The Many Layers Of Problems With Teaching A Christian Tithe From Malachi

9 Questions To Ask Anybody Who Tells You Malachi 3 Says Christians Must Tithe

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9 Layers of Irrationality We Must Plow Through to Use Malachi as Support for Mandating Christian Tithing

Malachi 3:8-10 (NRSV) “Will anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, “How are we robbing you?” In your tithes and offerings! You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me—the whole nation of you! Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing”.


We’ve already discussed how modern tithe teachings based on Malachi imply justification by tithing, and lead people to practically relate to God on the basis of their tithe. This has led many people into one or both of the two manifestations of self-righteousness. The first is guilt, shame and condemnation, and the second is religious pride and self-justification.

Now we are going to examine the many major problems with using Malachi to teach a tithe for the church today. There are multiple layers of problems with the most common arguments that tithing is relevant to the church today. Even if we get through the first layer of irrationality, many other serious logical problems continue to confront us.


1st Layer – Malachi Was Written to People under the Law

Good Bible schools teach that one of the rules of hermeneutics (biblical interpretation) is asking “who was this written to?” One of the major themes of the New Testament is that we are not under the law.

Malachi was not written to us, but to people under the law who were commanded to tithe. There are many similar passages in the Old Testament prophets concerning the Sabbath, yet the vast majority of people who teach tithing from Malachi read the more numerous passages about the Sabbath, and say “That was written to people under the law. We celebrate on Sunday, not Saturday, because it is when Christ rose from the dead.” In fact, many Christians consider Seventh Day Adventists to be a “cult” for their insistence on the importance of keeping the Jewish Sabbath.


Isaiah 58:13-14 (NRSV) “If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”


Ezekiel 20:13 (NRSV) “But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness; they did not observe my statutes but rejected my ordinances, by whose observance everyone shall live; and my sabbaths they greatly profaned. Then I thought I would pour out my wrath upon them in the wilderness, to make an end of them.”


Add to this the consideration that the Sabbath predated the tithe and actually does go back to the garden of Eden! Yet it pointed to Christ.

In a previous Chapter, we quoted Colossians chapter 2 in response to the claim that the tithe is an “eternal moral principle” and not law. Consider what Colossians says soon after warning against being taken captive according to the “basic principles of this world” and not according to Christ:


Colossians 2:16-17 (NRSV) Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths.  These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.


Colossians is clear about Sabbaths. The early church celebrated on Sunday, just as most of us do today, rather than on the Jewish Sabbath.

But more than that, Colossians clearly gives the New Testament position on matters of food, drink, and festivals. This includes the tithe! The tithe under Jewish law was always food and drink, and it was also a festival.


Deuteronomy 14:23-29 (NRSV)  “In the presence of the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose as a dwelling for his name, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the firstlings of your herd and flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. But if, when the Lord your God has blessed you, the distance is so great that you are unable to transport it, because the place where the Lord your God will choose to set his name is too far away from you, then you may turn it into money. With the money secure in hand, go to the place that the Lord your God will choose; spend the money for whatever you wish—oxen, sheep, wine, strong drink, or whatever you desire. And you shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your household rejoicing together. As for the Levites resident in your towns, do not neglect them, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you.

Every third year you shall bring out the full tithe of your produce for that year, and store it within your towns; the Levites, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you, as well as the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, may come and eat their fill so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work that you undertake.”


2nd Layer – the Tithe Pointed to Jesus

A few years ago, I came across a book called “Jesus is the Tithe,” by Bertie Brits. Honestly, even though I hadn’t believed in the modern tithe tradition for some time, my first reaction was “What?” It sounded a little out there. But wait! Colossians does say that the festivals pointed to Christ, and tithing was pretty clearly a festival in Deuteronomy 14. So, I decided to check the book out.

Bertie points to the story in Exodus where God commanded the Israelites to gather an omer of Manna, which is a tithe of an ephah, each day for every man. Then they were to put an omer of Manna in the Ark of the Covenant as a perpetual reminder of how God provided for them.[1]

So the Manna was a tithe? I had never noticed that before. And it pointed to Jesus!


John 6:30-35 (NRSV) “So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”


Bertie did a little study and found that one of the meanings of the root word for “omer” is “figuratively, to chastise.” In the Septuagint, the meaning of an omer is “Golgotha”! The manna was a chastised portion, a tithe of an ephah, and it pointed to the true bread from heaven, Jesus, who was chastised for our transgressions, killed at Golgotha, and gave us his body as the bread of life!

As in Deuteronomy 14, the tithe was not about what we gave God, but about what he gave us! And just as the Israelites shared the tithe on the third year with the poor, Jesus gave his body as the bread of life on the third year to those who could never, by their own works, feed themselves! [2]


Isaiah 55:1-2 (NRSV) “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”


Aside from these points by Bertie Brits, Dr. David Croteau points out that there are three aspects to the fulfillment of the Levitical tithe. The first was the fulfilment of the priesthood, the second was the fulfilment of the inheritance, and the third, the fulfilment of the temple. Each of these three aspects was clearly fulfilled in the New Covenant.[3] I recommend his book for anybody who wants to study the matter in greater detail.


3rd Layer – Nobody Is Tithing as Malachi Commanded

Some people will continue to argue that we are under the law, or under part of it. It’s too much to spend more time in this book refuting these arguments, but one of the major themes of the Epistles is that we are not under the law. We referenced plenty of those scriptures in an earlier chapter. Yet arguing that we are under the law only brings up more serious problems for those who teach that Malachi applies to us. They have just put themselves under a curse, for none of them are tithing as the law commanded.


Galatians 3:10  “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’”


Remember that the tithe Malachi talks about is the tithe under the law, and if Malachi is speaking to you about tithing, you must observe the tithe as taught in the law of which Malachi is speaking. Let’s consider some points about how the law of Moses commanded Israelites to tithe:


  • If you were going to redeem your tithe with money instead of giving the livestock or agricultural products, you had to add a 5th to it. Effectively, cash given to redeem your tithe was 12% of the value of your increase in agricultural products and livestock, not 10%.[4]
  • Hired hands who received pay in coin, as well as tradesmen, were not required to tithe. The Babylonian tithe applied to manufactured goods, but the Mosaic tithe did not.
  • You had to travel to Jerusalem, the place God chose, to eat your tithe. If you eat it anywhere else, you are in disobedience.[5]
  • You had to share your tithe with the orphan, widow, and foreigner. If you are not doing so, you are being disobedient and missing even one of the most basic principles behind the tithe.
  • According to Jewish tradition and to many scholars’ interpretation of scripture, ancient Jews had to give two or three tithes, not one. If you hold to the two or three tithe position, one tithe doesn’t measure up. However, if you hold to the position that there was only one tithe with three uses, Malachi is only referring to the tithe of the third year, called in scripture the “year of tithing,”[6] not the tithe of the first and second year which you yourself ate in celebration to God. People also dispute whether the “third year” means the year of tithing was every three years, or was the third year out of the seven-year cycle.
  • Those who received tithes were forbidden from owning land. This disqualifies any minister who owns a house on his own property from receiving the tithe Malachi was referring to.[7]


We could go into much more detail, but nobody today tithes as the law to which Malachi refers required. In fact, since the Jewish temple has been destroyed, it has no longer even been possible to keep that law.

Many people teach from Malachi, written about the Jewish law to people under the Jewish law, to support tithing. Yet they then say “The tithe is an eternal moral principle, not law,” because they don’t want to, and cannot, fulfil the law that Malachi is referring to! This reasoning is totally inconsistent. If we don’t have to fulfil the law Malachi refers to because the tithe is not law, then how is Malachi relevant and why are we using it to teach tithing?

We’ve noted that the Jewish tithe was (or tithes were) always food from the land or livestock, and never food from the sea, money, or manufactured goods. This is not only a scriptural observation but a historical one. Unlike Babylonian tithes, the Jewish tithe came from what God increased and not from what man created by his labor. In fact, the Encyclopedia Britannica describes how after finally succeeding in collecting tithes, early church leaders worked to change the tithes from agricultural products to money. Even when early church leaders first succeeded in collecting tithes, the tithes were still food!


“If anyone does not give tithes of all fruits, of oxen, sheep, goats, after being thrice admonished, he is to be anathematized.”-Synod of Rowen (Probably 879 AD)[8]


“The process of master minding the conversion of the food tithe to money continued with Constantine’s successor, Charlemagne. Around A.D. 250 Cyprian tried to impose tithing in Carthage, North Africa, but his ideas of tithing were never adopted. In A.D. 585 the local church Council of Macon in France, also tried to enforce tithing on its members, but they were unsuccessful in their endeavors. It wasn’t until A.D. 777 that Charlemagne legally allowed the church to collect tithes.

 When you examine the historical record of tithes in Christendom, the earliest authentic example of anything like a law of the state enforcing payment appears to occur in the capitularies (ecclesiasticals) of Charlemagne at the end of the 8th or beginning of the 9th century. Tithes were by that enactment to be applied to the maintenance of the bishop, clergy, the poor, and the fabric of the church.

In the course of time the principle of payment of tithes was extended far beyond its original intention. Thus they became transferable to laymen and saleable like ordinary property, in spite of the injunctions of the third Lateran Council; and they became payable out of sources of income (not just farming and herding, but other trades and occupations and salaries paid in the form of money) not originally titheable.”[9]


4th Layer – the “Offerings” Malachi Referred to Included Animal Sacrifices and Other Mandatory Gifts

We often forget that the tithe and offerings Malachi refers to are the ones described in the Mosaic law. The word in the original language, reflected by the Young’s Literal Translation of Malachi 3:8 is “heave-offering.” If you search for the Hebrew word used here and examine the other places it is found in scripture, you will find that it denoted several different kinds of offerings, both voluntary and mandatory, including animal sacrifices as in Exodus 29:7.

We already mentioned that the tithes were always food and only money if a person would “redeem their tithe” by adding 20% to the value of the food and paying it in money. But more than that, Malachi includes other mandatory offerings such as animal sacrifices, which were partly burned in the fire on an altar.

Malachi says “You have robbed me in tithes and offerings.” If this is referring to us today, and not only the nation of Israel, we must reinstate a whole lot more from the books of the law then just tithes, including animal sacrifices! How can we conclude that we are robbing God by not bringing the tithe Malachi refers to, but that we are innocent when we fail to also bring all of the heave-offerings that Malachi refers to?


5th Layer – the Tithe Was Israel’s Income Tax

Israel was a nation, and the tithe commands of the Mosaic law were always to the nation of Israel and on produce from the land of Israel. They were never directed to gentiles or non-Israelites. As we’ve already seen, the early church chose not to require gentile Christians to follow Jewish laws.

A tenth of the tithe went to the priests, who were leaders of the nation.[10] Nine tenths of the tithe went to the Levites, and scripture tells us what the roles of the Levites were. Among other functions, Levites roles included those of doing temple construction and maintenance and acting as guards, teachers, officials, treasurers, and judges.[11] These are functions that are typically paid out of a nation’s income taxes.

Besides that was the tithe which was shared with the orphan, the foreigner, and the widow on the third year. It was a part of the Israelite’s welfare system.

We’ve often heard that if they gave 10% in the Old Testament, we should give at least as much under the New Covenant. First, it’s not really accurate that they gave 10% in the Old Testament. Jewish tradition and most scholars agree that there was more than one tithe, and there were other mandatory offerings and sacrifices on top of that. Second, many of us pay a significant portion of our income in the income taxes of the nations to which we belong, just as the ancient Israelites paid their obligations. In essence, a lot of people are already equaling or surpassing the ancient tithe in the taxes they pay, which likewise go to national leaders, judges, and other public servants.

Considering Malachi in its context makes it quite problematic to use as an argument for giving a 10th of your money to the local church, since many of the people it went to performed government functions which our tax dollars cover today.


6th Layer – the Probable Context of Malachi Was the Priests Stealing the Levite’s Portion of the Tithes

Nehemiah and Malachi were written around the same time period, and many people believe that the context of Malachi chapter 3 is found in Nehemiah chapter 13. Let’s consider what the issue was here.


Nehemiah 13:4-13  “Before this, Eliashib the priest had been put in charge of the storerooms of the house of our God. He was closely associated with Tobiah, and he had provided him with a large room formerly used to store the grain offerings and incense and temple articles, and also the tithes of grain, new wine and olive oil prescribed for the Levites, musicians and gatekeepers, as well as the contributions for the priests.

But while all this was going on, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Some time later I asked his permission and came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God. I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense.

I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and musicians responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields. So I rebuked the officials and asked them, ‘Why is the house of God neglected?’ Then I called them together and stationed them at their posts.

All Judah brought the tithes of grain, new wine and olive oil into the storerooms. I put Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and a Levite named Pedaiah in charge of the storerooms and made Hanan son of Zakkur, the son of Mattaniah, their assistant, because they were considered trustworthy. They were made responsible for distributing the supplies to their fellow Levites.”


The Levitical tithes were originally to go to the Levites’ cities[12] and then the Levites gave a tenth of the tithe to the priests,[13] bringing them to storerooms in the temple. However, a tenth of the Levites, 284, were chosen to live in Jerusalem,[14] and Levites also worked for two weeks out of a year at the temple in Jerusalem.[15] This explains why the storehouse also contained a tithe portion belonging to Levites.

What happened to the tithes that were in the room for the Levites before Eliashib the priest brought Tobiah to live in the storehouse? The text doesn’t expressly say what happened, but it hints at it. Nehemiah brought some offerings and temple articles back into the storehouse again after expelling Tobiah from the room used to store the tithes belonging to the Levites. But it doesn’t say he brought the tithes back! And he learned that the Levites had been neglected. What happened to their portion of the tithes?

What seems to have happened is that the priests stole the Levite’s portion of the tithe, removing it from the storehouse, when Eliashib brought Tobias to live in the storehouse. If Nehemiah is the context of Malachi’s rebuke, the rebuke is not even about the people failing to pay their tithes, but the priests stealing the portion of the tithe that belonged to the Levites when they removed it from the storehouse.[16] Nehemiah, who feared God, then had the people replace the Levite’s stolen portion of the tithe and took care of the Levites so they could do God’s work.

As I was considering Dr. Russ Kelly’s comments on Nehemiah possibly being the context for Malachi, and the rebuke of Malachi 3 being addressed to the priests, it seemed problematic because in some translations it seems that Malachi is addressing the whole nation for robbing God. But then I heard several people point out that the passage is easily read not as addressing the whole nation, but as a rebuke for robbing the whole nation as well as robbing God! This reading strongly supports Dr. Russ Kelly’s belief that Malachi’s context is found in Nehemiah.


Malachi 3:9 (NKJV) “You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.”


A word order which more closely reflects the original language can be read as “You have robbed me, robbed even this whole nation.” This makes perfect sense if the context of Malachi is found in Nehemiah. The end of Nehemiah 12 tells us that the people brought the portions of the Levites (tithes), so if this is the context God was not rebuking the people for failing to tithe. Eliashib and any other priests who removed the tithe robbed the whole nation by taking the tithes they had given for the Levites to serve them, so that Nehemiah had to ask the people to replenish what was taken as seen in Nehemiah 13. They also may have robbed other priests of their portions of the offerings.

The Young’s Literal translation seems to indicate that God was not even promising to bless them and rebuke the devourer if they brought the tithe, but rather exhorting them by reminding them of what he had already done for their nation! It bothered Young that many Bible translations didn’t accurately reflect the tense of the original language, so he produced one of the most literal Bible translations that we have. As you read, also consider that the original language does not have punctuation.


Malachi 3:8-12 (YLT) “Doth man deceive God? but ye are deceiving Me, And ye have said: `In what have we deceived Thee?’ The tithe and the heave-offering!

With a curse ye are cursed! And Me ye are deceiving — this nation — all of it. Bring in all the tithe unto the treasure-house, And there is food in My house; When ye have tried Me, now, with this, Said Jehovah of Hosts, Do not I open to you the windows of heaven? Yea, I have emptied on you a blessing till there is no space.

And I have pushed for you against the consumer, And He doth not destroy to you the fruit of the ground, Nor miscarry to you doth the vine in the field, Said Jehovah of Hosts.

And declared you happy have all the nations, For ye are a delightful land, said Jehovah of Hosts.”


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it taught “The local church is the storehouse, and the pastors are the priests. You obey Malachi by giving a tenth of your gross income to the local church.”

Consider what an enormous problem scripture presents for the position that the priests of that day correspond to the pastors of today. Even if Nehemiah 13 isn’t the context of Malachi 3, and Malachi is not only addressing the priests, the undeniable fact remains that the Levites received the tithe first and gave a tenth of their tithe to the priests. The priests only received 1% at the very most!

In Nehemiah 13, who did most of the tithe go to? Doorkeepers and singers. Also consider 1 Chronicles 23:29-30, which says that the Levites were not only dedicated to giving praise and thanks, but they took care of the bread. Think communion elements today. If the priests of that day correspond to the pastors of today, then most certainly the doorkeepers, singers, and those who took care of the bread, who received 9/10ths of the tithe, correspond to the deacons, ushers, and worship leaders of today. What’s more, if your deacons, ushers, Sunday school teachers, and worship leaders aren’t receiving 9/10ths of the tithe, you are robbing God and are cursed with a curse, just as the priests of Nehemiah’s day who stole the Levite’s portion of the tithe!

Don’t forget those who prophesy! 1 Chronicles 25:1 says the duty of some of the Levites was to prophesy with musical instruments. If pastors today correspond to the priests of old, then surely 9/10ths of the tithe today should go to those who fulfill similar roles as those belonging to the Levites’ then, including even helps ministries and Sunday school teachers!

This is a strong point against the notion that we are following an “eternal moral principle” by enforcing the modern tithe, because our modern tithe is contradicting even the principle of the Jewish tithe. How can we teach that the tithe applies to the church today and then just make up our own rules for it?

We are in error if we try to create a doctrine by selecting only a few verses to the exclusion of context. Malachi 3:5 comes right before where most preachers start reading, and it rebukes those who oppress the orphan, the widow, and the sojourner. These three groups were included in the Biblical instructions for the distribution of the tithe. To teach Christians to tithe according Malachi and not have them also give a significant portion of tithes directly to the orphan, the widow, and the sojourner according to the scriptures is to rob and oppress them by appropriating their portion of the tithe.


Deuteronomy 26:12-13  “When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. Then say to the Lord your God: ‘I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them.’”


7th Layer – Very Little of the Tithe Went to Priests

Much tithing doctrine is based on attempting to equate pastors of today with the priests of old, despite scripture’s clear teaching about the priesthood of all believers. Yet we’ve already pointed out that the priest only received a tenth of the tithe.

Really, that was the very most that the priest received of the tithe. There are various positions about how many tithes God intended, with people interpreting the scriptures to point to 1, 2, 3, or 4 tithes. The most common position seems to be 3 tithes, one of them only taken every three years. Jewish tradition also has three tithes with different names in Hebrew.

However, the teachers of the law had a tendency to conflate their interpretation of scriptures and add a lot more than it actually said. The Encyclopedia Judaica says there was one tithe divided to be used for different purposes.


“The rabbis… interpreted them as two different tributes: one to be given to the Levite, “the first tithe”; and the other to be brought to Jerusalem and consumed there, “the second tithe.” Theoretically, this was an excellent solution. However, from the practical point of view the implementation of these laws was almost impossible. The excise of 20% of the yield was too high…[17]


Pastor Graeme Carlé holds to this position, pointing out the small number of Levites in the Biblical censuses and showing that if they only received the tithe every third year, it would be an equitable amount, but if there was a separate tithe they received every year, they would end up with way more than other people’s share. He explains that since the Israelites came into their inheritance at different times, the third year of Deuteronomy 14 would be different for different people, thus giving a constant supply of tithes to help the orphan, foreigner, widow, and Levite.

Graeme has a good point, as the Levites also didn’t depend exclusively on tithes but worked for most of the year, and tithes were only a small portion of the priests’ income. If you hold the position that the Hebrew scriptures only point to one tithe, then you must conclude that the Levites only received a third of the tithe, and priests only received 1/3 of a tithe of the tithe, or 1/3 of one percent total. If you interpret the “third year” as year three in the seven-year cycle and also hold the single tithe position, that amounts to the priests only receiving 1/6th of a percent or less. (As they did not tithe on the Sabbath year.)

Although I find it hard to be dogmatic either way, I tend towards the position that there was a single tithe with three different uses. It would not be unreasonable to conclude that the rabbis conflated the tithe to mean much more than what God actually said, adding their own rules, as they did with other commands like the Sabbath.

Edersheim, an expert on Judaism, tells us that priests received income from 24 different sources and tithes were one of the least of them.[18] If the Old Testament priesthood is to be a model for ministerial support today, we must reinstate animal sacrifices and many other mandatory offerings besides just the tithe!


8th Layer – Most of the Tithe Wasn’t Originally Supposed to Go to the Storehouse, and Did Not Maintain the Temple

As we already mentioned, the Levites received 9/10ths of the tithe, and around the time Malachi was written 9/10ths of the Levites lived outside of Jerusalem.[19] The people were to bring the tithe to the Levites, and then it was the Levites who brought a tithe of the tithe to the priests. Most of the tithe didn’t go to the storehouse.


Nehemiah 10:37-38  “And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work. A priest descended from Aaron is to accompany the Levites when they receive the tithes, and the Levites are to bring a tenth of the tithes up to the house of our God, to the storerooms of the treasury”.


This fact creates a big problem for the teaching that the storehouse of Malachi is the local church of today, because most of the tithe didn’t go to the storehouse of Malachi! When Malachi says “bring the whole tithe into the storehouse,” it’s referring to the whole tithe that was removed from the storehouse, the Levite’s tithe on the tithe they received (1%), as well as the portion of the 284 Levites who lived in Jerusalem.

Furthermore, none of the tithe went to fund building maintenance or expenses. It was all given as food for Levites and Priests, and to allocate it otherwise would have been robbing them. We cannot say the tithe of Malachi applies to us yet then refuse to allocate it in the way scripture prescribes for it.

In the book of Nehemiah, the people agreed to a temple tax, separate from the tithe.


Nehemiah 10:32  “We assume the responsibility for carrying out the commands to give a third of a shekel each year for the service of the house of our God:  for the bread set out on the table; for the regular grain offerings and burnt offerings; for the offerings on the Sabbaths, at the New Moon feasts and at the appointed festivals; for the holy offerings; for sin offerings to make atonement for Israel; and for all the duties of the house of our God.”


Throughout the Old Testament, we always see the building and maintenance of a temple or tabernacle funded with a tax or freewill offerings, never by a tithe. And Jesus said that he and his followers were exempt from the temple tax! He paid it anyways, not of obligation, but to not offend them![20]


9th Layer-People Are God’s Temple Now and Not a Building

The book of Acts says in two separate places that God does not live in temples built by human hands.[21] But the New Testament clearly teaches that God’s people are a temple.[22]

Religious buildings are neither forbidden nor required for the church to exist. Many of the fastest growing church planting movements in the world forego them because of high overhead, increased complexity, rapid growth, or persecution. However, if we do have buildings, they are not our temples. Their purpose must be to serve people, who are the true temple of God.

Malachi says to bring the tithe so that there may be “food in my house.” This is so often interpreted as “so we can pay the electric bill.” In fact, in Spanish and Portuguese speaking cultures, it’s “so we can take care of the temple.” Yet even in the Old Testament when there was a temple, none of the tithe went to care for it! Even then, all of it went to people! God’s heart was the same then, and the temple of old was only a shadow of better things to come.

The Jewish Christians of the early church met in the temple, as well as house to house, because they continued to be Jews and follow Jewish precepts. Even Paul, who argued vehemently against enforcing Jewish law on gentile Christians, went through the Jewish ritual purification rites with an offering[23] made for him before entering the temple when he was among his own people.[24] Yet this didn’t last long. Jesus prophesied the destruction of that same temple along with the final remnants of the Old Covenant.

I’m not saying that we can’t have a building to meet in. But the purpose must be to serve people. These accessories are part of our cultural expression of Christianity, and not Christianity at its roots or foundation. It’s unacceptable to make up a doctrine (the modern tithe, based on the Babylonian tithe) and try to mold scripture to conform to that doctrine because we want to support our particular cultural expression of Christianity. If buildings actually were God’s temples, they would be a better reason to argue for the reinstatement of the temple tax than for the tithe!

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[1] Exodus 16:16-18, 32-36

[2] Brits, Bertie. Jesus Is the Tithe: the Message of God. South Africa: Bertie Brits, 2019. Kindle Location 2205-2315

[3] Croteau, David A. You Mean I Dont Have to Tithe?: a Deconstruction of Tithing and a Reconstruction of Post-Tithe Giving. Eugene, Or.: Pickwick Publications, 2010. Kindle Location 6459

[4] Leviticus 27:31

[5] Deuteronomy 14:23, 26

[6] Deuteronomy 26:12, Amos 4:4

[7] Numbers 18:20-21, Numbers 35:1-3, Joshua 21:2-3

[8] Hefele, Karl Joseph von. A History of the Councils of the Church. Edinburgh: Clark, 1972. Volume 4. Pg. 468

[9] Encyclopedia Britannica 1963, volume 2, page 253, tithes

[10] Numbers 18:26

[11] 1 Chronicles 23:4-5, 26:19-20, 26:29-32

[12] Nehemiah 10:37,

[13] Numbers 18:25-28, Nehemiah 10:38

[14] Nehemiah 11:1, 18

[15] 1 Chronicles 23 and 24

[16] Kelly, Russell Earl. Should the Church Teach Tithing?: a Theologians Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine. New York: Writers Club Press, 2007. Chapter 13 Malachi: Ministers Who Robbed God Dr. Russ Kelley argues that Malachi never stopped talking to the priests. Also online:

[17] Skolnik, Fred, and Michael Berenbaum. Encyclopaedia Judaica. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2007. Page 739

[18] Edersheim, Alfred. The Temple: Its Ministry and Services as They Were at the Time of Jesus Christ. London: Religious Tract Society, 1900. Pg. 102-103.

[19] Nehemiah 11:1, 18

[20] Matthew 17:24-27

[21] Acts 7:48, Acts 17:24

[22] 1 Peter 2:5, 1 Corinthians 6:19

[23] Possibly the animal sacrifice recorded in Numbers 6:14-16

[24] Acts 21:26