Why do I need to return my tithe? Is tithing relevant for believers? Is it compatible to the Christian message? Where do I need to bring my tithe? Can I decide what I want to do with my tithe? These are some of the frequently asked questions concerning tithing.
At the time of the prophet Malachi, the people had switched to a mode of spiritual passiveness. There was no heartfelt commitment, and this was coupled with a lack of obedience to the God of the covenant. God made the following appeal through His servant: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open foryou the windows of heaven and pour out for you such bless-ing that there will not be room enough to receive it” (Mal 3:10).
Why such a call from God?
An Act of Worship
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse …” There are two important components that need to be pointed out concerning the verb “bring,” used in most English versions of the Bible:
It can also be translated as “come.”
It is used in the imperative, thus describing a command.
However, when we go to the original language, we notice that this imperative is put in a form where it expresses a causative action. Which means that there is one action that is causing another one.
A free translation would then be: “Come to the storehouse, with your tithes.”
In this case, tithing would be the secondary action that follows the primary action, which is to come into the storehouse. The storehouse was situated within the complex of the Temple; it comprised several rooms and served as the treasury of the Temple. It is a fact that no one would go to the storehouse if the initial intention was not to go to the Temple.
Therefore, our free translation of this phrase can further be altered as follows: “Come into the Temple, with your tithes.” This tells us that this appeal is first and foremost a call to worship—an appeal for the people to return to their Creator (Neh. 9:6), their Provider (Matt. 6:26), their Healer (Ps. 6:2), their Savior (Isa. 43:11). It is to go back to the One who has remained faithful to His promises and whose blessings have continually been bestowed upon them. The message conveyed by the prophet Malachi is to tell us that everything God blesses us with should lead to worship, which will consequently be followed by a tithe of all the material and monetary blessings. This same principle is seen in Genesis 28 when Jacob made his vow:
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You” (Gen.28:20-22).
In his vow, Jacob makes a list of the blessings that God has promised to him. Then by setting a pillar that symbolizes God’s house, he vows to worship his Creator. Finally, he pledges to return his tithe to his Provider.
Based on these two biblical passages, we can conclude that the natural model that God wants us to follow when it comes to tithing is the one described by the following schema:
Tithing becomes relevant and meaningful only when there is a recognition of God’s blessings as well as a commitment of living a life of worship.
“That there may be food in My house.”
God being Himself the Provider, He certainly does not need our tithe to ensure that there is “food in His house.” But He wants us to be aware that He values our positive response to His call. He does so by giving us the opportunity to partner with Him. The Lord makes it clear that His house cannot remain without resources. This implies that a lack of resources would be an obstacle to the accomplishment of the mission. To avoid such a situation, God grants to each one of us this awesome responsibility to make sure that there are always enough resources for the mission.
Acknowledging God’s blessings bestowed upon us, being committed to living a life of worship, and faithfully returning our tithe are the different stages that we need to follow sequentially if we accept being stakeholders in God’s mission.
When God says: “My house,” He is emphasizing the fact that not only our tithe shall be brought to Him, but that we also need to trust Him when it comes to its use. If we are fully convinced that God is the only One who can bless us, we also need to be able to trust that He will guide His designated servants when it comes to the use of those resources. God is one more time reiterating the fact that this call is for His people to again center their focus on Him and His mission.
The Virtuous Circle
Tithing becomes relevant and meaningful only when there is a recognition of God’s blessings as well as a commitment to living a life of worship.
“And try Me now in this, “says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”
When God is saying “try Me now in this,” He is giving His people the opportunity to experience His faithfulness (1 Cor. 1:9) and to taste His goodness (Ps. 34:8) without Him infringing on our freedom of choice. God is calling us, but the decision is ours.
It actually goes beyond a simple call as it is also accompanied by a promise. Responding positively to this call is like stepping into a virtuous circle where God is promising us that there will be no end to the blessings that He will bestow on us.
This is a virtuous circle because it is a recognition of the blessings that motivate us to return our tithe. On the other hand, when we return or tithe faithfully, God promises us more blessings. The more we are blessed, the more we give; and the more we give, the more we are blessed.