Friday, September 26, 2008

Malachi 3: Tithing for the Poor?

On many church offering envelopes you will see this verse, Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that here may be food in My house, 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 there is no more need. Malachi 3:10

To be fair, most pastors never intended to abuse this passage, they are just doing what they have been taught. Sadly, I was one of the them.

Here is an excerpt, from “The Children are Free”, by Roger Sapp.

The Second Tithe is for the Poor
The second biblical tithe was in support of the poor, the widow, the orphan and the foreigner and the Levite again. It was collected every three years. This amounted to two years out of seven years because one year out of seven the land was commanded to be at rest and unproductive. This food tithe was stored locally to support those in need. The LAW says:

At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.
Deuteronomy 14:28-29 and see Deut. 16:22

This second food tithe was stored locally and those who were in need could partake of it. The poor did not tithe at all. They had no harvest to tithe from. They could obtain help from the local storehouse or they could glean the corners of the fields of others. Needy widows, orphans, foreigners and needy Levites could partake of this local storehouse of food. Since there was an ongoing failure to pay the first food tithe, the Levites were often in need.

Those that teach tithing fail to notice that the poor did not pay a food tithe. Tithing money today is incredibly hard on the poor and easy on the rich. If a person, who needs every cent of their income to pay for food and shelter, is obligated to pay ten-percent of their income to the church, it becomes an incredible burden. However, if a person is rich and is only living on a small fraction of their income, then paying a tithe of their income is no burden at all. Teaching the poor to tithe their income places upon them a heavy burden that Christ never intended them to carry.

The church seems to ignore the second food tithe for the poor in its teaching of tithing money. In fact, many leaders confuse this tithe with the first tithe in support of the Levites. The poor tithe is mentioned in Malachi, Chapter 3. This is a very popular text used in the church to teach the tithing of money. This passage is often wrongly taught as pertaining to the Levites and Priests and spiritualized to apply to the ministry of the church. The food tithe for the Levites was brought to Jerusalem and paid during the festivals. It was not stored locally in the storehouse. This tithe in Malachi 3 was the poor tithe and was brought to the storehouse in their localities. Malachi also says that this is a food tithe of produce rather than money.

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that here may be food in My house, 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 there is no more need.
Malachi 3:10

The church has often sincerely but ignorantly misused this passage by spiritualizing it. The storehouse in the passage by interpretation becomes the local church rather than the literal Jewish town’s storehouse for the poor. The literal food in the passage by interpretation becomes money. The blessing by interpretation becomes more money rather than God opening the windows of heaven and pouring out rain that produces more food.

Beyond this, the money collected by misusing this passage is not generally used to support the poor either. It is used to support the ministry of the church. This is a general spiritualization of this passage that improperly takes the passage out of its context and reapplies it to Christians without biblical license. This spiritualized teaching makes believers feel that they are under some sort of New Testament law of giving with a curse attached. This is poor teaching at best. This teaching puts forgiven believers back under the Law of Moses and its curse.

Here is the spiritualized version of these verses taught by some in the church:

Bring (as an act of worship) the full amount of your tithe (ten percent of your ongoing income) in the storehouse (the local church), that there may be food (spiritual food) in My house (the local church), and prove Me now (presently) by it, (put me to the test, give Me an opportunity to prove Myself) and you will see that I will open the windows of heaven to you—and pour out on you so much (financial, material) blessing that you will not have room enough to contain it. Then I will rebuke (protect your income from) the devourer (the devil) for you – I will stop the thief (the devil) from destroying the fruit (money, material goods) of your labors.
Spiritualized version of Malachi 3:10-11

Last Thoughts From Me

How did we ever get to the place that 90-100% of all giving at a local church goes to brick and mortar, salaries (mostly domestic and a bit for missionaries) and programs?

Why have we so neglected the poor in the process without any pang of guilt?

Ask your pastor.

Now that this deception has been exposed will he and you continue to serve the lie or listen to a prophet like Ezekiel?

The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.
Ezekiel 34: 1-3

Wow, a prophet not out for profit.


Russell Earl Kelly, PHD said...

From: Tithing is not a Christian Doctrine
Russell Earl Kelly, PHD

Malachi 3 is the Most Abused Tithing Text in the Bible. The “whole” tithe never was supposed to go to the Temple!

A. Malachi is Old Covenant and is never quoted in the New Covenant to validate tithing (Lev. 27:34; Neh. 10:28-29; Mal. 3:7; 4:4).

B. In Malachi 3:10-11 tithes are still only food 1000 years after Leviticus 27:30-34 and Numbers 18:21-28.

C. Malachi’s audience had willingly reaffirmed the Old Covenant (Neh.10:28-29). The blessings and curses of tithing are identical to and inseparable from those of the entire Mosaic Law. The rain in Deuteronomy 28:12, 23-24 and Leviticus 26:1-4 is only obtained by obedience to all 613 commandments. Galatians 3:10 (quoting Deu 27:26) “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” Trying to earn God’s blessings through tithing only brings curses for failure to keep all of the law. See also Galatians 3:19.

D. Beginning in 1:6 “you” in Malachi always refers to the dishonest priests and not the people (also 2:1-10; 2:13 to 3:1-5): “Even this whole nation of you --priests” (3:9). In 1:13-14 the priests had stolen tithed animals vowed to God. In Nehemiah 13:5-10 priests had stolen the Levites’ portion of the tithe. God’s curses on the priests are ignored by most tithe-teachers (1:14; 2:2 and 3:2-4).

E. Point #12 of the essay. The Levitical cities must be included in a correct interpretation of Malachi 3:10. Most tithe-recipients lived outside of Jerusalem.

F. The 24 courses of Levites and priests must be included in a correct interpretation of Malachi 3. Normally only 2% of the total Levite and priest work force served at the temple one week at a time. Subtract wives, males under the age of 30 and daughters. Therefore 2% did not require all of the tithe. See 1 Chron 23-26; 28:13, 21; 2 Chron. 8:14; 23:8; 31:2, 15-19; 35:4, 5, 10; Ezra 6:18; Neh. 11:19, 30; 12:24; 13:9, 10; Luke 1:5.

G. Nehemiah 10:37-39 is the key to understanding Malachi 3:10, The people were commanded to bring their tithes, not to the temple, but to the nearby Levitical cities. Verse 38 says that the priests were with the Levites in the Levitical cities when they received the tithes.

H. According to Nehemiah 13:5, 9 the “storehouse” in the Temple was only several rooms. The real “storehouses” were in the Levitical cites per Nehemiah 10:37b-38. Only the Levites and priests normally brought tithes to the Temple (10:38). Two rooms in the Temple were far too small to contain the tithe from the entire nation and 98% of the Levites and priests lived too far away to eat from them.

Therefore, Malachi 3:10’s “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse” only makes contextual sense if it is only commanding dishonest priests to replace the tithes they had removed from it or had failed to bring to it.

While the 3:10 of the Law in Malachi is so important to tithe-teachers they ignore the 3:10 of the Gospel in Galatians and 2nd Corinthians. Perhaps those wanting to enforce the 3:10 Law of Malachi should also enforce the 3:10 Law of Numbers. They share the same context.

Christian giving is freewill, sacrificial, generous, joyful, regular and motivated by love. That is enough to provide the needs of the Church.

David Grant said...

Well said. Are you going to take on another misunderstood teaching about "double honor" being a paycheque? Especially in light of Paul's final remarks to the elders of Ephesus. Acts 20:30-35

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David Grant said...

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Warrior said...

So awesome, thank you. I've been teaching to a partial listening crowd about this for years. This and keeping the Shabbat. I know people who keep it cause they honor Yahshua in doing so and in keeping Pesach, etc. Others say we have to. I say, if you're going to keep this then every 6th year you will have to store up double and not work for the whole 7th year. That usually gets a response without mentioning releasing people from debt owed them or bring the year of jubilee.