Malachi 3:8-10 – “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”
The people in Malachi’s day were not obeying the commandments of the law with respect to their tithes and contributions, and so Malachi said they were robbing God. The Old Testament Law required each of God’s children to give 10% of their first fruits to the Levites who worked as the priests for the nation of Israel. In addition to their tithes, they were to bring offerings and contributions as worship to God in the temple.
When we as New Testament Christians talk about tithing, we either feel guilty or shameful because we are not giving 10%. We might give 10% and check off our generosity box for the month, or we might say, “Forget the 10%; God merely wants us to be generous,” which is code for, “I’m not giving as much as I think I should, but I want to justify it by saying it’s merely an Old Testament concept.
Today, as New Testament Christians we are not under law, but under grace. Romans 7:4 says that we as Christians have “died to the law through the body of Christ.” Galatians 2:19 says that “through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.” Is the 10% tithing law still binding on us today? According to what Paul is saying, no it is not still binding today.
When you hear that the tithing law is not binding, how do you respond? Do you feel a sense of release that you are now somehow justified and righteous as you give 3%? Do you now feel a sense of freedom that you can go buy that car that you know will decrease your ability to give as much as you have been?
When you think of the Old Testament Israelites, there was true Israel and there was national Israel. One of the key differences was worship and sacrifice in the temple. The true Israelites worshipped in the temple because they loved God and they were committed to being faithful to God. Their hearts were devoted. The nominal Israelites who were Israelites by ethnicity gave to the temple because they had to. Sure, they may have gone to the temple and offered their 10%, but as Isaiah said, their hands were full of blood. Their lives were marked by sin, but they were at least checking off the 10% box.
Let’s contrast that with who we are today. Because of Christ, we are set free from our sin and from the law! We are saved by grace alone! God has given us His Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts, so therefore, He has blessed us richly with his richest blessing: His grace, Himself. Knowing how much greater it is to be saved by grace vs. under the law, how in the world could we rejoice at the fact that now we don’t HAVE to give 10%? In light of grace… In light of Jesus, shouldn’t our question be radically different? I think our question should be, how and when can I worship God and give thanks to Him for his grace by giving my offerings to Him? How can I give far above that 10% mark so that the work of Jesus Christ can be spread by the church in this world? How can I generously give so as to show Jesus that He has joyfully saved me and given me a cheerful heart that loves to give?