TITHING IS NOT A CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE
The verse most often cited in support of the tithe is from the Old Testament, found in Malachi 3:8-10:
8. “”Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, `How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 9. You are under a curse–the whole nation of you–because you are robbing me. 10. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. Many preachers shorten Malachi 3:8-10 to just “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse”, and almost always with the inference that their church is the “storehouse”. For purposes of this paper, the Lord had me concentrate on the passage: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house”. From that passage, the Lord had me research several questions:
1) What is the tithe?
2) What was the tithe for?
3) What is the storehouse?
1) What is the tithe? The tithe is 10% of the increase, established in Leviticus 27:30-33 as an offering Holy to the Lord. The scripture identifies the tithe as grain and fruit, herd and flock. The tithe is food! An example of the tithe can be seen in a shepherd with a flock of 100 sheep who is blessed with the birth of 50 lambs in the spring. Five of the lambs must be offered to the Lord as a tithe. The tithe was brought to the temple in Jerusalem in acknowledgement and appreciation of God’s provision for His people.
2) What was the tithe for? God doesn’t need the food – God doesn’t eat. God doesn’t desire sacrifices or offerings ( Psalm 40:6 and Hosea 6:6 ) – He desires mercy. God doesn’t need us to give Him a 10th of everything – when He already owns everything ( Psalm 24:1 and Job 41:11b ). The tithe was used to feed the Levite priests (and their families) who were required to work in the temple day and night ministering to God on behalf of God’s people ( 1 Chronicles 9:33 ). Without the tithe, the Levite priests would have needed to raise their own food, thereby taking them away from ministering before God. Hence the reference in Malachi 3:10 “…that there may be food in my house”. Nehemiah 13:10-13 records a time when the Levite priests were not receiving the tithe wherein they abandoned their daily temple responsibilities to work the farms to feed their families. The reference to ‘robbing God’ in Malachi 3:8 is in fact robbing God of ministry and worship by failing to take care of God’s priests through the tithe of food items. Unlike the other tribes of Israel who were given land as their inheritance, the Levites were not given any land – only a few cities in which to live. God was their inheritance ( Numbers 18:20-21 ). Thus, the remaining tribes were obligated to provide the Levites with food since they had no land on which to grow their own.
3) What is the storehouse? 2 Chronicles 31 teaches that the storehouse is the Temple in Jerusalem. When the tithe was re-instituted under King Hezekiah, the king gave orders to prepare storerooms in the temple to hold the tithe. Apparently the grain “tithe” was heaped up in the streets, which caused a traffic jam of sorts. King Hezekiah had the storehouse built to relieve a bad case of urban congestion in ancient Jerusalem.
Having established the original purpose of the tithe, the Lord prompted me with several more questions.
Q: “What happened to the temple (storehouse)?”
A: It was destroyed in 70AD and has not been rebuilt.
A: The old covenant system of animal sacrifice to atone for sin is finished. The new covenant is in the blood of Christ who is the final and everlasting sin sacrifice.
Q: “Where is the temple now?”
A: 1 Corinthians 6:19 says WE are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God no longer resides in a stone temple, but in the hearts of his children through the Holy Spirit.
Q: “What happened to the Levite priests?”
A: The Levite priesthood is no longer necessary as the old covenant system of animal sacrifice in the temple was superceded by the everlasting covenant of Christ’s blood.
Q: “Who is the priesthood now?”
A: 1 Peter 2:5 and 9 says those who have received Jesus as Lord and Savior are the priesthood.
Come On Laity, Let’s Do The Twist
Burdening the Body of Christ with the Tithe requires several twists and reinterpretations of scripture.
1) The tithe must be imported from the OT law of Moses to the new covenant of grace by Christ’s blood.
2) The tithe must be redefined from “flocks, herds, fruit and grain” to “money” and often “time”.
3) The storehouse must be redefined from the temple in Jerusalem to the local church building.
4) The Body of Christ must buy into the ordained clergy as the new priesthood, thereby replacing the Levite priesthood as the rightful recipient of the tithe.
5) The Body of Christ must forfeit their own priesthood and buy into the notion that they are the “laity”.
The tithe has been introduced to the Body of Christ using 2 tactics of the enemy.
1) Sowing guilt and shame into the Body of Christ by quoting Malachi 3:8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, `How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings.” What devoted Christian wants to rob God? The net effect of sowing guilt has been to extort money from the Body of Christ, thereby robbing the Body of the joy and blessing of giving as God leads. The practice ignores Paul’s instructions to the church at Corinth: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver ( 2 Corinthians 9:7 ).”
2) Blaming the “laity” for the financial troubles in the Body of Christ , by telling the Body they are not blessed by God because they do not tithe. Often Malachi 3:10 is emphasized “Test me in this, says the LORD Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” In so doing, believers are challenged to tithe, with the promise that God will bless them if they do. Such giving is not out of love for God, but out of selfishness. It implies a reward for works, which contradicts Ephesians 2:8-9 , and completely ignores our status as sons of God by faith in Christ ( Galatians 3:26 ) and joint heirs of God with Christ ( Romans 8:17 ). The practice also ignores Christ’s words in Matthew 4:7 “Do not put the Lord your God to the test”.
Wait for part 2, for now lets end here.
By pastor Mungandi Mubita.