Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tyranny of the Tithe: Mishandling Malachi

In the movie The Untouchables, Robert DeNiro wields a baseball bat with brutal efficacy. In pulpits across America, the tithe-teacher's bludgeon of choice is Malachi 3:8-9.

Have you ever heard that if you don't pay your tithes, God's gonna getcha? You are robbing Him and He's angry, and now you're going to be cursed with a curse? It's all based on this passage in Malachi:

Mal 3:8-9
(8) "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings.
(9) You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.

This is the tithe-teacher's muscle passage. Basically, if you're not paying your church dues, God's going to collect in a form of ecclesiastical extortion. But once you get past the scary premise of the threat, there is one really big problem with this application:

Malachi is addressed to Israel, not Christians

See the article on Christians and the Law. The Law was given to the Jews and it's commandments were binding on them and them alone. In fact, the New Testament points out that non-Jewish Christians were "strangers from the covenants" of Israel (Ephesians 2:12)

To fully understand this point, notice Malachi's remedy for Israel:

Mal 4:4
(4) "Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

God, through Malachi, tells the people to go back to the law of Moses which was given for all Israel. This is obviously meant for Old Covenant Israel and not New Covenant Christians. Christians were never told to return to the law of Moses. In fact, Christians are warned against that very thing. Look at Galatians 3:10:

Gal 3:10
(10) All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law."

The tithe-teacher wants to tell you that you are robbing God and are under a curse, but the New Testament tells us that those who wish to continue in the law are under a curse. Galatians 3 goes on to say this:

Gal 3:13
(13) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."

Wow, think about it: Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the law, yet the tithe-teacher keeps trying to bring us back under it by telling us that we are displeasing to God if we aren't tithing. We are to believe that, although Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the law, we are cursed anew if we aren't tithing.

Christians are to be ministers of a New Covenant

2Co 3:6-8
(6) He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
(7) Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was,
(8) will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?

When a tithe-teacher stands in the pulpit and fleeces the flock by intimidating them into tithing, he is taking them out of grace and bringing them back under the law. He is no longer a minister of that which gives life, but that which kills.

Let's move the church into that glorious ministry of life, freeing people from the bondage of sin and legalism through the blood of Christ. Christian, if you have been bound by guilt or fear because of errant teaching on this passage, take courage. The New Testament model of supporting the church and various ministries is through voluntary, joyful giving out of a grateful heart to God.

Coming up . . .
The tithe advocates hate the fact that Christians are not obligated to tithing under the law. They had to find a way to skirt that pesky law issue, and they did. It turns out Abraham tithed to Melchizadek before the law was given, therefore tithing existed outside of the law and did not go away with the rest of the law (can you hear the tithe-teacher's heart palpitating?). This is the tithe advocate's coup de grace, but is it as ironclad as it seems? We'll discuss it next . . .


Matt @ The Church of No People said...

Hey Kip, thanks for 'following' my blog! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I'm enjoying reading what you have to say here. Feel free to join the conversation any time. God bless and happy blogging!

Tony C said...

What a fresh perspective from a man in the pulpit.

Great post Pastor Kip...keep 'em coming.