. They think that if they give a mere ten percent of their income, God will be pleased. At the same time, they delight in massive incomes and feel justified in spending thousands on luxurious cars, houses, clothes, vacations, and other earthly pursuits. (See particularly our large study, Christian Giving and the Question of the Tithe.)

Let’s practice exegesis and not eisegesis

We have probably all heard the exhortation for us to practice “exegesis” which comes from a Greek term that means interpretation that is based on a given Biblical text. In contrast, “eisegesis” is an interpretation that “reads into” the text what we want it to read. It is a dishonest treatment of the text of Scripture, one that we must refuse to practice.  Our discussion above shows how important it is to read a passage in its Biblical context, then notice to whom it is written, and further examine every verse, phrase, and even every word to determine the correct God-given meaning.

Let’s avoid the dishonest treatment of the Scriptures that we find so commonly in our day.  It was a problem in the first century as well. Peter warned: “As also in all his [Paul’s] letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). This shows that misinterpretation is no small matter. It is serious business to pervert God’s Word! Peter says that the untaught and unstable people (such as pastors, teachers, preachers, ministers, priests, etc.) “distort” the Scriptures “to their own destruction.”  These people “twist” (ESV, RSV, NKJ), “wrest” (KJV), “misinterpret” (NEB), or “distort” (NASB, NIV, Philipps) the Bible to their own destruction.

Let’s not do that to our text from Malachi 3:8-12. And let’s not do that to any other passage from God’s holy Word. Let’s properly handle the Word (2 Timothy 2:15) and refuse to give it a meaning different from the meaning that God Himself intended!

–Richard Hollerman

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