10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. (Mal. 3:10)
Malachi 3:10 is without question the most quoted Bible verse during offering speeches in churches all over the world each Sunday. The message we normally hear is that if we give our tithes, God will open the windows of heaven over our lives and finances.
Giving is definitely important, and it is true that the one that sows sparingly (i.e. gives little) will reap sparingly, while the one that sows richly (i.e. gives much) will reap richly (see 2 Cor. 9:6).
However, tithing was a legislated tax for the Jewish nation, under the Old Covenant, to finance the Levitical tribe, the Levitical Priesthood, and the Temple service. The tithe also had a social dimension as it was to be distributed to support the poor (see Deut. 26:12), similarly to how we pay taxes to fund social welfare programs today.
The admonition to give tithes in Malachi 3, was thus exclusively directed to the Jewish people, under the law. Tithing is not practiced among the Jews today, simply because there is no longer a Levitical tribe, or a temple, to finance.
After the cross, in the New Covenant, we do not find one single Scripture verse that encourages or admonishes us to tithe. Studies of church history have shown that mandatory tithing was not practiced during the initial centuries of the church.
Jesus made clear that tithing was “of the law”, as He criticized the Pharisees for their zealous tithing of vegetables, while at the same time neglecting the more important aspects of the law, as justice, mercy, and faith (Mt. 23:23).
After the cross, in the New Covenant, we are no longer living under the law of Moses, and thereby we are no longer under any compulsory demand to tithe today.
In fact, if we believe that our financial giving will open the windows of heaven upon our lives, we are 2000 years late. Jesus has already opened a “new and living way” to heaven through the sacrifice of Himself on the cross.
19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, (Heb. 10:19-20)
Heaven is not opened upon us because of anything we do, or perform, for God. It is already open because of what Jesus has already performed for us. However, the treasures of heaven that already are available to us in Christ, only come to us if we by faith receive what Jesus has done for us.
If we believe that our tithing will open the windows of heaven upon our lives, we have actually returned to the Old Covenant and placed ourselves under the law. When Paul in the book of Galatians is commenting on the Galatians’ attempt to combine the truth of the Gospel of grace with following the law of Moses, he explains the consequences:
3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised [read: or tries to keep any other part of the law to become righteous] that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Gal. 5:3-4)
Paul explains that whenever we trust our own works or efforts – including the work of tithing – we have returned to the law. The only way to be blessed according to the law is to keep every command in it. This is, obviously, impossible for everyone except Jesus Christ, who through His death and resurrection fulfilled and put aside the law.
If we trust that our own tithing will open the windows of heaven upon our lives, we have “become estranged from Christ” and “fallen from grace”.
We do not give 10 % of our income for God to open the windows of heaven upon us. We can’t purchase God’s favor with our money! God’s favor is way too expensive for that. It took the blood of Jesus to pay for it, so that you and I could get it for free!
Nor do we sacrifice money to pay off a debt to God. Jesus has, through the offering of Himself, already “paid it all”.
How then are we to view giving, sowing and reaping?
As we sacrifice our money as a response to that Jesus has already opened the windows of heaven upon us – and not pay off a debt to God – we sow a seed in faith that, according to the size of the seed, eventually will yield a harvest.
Paulus explains in Galatians 5:6:
”For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything [read: or whether we try to keep the law by tithing or not], but faith working through love.”
What works and accomplished results in our lives is that we have faith working through love. What does this mean? As we receive a revelation of God’s love and grace for us through the finished work of Jesus, faith flows, which in turn leads to that God’s blessings manifest in our lives.
It is through our response in faith to what Jesus has done for us that we get hold of God’s blessings – including in the financial realm. Not through legalistic tithing.
Giving to God’s work can indeed be an expression of true faith working through love. However, it can also be a result of legalistic manipulation or a false pretense of having to “pay God off” with our offerings for Him to bless us. The motive behind the giving will decide the harvest.