“’I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob are not destroyed. 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.”
Have you ever tried to play a game where the rules kept changing? What about a game that you haven’t played in a long time and half way through remember you forgot a rule? When the rules change we get confused and frustrated quickly. God hasn’t changed the rules on us however. God gave the Israelites rules to live by a thousand years beforehand. He had made promises to the Israelites that he intended to keep. If God changed the rules He would have likely destroyed the Israelites for their unfaithfulness. It wasn’t that the people were just unfaithful; they were unfaithful generation after generation with only a remnant of truly God fearing people left. God would have had every reason to wipe out the unfaithful Israelites and start over again but He had made a promise. Still in Malachi’s day He calls for the people to return to him.
In the first chapter of Malachi, the Israelites were condemned because of their half hearted worship. The people were bringing worthless sacrifices to God and keeping the best for themselves. They believed that going through the motions of worship was better than nothing at all. God tells them that they couldn’t be more wrong and instead would sooner see the temple doors closed altogether rather than witness worthless sacrifices.
Once again the Israelites are told about their offerings. The sacrifices had to do with the people’s worship and belief that repetition of ceremony was all that mattered. This deals with the people’s faith and trust in God. Everything that is belongs to God. He is Jehovah Jireh – God my Provider. The giving of the tithe is an acknowledgement that God is the one who provided all of the harvest and all that the people had. The Israelites were to trust God that he would provide for their needs with whatever was left.
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. 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.
There is debate over whether Jesus abolished the ten percent tithe during His ministry because He did not repeat the command as He did so many other ones. But in Malachi’s day the command was definitely still in effect and the people were not upholding it.
Regardless whether Christians are required to give ten percent today, the principle of Malachi still applies. Giving an offering to God is a matter of faith. The people did not have enough faith to tithe to the Lord in Malachi’s day. They feared that if they gave God too large of a portion that they would not have enough left to live on.
God declares that it would be just the opposite. If the people expressed their faith in Him by giving what He asked of them, He would bless them so much that they would not even be able to store it all.
Instead, the whole nation was under a curse. It’s likely that there were a few people who were still faithful in giving to the Lord and God did not curse them alongside of those who robbed God of their tithes, but there’s enough guilty people to consider it the entire nation that is defying God in this principle.
Giving to God is to be an acknowledgement that He was the one who gave to us first. When the Israelites held back their tithes and offerings not only were they not showing faith that God would provide for them, they were also not expressing thanksgiving for what God had given them. Instead, the unspoken statement is that God had not given them enough because otherwise they’d be able to give the proper tithe.
Paul tells us that God loves a cheerful giver and that should be our attitude regardless of the amount. Tithes and offerings should not be done begrudgingly but that is certainly the attitude that the Israelites had as they gave to the Lord.