Sunday Sound Bites: Tithing

Robbing Godquestion mark

Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try 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 such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” ~ Malachi 3:8-10

The False Teaching of the Tithe

The natural result of corrupt leadership becomes the bane of the people, an epidemic which produces bankrupt values. By their example and teaching they make the tithe a stumbling block, causing many to error.  By their scandalous example people who look up to them as ministers of the Lord are in effect debased rather than built up and edified.

There are three words which describe how the church in the last century has been so successful in obtaining the tithe; fear, guilt and intimidation. Pastors have quoted this passage using every cliché imaginable, “Tithe up brother,” If you don’t tithe, you are cursed,” and “You can’t afford not to give,” are but a few used to induce the fear that if you don’t give at least 10% of your gross income, you are out of God’s favor and in jeopardy of God’s scourging.  The very fabric of the modern Church structure is manufactured on an outdated form of economics using the machinery of archaic times. As it was during the era of Malachi, spiritual decline produces failure in the stewardship of possessions.

For the modern Church, tithing has become the anvil for profit seekers and hirelings who’s objective is personal gain rather than the care and provision of the needy. For example, Ed Young’s recent sermon “Show Me The Money.” Ed Young delivered a tithing sermon to scare, humiliate, intimidate, and offend his church members into giving 10% of their income. If you go to a church where the preacher tells the people that they are obligated to give 10% of their income to the church, you probably have heard many of these same things. But Mr. Young puts them all together in one single mammoth of a manipulative, self-serving, heretical sermon. There is nothing new under the sun and these types of tactics have been advocated across denominational lines. So I ask you, when your preacher has to use fear, guilt, intimidation, humiliation, and manipulation as methods of securing finance, is he doing so through a legalistic approach or do you really believe he is operating via the principles of grace? Preachers who use unsympathetic techniques to assure income either for themselves or the church organization do so out of concern for their own livelihood. For a pastor to say you’re doing the church no good by just showing up and not tithing, that you’re better off staying home or, if you don’t tithe don’t bother coming back, is uncaring, indifferent, and uncaring for the body of Christ.

What happens on Sunday mornings in most churches that misquote the Malachi text at collection time is a systematic repetition used to induce internalization of this lie until Christians are sufficiently brainwashed.  Brainwashed people are so because they refuse to read, study, and know the Scripture for themselves.  They are programed to not question their church leadership even when their leadership behaves badly or twist Scripture to make the Word of God say what it doesn’t.  Some are so clever at it they mix the New and Old Covenant together, they mix Law and Grace together then present the two as one and the same.  Sadly, Christians have been conditioned to check their minds at the door when entering into the Church service.

Strange as it sounds, church leaders tend to be wealthier tithe-payers, while better spiritual leaders who cannot give as much because of legitimate losses are left out of leadership roles.  I’ve seen this play out dozens of times in churches I attended.  The more you give, the better your chances of climbing the “spiritual corporate latter” securing a prominent role or position in the church.  If you are not much of a financial giver, most often you are passed over and excluded.  You have to pay to play, church leadership turn giving into the prerequisite dub of ministry.

In truth, there is no consensus in the New Testament Church as to the New Testament applicability of the principle of tithing, of testing God financially, of God’s promised rebuking of those things that devour finances, or of God’s providing financially for those who faithfully give.  In the New Testament, God simply delights to respond to His people with gracious provision, more specifically, God has promised to meet the essential needs of His people (Matt. 6:25-34).

The Context of Malachi  

In order to understand context is critical as with Malachi 3 most generally a sermon on tithing is going to only include verses 8-11 and the congregation is going to be beat and condemned with them. So let’s look at the very beginning of Malachi chapter 1vs. 6 addresses WHO is responsible for “robbing” God.   The curse of the Malachi text lays at the feet of the priest.

When compared to Numbers 18:21-24 and Nehemiah 10:37, the usual interpretation of “bring the whole tithe into the storehouse” has been turned into an appalling lie which, for the integrity of God’s truth and for what is advantageous to Christ’s church, must stop immediately. To gain a clear understanding of what and of who Malachi is speaking about all four chapters should be read and the context considered. Several questions should be considered when reading all four chapters such as, “Who is God speaking about?, Is he speaking to one group of people or many? Does he address more than one group of people? It becomes clear in the first chapter that Malachi addresses the open contempt of the priests for the braking of the Law and their negative influence upon the people. Just six verses into chapter one he says, “To you priests who despise My name.” And following through to chapter two Malachi opens by saying, “And now, O priest, this commandment is for you. If you will not hear, and if you will not take it to heart, to give glory to My name, says the Lord of host, I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, because you do not take it to heart.

The priest offered what was blind, lame and sick as a sacrifice, the priest broke their vows, corrupted the covenant and did not regard the offering as a good will offering, and by doing so provoked the LORD of host to curse the nation.  Malachi 1:6 and 2:1 offers decisive evidence that God is specifically addressing the priest, not the people! These two verses are the keys which unlock the entire book of Malachi. God is rebuking His ministers, the priest who are guilty of dishonoring God and despising His name, not the people. This is confirmed if you follow the pronoun “you” from Malachi 1:6 on through the end of the book. Chapter 2:1 becomes the greatest key as for the second time God distinctly makes it clear He is specifically addressing the priest, not the people. Since there is no corresponding text anywhere else in the book of Malachi that God has changed his primary audience, then the conclusion must be that God did not change his audience for the remainder of the book.

The word “curse” occurs seven times in the book of Malachi, 1:14, 2:2, 3:9, 4:6, and again are all directed towards the priests themselves, not the people (See Footnotes)[1] How is it then that so many preachers ignore the many uses of the word “curse” in Malachi when they preach on the curse of Malachi 3:9? And lastly, there is the issue of the law, the priest self-deceivingly claimed the privileges of the covenant, while neglecting the conditions of it as if God were bound by it to bless them. The covenant is said to be not merely “of life and peace 2:6,” but “life and peace” for the keeping of the law. The priest neglected their covenant relationship with God by robbing Him of the tithes and offerings 3:8-12. Nothing is said here of the people, in fact, all indication is given that the people gave tithes according to the law. Which brings us to the most important part of our discussion here, the New Testament Church is not bound by the law, either for blessings or curses. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” ~ Galatians 3:13. The law makes demands no one can keep, and obedience to the law is to be absolute in every detail. A feat only Christ Himself accomplished!

The covenant made at Sinai witnessed the era of Israel’s birth as a nation. It was then that God created them as a people for His own possession (Malachi 2:10). The law revealed the holiness of God and the sin of the people and serves as a reminder that the law only condemns. It could not save but was the schoolmaster to Christ (Galatians 3:24). The covenant of Grace unlike that of the law is an unconditional, everlasting covenant spoken of as “The New Covenant” or “The New Testament,” and was an agreement ratified by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The New Covenant is referred to as a “Better Covenant” (Heb 7:22; 8:6) because it was established on grace and truth, plus the reality of Christ’s Covenant exceeds that of the Levitical priesthood just as substance surpasses shadow. Why then do we see a bleeding over of a legalistic system where it concerns giving (tithing) into the Covenant of Grace? For far too long Pastors have used the iron fist of the law as a means of obtaining finances.  The old garments of the law have been cast off, the Levitical priesthood failed to reach perfection so another priest after a better order has appeared. Just as there has been a change in the priesthood it was of necessity there is also a change of the law (Heb 7:12). Jesus Christ, who’s priesthood is in the likeness of Melchizedek has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life (Heb. 7:14-16).

Just as Salvation is by Grace through faith, New Testament Giving is regarded as the gift of grace. Believers don’t give because they have to or because they are compelled or commanded to. Believers don’t give to secure an extravagant lifestyle for its leadership so that they can live in expensive mansions, drive luxury cars, or purchase privet jets. No, believers give simply to exemplify Jesus. For the believer, giving is not just a part of our created make up, it is an expression of the nature of God within us to others. The grace we receive from God finds expression in the grace we give to others. New Testament giving should be patterned after the Divine example revealed in Jesus. Giving should always be on the bases of love, love for God, for other believers and for the lost. Grace is a universal principle that Christ gave us through the cross. He gave all, His very life for the sake of the world.

The Dangers and pitfalls of being deceived

Conclusion concerning Malachi 3:8-11. I’m betting that most of us have heard sermon after sermon on tithing and how we’ve failed God miserably and are cursed if we don’t pony up the 10% of our income and not only that; but add to that our gross income. Add to that some will teach that 10% does not include special offerings, building funds or “alms”. Some even go so far as to use the widow’s mite story in the new testament, where she gave all. We are spiritually crippled because we are being lied to and believing a lie. One lie always leads to another. The leadership/priests/pastors were being dealt with and “cursed” because of their “robbing God” AND causing the people/Congregation to stumble. Meaning that those we sit under and listen to these types of sermons are doing us harm. Teaching a works based, pay to play doctrine; using guilt, manipulation and intimidation. We become bound by these false teachings, we are dumbed down, becoming blind to the truth, lead blindly astray. Tithing becomes the gauge to someone’s faithfulness to the Church, many times it is at the top of the list when considering putting someone in a leadership position within the church…. again pay to play.

[1] Curse 2764 ḥērem: To be set aside for destruction. Example: The entire city of Jericho was a deadly threat to the formation of God’s people and fell under a ban, except for Rahab and her family (Jos_6:17-18), and was set aside for destruction.

10 thoughts on “Sunday Sound Bites: Tithing

  1. I’ve been outside of the church for a number of years and exist on the fringe. I’ve made many mistakes with the televangelicals out there, but have given them up for the most part. If you’re like me and you know these guys are just addicted to “sheep shekels”, where you grace give becomes a real problem – it’s real hard to know if you’re trusting good stewards or bad. Even charity navigator’s service makes me wonder how they rate companies.

    I thought I’d found a good church online, but once I heard the “ten per cent” lecture hooked up with the classic “Twenty percent of the church supports eighty percent of the expenses” and cheating on the side with the trampy line, “God commands you to bring in the ‘whole tithe’, not a partial tithe, to His storehouse”, my heart just sunk. I am a 10% giver, but when I hear a pastor then say his name’s on a $52M loan, I know his credit rating is on the line. He had a good premise, too – he wanted the members to strip themselves bare and approach God under the idea of being real would humble you and bring you into a closer relationship with God. He already knows you, so if you’d simply be brutally honest about the sinner you are, He would begin to rub His hands and say, “OK, now I HAVE a broken person I can work with!”

    I’ve even heard one preacher teach against the prosperity gospel under the guise that “all boats should float”, not exclusively the preacher’s boat. I never got junk mail from them, but when I asked a couple of questions and for a little scriptural support, I got the sense I was an inconvenience or embarrassment to them….an “e-sheep”.

    Finding the where to give is becoming almost impossible because there’s this worldly mindset that says, “Let’s send out multi-colored glossy paper brochures or make calls to donors!” when after I’ve said in some way or form, “Don’t waste money with calls or junk mail to me” in every case. If you’re racking up phone bills or printing “desperate need” letters six months in advance and you’ve ordered a two year supply of them, stewardship is not one of your strong suits. The “trust God to provide” mechanism seems to be on vacation with my donation, and I find out after I get the post card. 😦

  2. Mike,
    Ha! I had forgotten about that. My wife and I only pastored once (we were itinerant teachers). We assumed an independent church from another Pastor and “New Testament Giving” was my second Sunday message. Word must have gotten out because the next Sunday the congregation had literally doubled and the offering tripled. God’s good! 🙂
    Tim

  3. I can’t agree more, I pastored a few years back and discovered grace giving, a New Testament form of giving. I tried to share it with some pastor friends and they X’d their fingers at me like it was taboo. Like you, I saw how the people were set free. Funny thing was, giving in our church increased after I preached grace giving. We had some poor people who had not given before because they couldn’t afford a tithe, once I freed them they started giving a little here and there and they felt more connected believing they had a purpose in the body of Christ. Its a shame that most of Christianity in America live in shackles.

  4. Mike,
    Well done! When I was in the ministry I used to preach this message every where I went. It set the people free … but it didn’t fly well with the Pastors! Glad to hear some else minister the simple truth of God’s Word.
    God bless,
    Tim

  5. At the moment I don’t think I’m equipped for that. Don’t even know how to go about it to be honest since people live so far apart.

  6. Have you considered rounding up a few other brethren who appreciate your (and my) willingness to get out of the box in following Him and commencing a new wineskin? Something I’m seriously considering for about a month now.

  7. No Bob, I don’t know any churches in California with the exception of Bethel’s Church and I don’t recommend that one as it is Bill Johnson’s church. I live closer to the east coast. Thank you for the complement, I started a journey many years ago to discover the “truth” of God’s Word and have still a long way to go. The road behind me is long, however growing in Christ is a life long journey. Jesus said my truth will make you free. I have discovered that to be so however truth does come at a cost. I will pray you can find a good church body to connect with. My wife and I have been out of the church structure for several years and have just recently reconnected with a church in our area. It is very small, “Yea” and the pastor seems driven to stick strictly with a face value hermeneutic, time will tell.

  8. You’ve hit it on the head, Mike. Very few have any idea what the tithing passage is truly about; I believe you have a good handle on it. My wife and I live in Southern California; moved here from Iowa about one year ago; know of any good churches out here? God bless your ministry!

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