So many times it is preached from the pulpit about the expectation God has for His people to tithe. Old Testament Jews had no less than THREE tithes. The Levitical tithe is what we practice today. It was the tithe that was designed to feed the priests who derived no income of their own. It was also used to fund the day to day operations of the temple. The Festival tithe was commanded by God for families to set aside for themselves to fund their travel and other associated expenses as it related to their celebrating the high feast days. Lastly, the Three-year tithe was used for benevolence to those in the community that needed assistance and was to be shared during the holy feast days. So in essence, scholars believe, Old Testament Jews actually put aside for God’s work upwards to 23% of their produce or livestock (don’t forget, it was an agrarian society back then). But even still, they were expected to give upwards to 23% of their livelihood to God’s use. In this New Testament age, most fundamental pastors preach and teach only ONE tithe for the upkeep of the church, its ministries, and its salary for the pastor.
What’s sad is the fact that most people can’t handle that. Those who are opposed to tithing will say that it is an Old Testament requirement that doesn’t pertain to us today. I can’t believe that approach on the simple fact that Jesus Himself said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). Then he continues His sermon on the mount and EXPANDS on aspects of the Law to show He expects more out of the New Testament Christian today! And even if you want to argue that Jesus didn’t expand on tithing per se, I can’t find anywhere that Jesus is found to have repealed the law on tithing for the New Testament church. So at the very least, it’s still in play…in my belief.
I’m currently studying all three tithes (Levitical, Festival, and Three-year), but for this article, we will focus on ONE tithe. Again, the Levitical tithe is what most fundamental churches teach. God gives us a promise of a really big blessing if we are faithful to tithe. But before He gives us the outline of what He will do for our obedience, He warns us that to NOT tithe is literally robbing God (Malachi 3:8) and that we will be cursed (Malachi 3:9) if we continue to rob God.
The blessing in Malachi is a two-part blessing. The first blessing in Malachi 3:10 consists of material blessings. The second blessing for tithing in Malachi 3:11 is preservation of your livelihood. Here are the verses, and try to catch each promise in these two verses: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith 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. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 3:10-11). Verse 10 promises material blessings while verse 11 promises preservation and prosperity of your livelihood (spoken of in terms to reflect the agrarian society of that day, but easily transferred to anyone’s career in today’s culture).
The truth is that if you don’t tithe, these blessings don’t pertain to you, but rather, according to Malachi 3:9, you should expect calamity. But for those of us who do tithe, why are we not seeing these blessings in the way God promised? The promise of preservation and prosperity as it relates to our livelihood or career (vs. 11) may have some subjectivity associated with it, but the fact is, wealth (vs. 10) is not subjective, but rather a measurable value. The truth is that the overwhelming majority of us don’t see blessings that we don’t have the room enough to receive it. So the question is this… “Why aren’t we wealthy?”
I am NOT advocating for those who believe and preach the Prosperity Gospel, but if God, Who can not lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18) promises to those who tithe, material blessings beyond the ability for us to contain them, where are they? Why aren’t we seeing that blessing manifested in the lives of faithful tithers? There are several reasons, but it boils down to one base reason…attitude. Specifically, it boils down to our attitude toward money, prosperity, and wealth. As I’m studying this topic, I’m becoming convinced that WE, each and every tithing individual or family, are not fully meeting God’s expectations when it comes to Malachi 3:10…and I hope to get this across to you so that we all can get off this path of tithing and getting no where in the process.
Here’s what I believe is one issue. We focus solely on tithing, when God says we are robbing Him if we neglect the offerings too (Malachi 3:8). Here it is clearly stated that offerings and tithes are NOT one in the same. For some reason we will tithe dutifully, because that’s what’s taught, but we will not crack open our wallets or write out checks for anything above and beyond our tithes as God may lead us…those are offerings. Doing our duty may give God no reason to chasten and curse us, but not going above and beyond what is required and give out of love and concern for God’s work will not cause God to bless us as thoroughly as He would like. The end result is that we are left watching and waiting and wondering why Malachi 3:10 does not seem to be fulfilled in our lives. When our children make their bed and come to us and say, “We made our beds because we had to,” we can’t punish them, but it doesn’t make us go out of our way to do anything extra-special for them. However, if they made their beds, cleaned their room, and set the table without asking to make you happy, you better believe we would be more inclined to bless them. That’s what I feel is happening here when we are simply “doing our duty” and not interested in doing anything more. A good start is to start joyfully giving offerings (missions programs is a good start).
Proverbs 11:24 basically explains that those who give shall be blessed, but those who withhold what they should give will invite poverty into their lives. In light of what I just said about offerings, maybe that’s why so many Christians can not claim the promise of Malachi 3:10. Jesus makes a great promise, very similar to Malachi 3:10. In Luke 6:38, Jesus says, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Give dutifully, then God will bless you dutifully. Give above and beyond, and God will bless you above and beyond. Again, the Bible teaches that we should obey God out of love and not duty.
Consider 2nd Corinthians 9:6-7, “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” See…tithe out of love and not duty. Fix your attitude toward your obedience to tithing. Also, sow bountifully above and beyond your tithe. Giving what God commands is not sowing bountifully, as God has given all of us the same value to give…a tithe. So in order to sow bountifully, it must be above and beyond what God asks of us, as in the giving of offerings as God leads you!
In Luke 14:12-14, Jesus teaches us that He does not want us to be afraid of being generous. We should be willing to give of ourselves to others with absolutely no expectation of being recompensed by the one we are giving to. It seems silly to say this, but if there is a faith-based homeless ministry in your state, and God leads you to give to it, one should not expect that ministry to repay you one day. But be aware that God will be keeping the ledger, and if we are generous with our money, and willing to part with it when and where and how God leads you to, it shows you are forward thinking. By that I mean that you realize you are laying up for yourself treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-21), where they will be enjoyed for eternity as opposed to amassing wealth here on earth that we will have no use for once we die (Luke 12:16-21). With respect to eternity, that is how God can say in His Word that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
If our hearts are right toward money, it will NOT be a priority in our lives. It’s not a priority in God’s eyes as He calls it “that which is least” (Luke 16:10). Where should our priority be then? On God and His will (Matthew 6:33). If we focus on God and His righteousness, He promises to provide us with food and clothing. And let’s be reasonable here, most people reading this have WAY more than the necessities God promises to provide to us for trying to live godly lives of obedience. But despite all we have, we feel we can’t give God just a smidgen because we are too busy wanting new cars that we have to finance, or we are too caught up in owning that home we have to work two jobs to afford. We can’t possibly tithe, let alone give offerings above and beyond that. “But God, by the way, thank you for providing for us”…oy…really?!?!?
By much of the world’s standards, the poorest among us here in the United States is wealthy. Guess what, God has something to say to wealthy people. He has an expectation or two for wealthy people when it comes to their money. Here’s what the Bible says in First Timothy 6:17-19, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” God does make people wealthy. But since He makes us wealthy, we are cautioned not to lose sight of that fact, and begin trusting our money to get us through this life. And if we don’t trust our money for our survival, we will be much more free to GIVE it away and SHARE it. Until you stop feeling as though you need to hold on to your money, and begin trusting God for your needs in this life, God will not bless you the way He wants to in Malachi 3:10.
Here’s where the prosperity gospel preachers get it wrong. They want you to be wealthy and entice you to do what it takes to get wealthy “the Bible way.” They talk about “sowing a seed” (money) and “expecting a harvest” (financial blessing). These are the key buzzwords of prosperity preachers. They’ll go so far as to give this analogy. “God will allow you to reap a harvest if you plant your seed. A farmer plants corn and expects a harvest of corn. If you sow a monetary seed, you can expect a harvest of money to come your way.” Then they talk of cars, trips, homes, and other expensive things. But let me ask you something…when a farmer plants corn and expects a harvest, what does he do with that harvest? Does the farmer reap the corn and pile it up in the middle of the field where it spoils and then he does it all again next season? No, that would be stupid. What the farmer does is he is planting corn…expecting the harvest…because he has OTHERS in mind. He’s looking to help other people by feeding them with the harvest he has received from the Lord (Psalm 104:14). The prosperity preachers say very little about others, but rather they say an awful lot about YOU being wealthy!
In Luke 19, Zacchaeus thought only of himself and selfishly stole from his own kinfolk to amass wealth for himself. When he got his heart right with God, he freely gave back four times what he stole. Money did not have a priority in his life anymore. In Luke 21, the widow who gave her last two mites took no thought to how she was going to eat once her current groceries were consumed, yet she selflessly gave ALL she had to the Lord’s work…and some can’t even tithe. These wealthy people were giving from what they could afford to do without. They were giving, but it was a faithless act because they all gave out of their abundance. The widow gave ALL. She gave out of faith in God while the others gave safely out of a sense of duty. Here’s the key all of us who tithe miss. Here’s another reason we don’t experience blessings from God that we don’t have enough room to store. We give faithlessly to a certain extent.
Look back at Malachi 3:10… “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, AND PROVE ME…” God is essentially saying, “Have faith in me as I ask you to handle your finances in certain ways…and see 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. If we receive a blessing from God, wouldn’t it stand to reason that we have pleased God in a certain area? And doesn’t the Bible say in Hebrews 11:6 that without faith it is impossible to please God? And does God ask us in Malachi 3:10 to PROVE ME? Isn’t God asking us to have faith in Him and trust Him? Shouldn’t we recognize that if we don’t exercise faith, and trust God, that we would displease Him in this area, thereby yielding a forfeiture of blessing? If we give dutifully and never go out of our comfort zone, God can not curse us, and he will fulfill His promise in Malachi 3:11, but as far as enjoying the blessings of Malachi 3:10, we can just forget about it.
If you’re not a tithing Christian…PROVE God by trusting Him and start tithing. If you are tithing but that is all you are doing, PROVE God by giving offerings as He leads you. If you are tithing, and giving offerings, but still not seeing Malachi 3:10 in your life, then PROVE God and begin giving outside of your abundance, that is, outside of what you feel you can safely give, and do it only when, where, and how God leads you. God wants us to give by faith…that is the key attitude to have…give by faith. And as God prospers you…give to get more…to give more!!!