A Meditation on Malachi 3:5-12
In Matthew 4, Jesus is “led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil” (vs. 1). One temptation from Satan even included a quotation from Psalm 91:11-12: “‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
“Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Matt. 4:6-7). Deliberately throwing Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple would have been an inappropriate application of Psalm 91:11-12, because it clashes with the command not to challenge or test God.
There is, however, one notable exception to this general rule not to put “God to the test.” That exception is found in Malachi 3:10: “‘Bring in 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.’”
Every Sunday morning I picture the Lord standing before His people reiterating this challenge as the ushers prepare to pass the offering baskets: “Bring in the whole tithe. Don’t hold back. Test me again this week and see if the heavens don’t shower you with blessings beyond measure. Will you trust Me?”
The context of this passage in Malachi is significant. It has to do with avoiding God’s judgment and returning to Him. “‘So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,’ says the LORD Almighty….‘Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty.”
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’” (Mal. 3:5, 7).
God could have answered their question by drawing their attention to any one of the sins He enumerated in verse five, but in His wisdom He addresses an issue that exposes a person’s heart quicker than most any other issue—their money, and specifically their failure to tithe. God responded, “‘Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.’”
“‘But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’”
“‘In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me’” (vv. 8-9). I bet many, if not most of the people, were shocked by these words. They thought they were coming to the house of God to worship, but God’s reply is basically, “Hey, you just stole from me. You hypocrite!”
Our God is not a server at a restaurant who is content with a tip. He is the Sovereign Lord who commands His people to tithe. Are you a tipper or a tither? Return to God by bringing in the whole tithe, and the curse will be lifted and the blessing will fall.
When we withhold our tithes and offerings (an offering is giving above and beyond the tithe) from God, we not only rob God but also rob ourselves at the same time. One of the most vivid pictures of God’s blessings upon His people is in Malachi 3:10: “‘…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 fact, God wants to bless His people in such an obvious and dramatic way that the other nations will recognize the abundance as provision from God (vs. 12).
While it’s true that Christians today are not under the ceremonial law of the Old Covenant and that the command to tithe is not found in the New Testament, we must remember that the practice of tithing antedates the Law of Moses. Abraham introduced the concept some 430 years before the law (Gen. 14:20). In addition to this, Jesus is seen validating the tithe, even on one’s tiny spices (Matt. 23:23), not rescinding it. All Christians should ask themselves, “If it was appropriate under the law of the Old Covenant to give God a tenth of everything (and they actually gave more), should we under the grace of the New Covenant want to give God less or more?”
Let us never forget that “the earth is the LORD’s and everything in it” (Ps. 24:1). “‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the LORD Almighty” (Hag. 2:8). The logical deduction from this is that the money you and I possess really belongs to God. Therefore, we are just managers of God’s finances. If God has made it clear that He wants His money managers to give at least 10% of His money to the church, who are we to argue with Him?