In Revelation chapter 18, the people whom God hates and will destroy, ‘Babylon the great’ is identified by characteristics; those characteristics are ones of trading and gaining great wealth from those with whom they trade (verse15) but note from verse 13 that they have traded in “bodies and souls of men”. This is a very sobering thought.
Malachi 3:8-10 is often quoted to support tithing in our time:
“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. 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 for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.”
These verses are taken out of context and made to mean something they don’t. The book of Malachi was addressed to the nation of Israel, and in particular to the priesthood, who had drifted away from worshipping God to including idol worship. Malachi 1: 7,8,10 shows the subject of the book:
“You offer defiled food on My altar. But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the LORD is contemptible.’ And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the LORD of hosts…. “Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,” Says the LORD of hosts, “Nor will I accept an offering from your hands.?”
When God said that they were robbing Him, He is referring to the priests offering reject animals; in other words they were keeping the good animals for themselves. God had said that they were to offer the best animals of their flocks, those without the slightest flaw, because they were symbolical of Jesus offering himself as the Lamb, completely sinless and without flaw. These verses from Malachi are not speaking of paying tithes at all; once Jesus had died as the perfect sacrifice, there was no more need for sacrifices. So that is another reason why Malachi does not apply to us.
The Pharisees were still under the first law and as such, they still had to pay tithes to support the priesthood of that time. Jesus constantly criticized them because they increased the heaviness of the law, in the verse in question they enforced the giving of herbs but forgot about compassion, fairness, etc. This is also what Jesus was referring to when he continued:
“Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.” (Matthew 23:24,25)
Jesus endeavored to explain the point. Remember the occasion when Jesus and the disciples walked through a corn field and were hungry and picked some corn to eat (Matthew 12:1-4). The trouble was that it was the sabbath. The narrative states, ” At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: “how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?”
By giving the example of David which he did, Jesus was showing them that keeping the letter of the law was not the priority. If we look at the episode involving David we can see that the reason he could eat the showbread was that it was just going to be replaced by new bread.
We need to bear this in mind with Jesus and the cornfield. He was using David as a type of parable, because the old law was about to be done away with and replaced with the new. Jesus knew he was going to die as the sinless passover lamb, and that this would complete the old law and bring in the new.
“then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.. ” (Hebrews 10:9,10)
The whole system of the old law—sacrifices, offerings, tithes, sabbath-keeping, and the priesthood which required tithes for its upkeep, etc were fulfilled in Jesus and came to an end with his death and resurrection. We can really only understand this if we understand why the people had to offer sacrifices and how and why Jesus’ death replaced them completely so that they never had to be done again The letters from Paul in the New Testament show that the Jews took some time to let go of their first-law practices and accept that they were no longer valid.
We are now under the law of Jesus Christ, which is one firstly and most importantly, of obedience to Christ’s commands; voluntary offerings, ‘circumcision of the heart’ as Paul described it: love, compassion, fairness, honesty…. These are what God wants from us, but most of all, true belief and obedience.
(All quotes are from the NKJV)