We see in Malachi 3:8–12, God says, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.”
The question this raises is, “Does this apply to the church today, or is this to another dispensation?” I believe that this is to the nation of Israel only, therefore to another dispensation: the Law. One reason I say this is because the word tithe is only found in the New Testament seven times (Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42; 18:12; Heb. 7:5,6,8,9). In Matthew, Jesus is accusing the Pharisees of tithing for their glory but neglecting other weightier matters of the law. In Luke 11:42 it is the same scenario like the one in Matthew. And the one in Luke 18 is where the Pharisee is bragging about how good he is in what he does. How he is better than the tax collector. The section in Hebrews is speaking of how Levi tithed through Abraham. This is a description of the Levite’s tithing because they did not have an inheritance in the land of which to tithe but only gave what the people gave them and took the rest as their own (Num. 18:21-32).
We do not see in any of these sections a command for the church to tithe. What we do see is people tithing for their glory and teaching on the Levitical tithes. But nothing is found of the Christian being ordered to tithe. So, what do we do with Malachi 3? We put it in its proper place in Scripture.
The Israelites were commanded to tithe. They were to give a tenth of their seeds, fruit, and flocks to the Lord (Lev. 27:30-32; Deut. 14:22-24). also, they were to give a tenth to the Levites for their support in the temple work (Num. 18:21-24). This indicates that they were to give at least a double tithe which means twenty percent, not just ten. Yes, the word tithe means ten percent but when one gives two tithes a year they give twenty percent. Also, the tithe was part of the law as we see with the statement of Christ in Matt. 23:23. As such the Israelites were blessed when they obeyed and received these blessings from heaven that Malachi speaks of as well as the curses (c.f. Deut. 28).
Now, since the tithe was under the law and as the apostle, Paul wrote, “you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). Also, we see that Jesus came and fulfilled the law (Matt. 5:17). This means that we are not bound by this law prescribed teaching.
Now, someone may come in at this point and say that Abraham gave a tithe before the law (Gen. 14:20). Yes, he did do this but this is just descriptive of what Abraham did and not a prescription of what we are to do. As the next section shows that he gave all the rest of the spoil of the war back to the king of Sodom. This means he kept none of this but gave all of the spoils of war away. He honored royalty with the spoils as a way of respect but not as a command of what we are to do. The NIV Cultural Background Bible speaks of it being a unique tithe and the IVP Bible Background Commentary speaks of it being a form of a treaty and recognition of Melchizedek’s status (NIV Gen. 14:20, IVP 47).
This indicates that it was something that was for a specific time and situation and not one that is prescribed for believers today.
It seems that the concept of tithing was specifically for the nation of Israel and not the church. Now, this does not mean the church is not to give. We should give and give happily to the service of the Lord. Paul wrote that we should give cheerfully because what we give supplies the ministry of the saints (2 Cor. 9:6-15). When you give to the local church you are a member of or to missionary workers or any other solid biblical Christian organization, this is advancing the work of the Lord. By doing this we are reaching more people and more people are being saved. But the tithe of the Old Testament is not placed upon us in the church now.
It was of the Law for the nation of Israel and the law has been fulfilled and we are no longer under the law (Matt. 5;17; Rom. 6:14). So, to use Malachi 3 to push giving is not good or healthy. It becomes legalistic and not of grace. We need to give and should give all we can give but to push the tithe on another is not correct. Since we are under grace we are free to give as much or as little as we want or can give.
I will say that when one makes it a priority to give to their local church it is a blessing. Maybe not so much in the financial or other areas but you have a feeling inside that you know you have helped do the Lord’s work in that giving. But before we give this way we need to give ourselves as a living sacrifice to the Lord’s work (Rom. 12:1). Once we have done that and continue to daily live in that sacrifice, giving will become easier and even more joyful. It will because we love the Lord and desire to see His work done in this world. Not because we feel obligated to give a tithe.
So, the answer to the question of this post I believe is no. No, I do not believe that Malachi 3:8-12 applies to the church. I believe it was to the nation Israel to return and give as they had been commanded to do in the Law. It is because of this why I say it is not for the church.