The command of tithing is commonly taught throughout most of the Southern Baptist Churches. Is this idea Biblical? Is this what New Testament believers are required to follow today? To discover the validity of tithing for New Covenant believers today, one must take a hermeneutical journey from the Biblical town to modernity. Historical and literary context will show the intended meaning in the text. Understanding what this text says about God immutable will show how to apply this text to Christians today after understanding the difference between the historical context and the modern context. Then developing a Biblical framework for the proper application will further found and modify it.
Malachi means “my messenger,” and there is division on whether this is truly his name or simply a title given to the prophet. No historical subscription is given in this book; however, it was must likely written approximately 430-435 B.C. This is roughly 100 years after the Edict of Cyrus which allowed the Jewish people to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple. The people had rebuilt the temple and expected great promises to be fulfilled for doing so, but nothing was happening. The Israelites were discouraged, yet still following the religious practices ritualistically. After all the promises of the coming presence of God, He remains “silent,” as in nothing miraculous is happening; although, God’s activity is evident in His providence.
Chapter one begins with God affirming His love for Israel as proved by his hate for Esau (Edom). God is compared as a father to Israel, but questions where His honor is (1:6). God then describes three ways the people dishonor him (1:7-14). In chapter two, the LORD rebukes the priests for not giving honor to His name and compares their work with that of Levi (2:1-9). He proclaims how Judah has broken the covenant and committed adultery (2:10-12), then curses them for defaming His justice (2:13-17). Chapter three opens with the prediction of a coming messenger (John the Baptist) followed by the messenger of the covenant (Christ) who will purify and provide way for righteous judgment (3:1-5). In the immediate context of the selected passage (3:10), the LORD speaks to Israel a call of repentance (3:6, 7). Following God points out what needs repentance: robbing God and proclaiming service to God is pointless (3:8, 9, 13-15). In between these passages include the blessings for keeping the commandment of tithing (3:10-12), and after, blessings for those who serve Him not in vain (3:16-18). Chapter four contains prophesy of the Day of the LORD.
“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.” Now the differences between the biblical audience and New Covenant believers are key. First, “my house” (the temple) is the place where God dwells. Today the Holy Spirit indwells believers and our body is the temple (1 Cor. 6:19-20). This is the one place where God says, “put me to the test;” however, this is under the context of the Old Covenant blessings. If one under the Old Covenant kept the commands, God is faithful to bless (see Lev. 26 and Deut. 28 for covenantal blessings and curses). Under the New Covenant, believers should be encouraged to trust in the faithfulness of God, but the mentality behind “putting God to the test” must not be done scientifically or out of curiosity (it especially should not mean tempting God to sin or trying his patience Luke 4:12, Heb. 4:7-11).
The theological principal from this text is God demands everything He has commanded of us. In this passage it is “the full tithe.” To limit giving in the New Covenant to a mere ten percent would do injustice to the words of Christ (Luke 9:23) and the picture of the first century church (Acts 2:44, 45). God demands everything He commands believers to give, and He demands believers to give their all because He will provide. “And he said to them, ‘When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘Nothing.’” Luke 22:35