When I think about giving to God, I usually don’t think about the amount that I give to Him, because I already know what I’m supposed to give to Him, especially during “Offering Time.” I already know that I’m supposed to give Him 10% of whatever I have earned, and then whatever my heart desires to give Him after that. I give cheerfully, because I love God enough to know that everything already belongs to Him anyway, so I’m not really missing out on anything by giving Him my 10%. So for me, giving to Him is really not that big of a deal, simply because my love for Him supersedes any ill-will that may spring up due to my “supposed” lack of resources on my end after having given God what is due to Him.
As God directed me to read all four chapters of Malachi, God unraveled the mystery behind tithes and offerings, the mistake most churches make by quoting Malachi 3:8-10, and what we should do as Christians in relation to giving to God. For Him, giving is in two parts, and because we have taken those three verses out of context, we miss the BIGGER PICTURE that God was relaying to His people, both then and now.
Malachi 3:8-10 (NIV) states:
8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse —your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring 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 there will not be room enough to store it.
Right away, most pastors, preachers, and teachers state to congregations around the world that we have to give God His due tithes and offerings because if we don’t, we are robbing Him of what He is due. And in doing that, we GUILT people into giving to God 10% of our earnings plus whatever else they want to give to Him, instead of encouraging them to give from a willing heart. Because people don’t want to sin against God and are afraid of the consequences of not giving to Him, they give out of fear, and not out of love.
Now, I am not debating the right-ness or wrong-ness of interpreting those verses that way, for it is true, we owe God tithes and offerings. There’s no getting around that. But God challenged me to consider the entire book of Malachi and allow Him to teach me what is important about the phrase “the whole tithe” in verse 10. See, there are two parts to giving: the tangible, world-view worth, and the intangible, spiritual connection attached to what we give. It is the latter portion that we miss from taking Malachi 3:8-10 out of context.
“The whole tithe” relates to the fact that two chapters back, God was speaking to the Israelite nation about their lack of giving the BEST to God. If we recall, back in those days, the people gave to the temple whatever resource they had to give, including livestock, grain, tapestries, and mineral ores like gold, silver, and so on. Of their resources, they were to give 10% to the temple plus whatever else they had to give, on top of the yearly sacrifices they needed to make for atonement. At this time, the nation of Israel had no problem giving their 10%. Their issue was that they would give God 10% of their WORST, instead of giving Him their BEST:
8 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 1:8)
“When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. 14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king, ” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations. (Malachi 1:13-14)
The Israelites were either so greedy or so fearful of having little for themselves, that they gave God the worst animals for sacrifices, tithes, and offerings, keeping the best animals for themselves. Instead of giving God the fattest calves, bulls, oxen, and sheep, the Israelites (and their priests) had the audacity to give God the sick, lame, and blind animals to God and offer them up to Him as though that was what He deserves for giving them life.
As God revealed this to me, I began to understand what He meant by “the whole tithe.” For God, He is not as concerned about the tangible dollar figure that we equate to 10% as He is concerned about the tithe and offering being of THE BEST. Far too often, we give to God out of fear of not having enough for ourselves, or we give God our worst so that we can keep the best to ourselves. And it’s not just limited to the tithe and offering. That goes for anything we have to offer God, including our time, our devotion, our praise and worship, our conversations, our jobs, EVERYTHING we have to give to God.
Think about it: have we really given God our best, or are we giving our all to our bosses, our friends, our families, our spouses, our children, our own selves, and then giving God our leftovers? Has God done so much for us, only to receive the best of what we DON’T want rather than what He is owed out of love and not fear?
God revealed to me that when He said to us that we rob Him in tithes and offerings, He’s not just stating that we rob Him of 10%. We are actually robbing Him of 10% of our BEST, and when we know we can do better, we ought to do better. That’s why He states in 3:10-12:
Bring 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 there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe, ” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.
God wanted the Israelites to entrust Him with their best, but tested them by allowing some of their resources to not be as well-off as the best, so that they would have the OPPORTUNITY to show God that, “Yeah, I know some of my cows are looking one-eyed and limping, but God deserves the best, so I’ll keep Sicky and give God the Big One over there because I love Him and trust that He will give me more ‘Big Ones’ than ‘Sicky’s’ in time.” In testing God by giving Him the best, God will then cause the overflow to take place, where the BEST, even after giving God what He is owed, will far outnumber the worst of the bunch, and the people around us will call us Blessed because of it.
God wants us to have it all, and to enjoy the fruits of our labor while we have the chance. But while we’re enjoying them, we must always remember to give God what He deserves. He wants it all, but only asks us for a sliver of the best we have. Let us not slack off in our giving to God. Let us give God the best we have to offer Him, for He has done far too much for us to get only the leftovers, like a dog begging for scraps at the dinner table. Give Him the best, He deserves it.