Bring it in or keep it out?

At The United Methodist Church of Delta I have been preaching through the book of Malachi for the last 3 weeks, and will continue to be in Malachi until December 18th, Lord willing.  It has been an enjoyable and challenging book to preach from, and I have been stretched during preparation in ways that I did not expect to be stretched.  What I have found is that Malachi is not really about the things that I typically hear preached from it.  Though I have read through Malachi a number of times in my life, there is really only one verse that typically came to mind when someone would mention Malachi, that being  chapter 3 verse 10.

10 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 primary reason that this text comes to mind is because it is used almost yearly in most churches as the leadership seeks to get people to commit to financial stewardship.  Typically the message associated with this text goes something like this.  Test God, give more, His word promises that if you give your tithe you will have more than you need.  I understand all too well the temptation to make that the primary message of Malachi, but it is a bit disingenuous to say the least.  Of course there are some very fundamental issues with that whole message, the most obvious being that it motivates people to give with a promise that by giving they will receive.  It places the entire emphasis in a different place from where the prophet places it.  The entire message of Malachi focuses around God’s name being made great among the nations, not around man becoming great by serving God.  I certainly do not want to wholesale write off the message of Malachi 3:10, but it is a dangerous teaching when it is not coupled to the rest of the prophecy.

I wonder how many Pastors preach Malachi 1:10 during their stewardship campaigns.

10 Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.

 Of course that message seems amiss at a time where financial stewardship is being promoted, but it is an equally valid text about stewardship as Malachi 3:10.  The question of financial stewardship is not merely a question of sacrificial giving, it is a question of the very motivation behind giving.  There is a way to offer much which is still displeasing to God.  There is a way of offering sacrifice, though it may be 10% that is a stench in God’s nostrils.

Anyone else have thoughts on this?

 

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8 thoughts on “Bring it in or keep it out?

  1. I would agree about the legal aspect, and noting the whole of Matt. 23! However, is the Tithe still an example of giving & receiving? See, Matt. 23: 2-3, with Malachi. And then how does one preach Malachi in the church today? And as some say, the Tithe already belongs to God! We should note many of our Reformation and Reformed brethren, still teach the Tithe is God’s. Just asking questions, as we seek to maintain the Biblical integrity!

    • In my preaching, I have yet to approach Mal 3:10, and that is part of the reason for the blog post, hoping for feedback. If you notice in my post and comments I have not come out *against* the tithe.

      Matt 23 was a great passage to bring to the table, of course, as with any text, we could really do some damage with that one. But the line of questioning you raise is right in step with the questions that are coming to my mind.

      I think the fundamental shift from OT to NT is obligation to gratitude. The key issue is motivation, and that seems to be at the heart of the NT’s teaching on giving. However, are we right to say that not only has the motivation changed but also say the percentage has changed? Is 2 cor 9:6-9 seems to make the case that the % is now immaterial, but I am not sure, it seems that the force of that text is upon attitude.

      My thoughts are that the only way we can give rightly is to realize first that we do not *need* to give at all. Nonetheless does that realization negate the tithe, not sure.

      I also know that Malachi 1:10 and Malachi 3:10 are dealing with different types of offering, and how does that play into the conversation. 1:10, clearly is talking about sacrifice which Christ has fulfilled, but has Christ fulfilled the tithe mentioned in 3:10?

  2. John and Fr. Robert, the force of my preaching has been in that direction and on that point. At our church the primary issue we have is not finances. We are not loaded with excess by any means, but we do get by without the burden of high stress meetings about how we are going to make ends meet. It really does not take much boldness for me to preach a message on Malachi 1:10, and grant the liberty of 2 Cor 9:7. On the other side of that, I can imagine the difficulty that a pastor of a financially strapped congregation must feel, and I understand why there would be a fear of setting their people at liberty with a verse like 2 Corinthians 9:7. Don’t read this as making an excuse for a pastor who would leave their flock in bondage, God forbid. However I can understand the underlying fear that would cause them to do just that.

  3. I have believed for a while now that we are no longer under the OT directions to tithe. I’ll point you to 2 Corinthians 9:7 as proof. God doesn’t want our begrudged submission. We are to give whatever we can give cheerfully whether it is monetary or something as simple as serving in some way. You can “give” of yourself (i.e. time, talent, service, etc.) Giving when done with pure motivations is good and pleases the Lord, Giving begrudingly simply doesn’t. At least that’s my take on it.

  4. I think it is interesting that in the NT Christ himself had almost nothing good to say about “tithing” … Luke 11: 42 ; Matt. 23:23 ; Luke 18: 12. But we should also see and read St. Paul in 2 Cor. 9: 6-7, etc. The question remains are we under the OT injunction to Tithe?

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