Malachi 3:10 has gained popularity in Christian circles, particularly among prosperity gospel preachers and advocates of compulsory tithing for Christians. The verse is connected to verses 8 and 9, which together read,
Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, “How are we robbing you?” In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.There are significant statements here that warrant our concern. Are Christians robbing God if they don’t tithe? Are we cursed? What does it mean when God says, “Bring your tithe to the storehouse”?
To understand Malachi 3:10 properly, we need to interpret it in its context. Every book of the Bible had an original audience before it reached us, and there is a covenantal difference between us and Old Testament Jews. Therefore, we should begin by asking, “What did this text mean to the original audience?” before applying it in our lives.
This passage was addressing the Israelites’ disobedience on tithing, part of the rules God gave the Jews under the theocracy (Leviticus 27:30, 32). Far from enriching select individuals, the tithe supported the Levites, who had no inheritance (see Numbers 18:21). It also provided for widows, foreigners, and orphans (Deuteronomy 14:28–29). When Malachi wrote his book as an oracle of God, the Jews had neglected this command, among many others. One can only imagine the societal chaos that ensued.
The command to “bring your tithes to the storehouse” was a call for Israelites to repent of their sinful neglect and replenish the temple so that the Levites and others who relied on tithing could benefit. The “storehouse” is a literal place in the temple where grains were stored. Due to their disobedience on this matter, God had judged the people as warned in the law (Deuteronomy 28:15–68). In the book of Malachi, He promises to bless them once again if they repent.
How does Malachi 3:10 apply to Christians today? We must first consider the bridge between the Old Testament Jews and us. Christians are not under the same covenant as the Jews were, thanks to Jesus (Hebrews 8). We do not live under a theocracy, and the blessings for Christians are primarily spiritual rather than material (Ephesians 1:3). Moreover, tithing is rarely mentioned in the New Testament, and it is never commanded for the church. Jesus mentioned tithes in Luke 11:42, rebuking the Pharisees for neglecting justice and God’s love while diligently observing the tithe command. After Jesus’ work on the cross, Acts and the Epistles do not impose a compulsory 10 percent tithing on Christians. Tithing is not legally binding on Christians due to the New Covenant we are under.
That being said, we are commanded to give generously (Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 9:6–7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). This principle encompasses supporting those in need, funding Christian missions, and looking out for the less privileged. Malachi 3:10 plugs into this broad principle of Christian giving in that it reminds us of obedience, God’s faithfulness, proper stewardship, and supporting the Christian church with our resources.