Malachi 3:9-10 is often used to teach the need for Christians to tithe to local churches today. That passage reads, “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.” Does this teaching apply to Christians today?
First, the context of this passage concerns the Israelites not bringing their offerings to the temple. Because of their disobedience, God had judged them with a small harvest. The Lord challenged them to bring the “full tithe” of grain sacrifices (Leviticus 6:14-23) and see that He would bless them with an abundance of future crops. The “storehouse,” mentioned in verse 10, is a place to store grain in the temple.
Second, this passage teaches that the Jews were to give a tithe as part of the temple worship, but it does not teach that Christians are to give to churches. Malachi was written more than 400 years before the start of the first church in Jerusalem. Applying its command of temple giving to the local church takes these verses out of their original context.
Are New Testament Christians commanded to tithe or not? To be clear, a tithe is literally a “tenth,” or 10 percent. Abraham gave a tenth of all he had to the priest of Salem in Genesis 14:20. Later, the Mosaic Law included commands to give a tenth for tabernacle worship. Tithing is mentioned 18 times in the Law, as the people were to share their produce and livestock to support the Levites, the caretakers of the tabernacle. This same system of tithing would later be applied to the temple (2 Chronicles 31:5).
Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day, saying, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Luke 11:42). These Pharisees obeyed the Law of Moses in that they tithed scrupulously, yet did not truly love God. They were challenged to do both.
The Law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:17). When the church began to grow beyond the Jewish people and reach Gentiles, leaders struggled with whether or not to command these new believers to follow the Mosaic Law. In the end, only a few instructions were given for the sake of peace, but tithing was not among them (Acts 15:19-21).
The principle in the New Testament is to give voluntarily to support the needs of others (Acts 2:45; Romans 15:25-27), support Christian workers (1 Corinthians 9:11-12; 1 Timothy 5:18), and expand Christian outreach (Philippians 4:15-16). No specific amount is ever commanded, and no percentage is suggested. While a tithe or tenth of one’s finances may be a good standard to use for Christian giving, it is clear the early church did not focus on a specific amount but rather on meeting needs. This sometimes included giving much more than a tenth, as some believers sold homes or land to meet the needs that existed in the church (Acts 4:34-37).