Seventh-Day Adventists/Malachi 3:8-10

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Question
Dear Sal:


I have noticed that you have not mentioned a very important passage in your tithing debates. The passage is Malachi 3:8-10. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it”. This passage condemns all people like you who don't pay their tithe to the church which is the storehouse of God for today. “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse,” says God. I think it's obvious why you “forgot” to mention this passage in your attempt to deny that Christians must pay tithes. This text obviously specifically condemns those who don't pay their tithes to God through the church. The pastor replaces the Levite in today's church. The Israelites were robbing God by not paying tithes. So you are telling people that it's OK to rob God! The people were “cursed with a curse” for not tithing. Why do you want those who believe you to be cursed?

Thanks,
Leonard

Answer
Dear Brother Leonard:

Tithing is to the modern Church what circumcision was to the first century Church. By that I mean that both practices were promoted by well-meaning Christians; however, both practices were never meant to be binding on the New Covenant Church. Your concern that I or others might be cursed by God for not tithing is appreciated, but misplaced. In order for a Christian to be cursed for not tithing he would first have to be under the Old Covenant. As it is Christians are not under the Old Covenant Law; therefore, we cannot be cursed by that Law.

“Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for; The righteous shall live by faith; But the law is not of faith, rather the one who does them shall live by them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:11-14 ESV; cf. 5:18; Romans 6:14; 7:6).

Tithing is an Old Covenant law enacted by God to support His priesthood, the Levites. The Levites received no land inheritance as did all the other tribes. These other tribes were to support the Levites with their tithes.

“The Lord said to Aaron, You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites. I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the tent of meeting”(Numbers 18:20-21 NIV).

The other tribes were also to provide the Levites with places to live and fields for the animals tithed to them.

“The Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying, Command the people of Israel to give to the Levites some of the inheritance of their possession as cities for them to dwell in. And you shall give to the Levites pasturelands around the cities. The cities shall be theirs to dwell in, and their pasturelands shall be for their cattle and for their livestock and for all their beasts” (Numbers 35:1-3 ESV).

The Old Covenant priesthood has been abolished. Therefore, the biblical reason for tithing has ended.

"Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 7:11-15 ESV).

Malachi 3:8-10 or any other Old Covenant passage supporting tithing is just that support for Old Covenant tithing not support for New Covenant tithing. This passage has been famously misused by tithe teachers in an effort to intimidate Christians into tithing. Let's review a few facts about Levites, priests, and tithes. The Levites and priests were grouped into 24 divisions. Each division took turns serving in the Jerusalem temple (cf. 2 Chronicles 31:2). Most of the time the Levites and priests lived with their families in the designated Levitical cities (see Joshua 21:9-19; cf. Numbers 35:1-8). The Levites collected the tithes from the farmers and herdsmen in each Israelite city. “Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and olive oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work" (Nehemiah 10:37 NIV).

Then the Levites in turn gave a tithe of the tithe or 1% of the tithe to the Aaronic priests.

"Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe. Your offering shall be reckoned to you as the grain from the threshing floor or the full produce from the wine vat. So you shall also present an offering to the Lord from your tithes, which you receive from the sons of Israel; and from it you shall give the Lord’s offering to Aaron the priest. Out of all your gifts you shall present every offering due to the Lord, from all the best of them, the sacred part from them" (Numbers 18:25-29 NASB; cf. Nehemiah 10:38).

The tithe was always food and never money (see Leviticus 27:30-32; Deuteronomy 12:17; 14:22-23; 2 Chronicles 31:5-6; Nehemiah 10:37; 13:5, 12). Even the passage you quoted plainly states this fact, "...that there may be meat in mine house... (v. 10). "Meat" is food not money. Most versions have "food" in place of "meat" highlighting the obvious. Tithe teachers must change the biblical definition of a tithe without biblical support. They change the food tithe to a money tithe. Such a change is akin to changing the 7th day Sabbath to a 1st day Sabbath. Both changes can only be made with a total disregard for the biblical evidence.

SDAs are fond of saying that statues and ordinances are things from the ceremonial law of Moses. They say these are what were nailed to the cross and taken away (see Colossians 2:14). Further they say these are the abolished commandments of Ephesians 2:15. "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace" (KJV). The taken away, abolished law of Moses is the same law which contained the tithe law. “These are the statutes and the judgments which you shall carefully observe in the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess as long as you live on the earth" (Deuteronomy 12:1 NASB). One of those statues is tithing (v. 6). In the verse in Malachi just prior to the ones you quote we read, "Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them... (v. 7 KJV). What ordinance is God particularly concerned with in this passage? "Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings" (vs. 7-8 KJV). The tithe is here called an ordinance. How do you justify the other statues and ordinances being abolished, but exempt tithing? Isn't that cafeteria Christianity? You just pick and chose what you want, what you like, and leave the rest.

What about the belief that the Church is the storehouse today? There is not a single verse that calls the Church the new storehouse. There is not a single verse that says that Christians must bring their tithe to the Church. So why do some pastors teach that Christians must bring all their tithes to the "Church storehouse"? I'm afraid that for too many the reason is greed. A pastor or denomination can generate large sums of money by promoting tithing. Therefore, the Bible facts take a back seat to money.

"Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Timothy 6:9-10 NIV).

The SDA Church is not alone in their love of the Old Covenant tithing doctrine, but they do outshine other churches in their promotion of tithing. All SDA pastors as well as anyone holding a church office must pay tithes. Ellen White stated, "The special system of tithing was founded upon a principle which is as enduring as the law of God" (Testimonies vol. 3, p. 404). So we can understand why SDAs are so impassioned about tithing. Their revered prophet was strongly pro-tithing and they consider tithing to be a moral imperative. The words of our Lord ring loud and clear. “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24 NIV).

Once again let's note that SDAs like other tithe payers only give lip-service to biblical tithing. Tithing was only done on agricultural products raised on the land of Israel. Tithing was for the support of the Levitical priesthood. Money was not tithed. The Levitical priesthood has been abolished. Consequently, the very reason for the tithe has been taken away; therefore, tithing has become obsolete. These facts are so clear that tithe teachers must pervert the commandment of God in order to cling to their man-made tradition (cf. Mark 7:6-9).

What about Malachi 3:10, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse"? One may say, "Surely, this means to bring all our tithes to the church"? Usually the people did not bring the whole tithe to the temple storehouse. This makes perfect sense since the tithe was commanded by God for the support of the Levites most of whom lived not in Jerusalem, but in the designated Levitical cities. Only a small portion of the tithes were brought to the temple storehouse for the use of the Levites and priests who were serving their rotation at the temple. So under normal circumstances the "whole tithe" went to the Levites in their cities not to the temple in Jerusalem which was not a designated Levitical city. However, under an extreme circumstance Nehemiah (not God) ordered the whole tithe to be brought to the temple. This was because the temple had been completely neglected. The storehouse, actually 2 or 3 small rooms, was completely empty of tithes. This was because the evil priest Eliashib had emptied the storerooms and gave them to his friend Tobiah for his personal use (see Nehemiah 13:4-5). When Nehemiah learned of this he had Tobiah removed and restored the rooms to their original purpose.

"But while all this was going on, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Some time later I asked his permission and came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God. I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense" (Nehemiah 13:6-12 NIV).

Now was there some extreme circumstance in Malachi's time which necessitated that "the whole tithe" be brought into the temple storehouse as in Nehemiah's day? No, there is no indication that the storehouse was entirely empty. In fact earlier in Malachi we read, "You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is to be despised.’ But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly? says the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 1:7-8 NASB). So the problem was not that the storehouse needed to be refilled, but that the priests were robbing God of the choicest sacrifices. The offering of less than perfect animals as sacrifices to God was strictly forbidden by the Law (see Leviticus 1:3, 10; 22:17-21).

It is important to our study of Malachi to determine just who the "you" is who is cursed in v. 9 for robbing God. The context of chapter 3 is that the "you" refers to the "sons of Levi" who "present to the Lord offerings" (v. 3). This is obviously referring to the priesthood. The priests were robbing the storehouse of what rightly belong to their assistants.

"You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’ And you disdainfully sniff at it, says the Lord of hosts, and you bring what was taken by ROBBERY and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand? says the Lord" (Malachi 1:13 NASB).

Nehemiah who was contemporaneous with Malachi had the same problem. "I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and musicians responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields" (Nehemiah 13:10 NIV). So who is cursed for robbing God? In Malachi being cursed is always reserved for the priesthood (see 1:14; 2:2; cf. 3:2-3).

Undoubtedly your tithe teacher tells you to give 10% of your income (pre-tax?) to the church, "the storehouse of God". Is that what God's people did in the Old Testament? By now you should know that the biblical answer to that is no. As I have proven only Israelites who made their living off of the land, farmers and herdsmen, paid a tithe. I don't know about you, but I don't make my living off of the land no less the land of Israel.

Many Christians are surprised to learn that the Israelites who were required to pay a tithe paid three different tithes not one. One tithe went to the Levites which tithe teachers promote as a type of Christian giving to the "new" Levites, the church clergy.

A second tithe was to be consumed by the tithers themselves at the yearly feasts celebrated in Jerusalem.

"Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always" (Deuteronomy 14:22-23 NIV; cf. 12:6-7).

A third tithe was given directly to needy.

"At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do" (Deuteronomy 14:28-29 NASB; cf. 26:12).

Now does your pastor occasionally tell you to keep the tithe for yourself? Does he occasionally tell you to give your tithe directly to the needy? I believe that most tithe teachers do not promote either of these two tithes because they do not go through their greedy hands. The Bible does not give permission for the church to declare one tithe to be part of the still binding eternal moral law and the other two types to be ceremonial and done away with. All three types were inseparably bound together in God's law for Israel. All were part and parcel of the Old Covenant all of which is now obsolete. "By calling this covenant 'new,' he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear" (Hebrews 8:13 NIV).

My understanding of Malachi 3:8-10 is that the priests were robbing the Levites of their portion of the tithe, therefore, the Levites left the temple and returned to the Levitical cities where food was available. This robbed God of the proper worship due Him. Therefore, God commanded the priests to stop stealing and bring the whole tithe to the storehouse so that the Levites would return to the temple and restore proper worship.

Some see "this whole nation" of v. 9 and think it refers to all the people. I believe it refers to all priests, the priestly nation. If it refers to all people, how were all people robbing God of tithes and offerings? Remember that tithes were only required of Israelite farmers and herdsmen not the whole nation (cf. Leviticus 27:30-34). The priests were taking the tithes and offerings from the temple storehouse. Further recall that in Malachi the priests are portrayed as villains not poor victims. If it were the people who were robbing God of the tithes and offerings then the Levites and priests would be the victims. So I believe it makes the most sense contextually to see the "whole nation" as referring to the priests. However, I'm not dogmatic about this interpretation because the entire Old Covenant works-oriented tithing system has been replaced by the New Covenant free-will offerings based on the principles of grace.

You claim that the Christian clergy replaces the Levites and receives the tithes. Where is that in the Bible? The Christian Church does have a High Priest. "Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession" (Hebrews 3:1 NASB; cf. 8:1; 9:11). The Christian Church does have a priesthood. "You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5 ESV). According to the Bible all Christians are priests not just the clergy. Therefore, giving a tithe to a clergyman because you believe he is the New Covenant equivalent of a Levite is unbiblical.

God Bless you,
Brother sal

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Expertise

I am privileged to be able to offer an alternative insight into the complicated world of Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA) theology. I will rely heavily on the Bible, but will also consider history and use logic in exposing deficiencies in SDA teachings. I would ask anyone who is considering becoming a SDA or if you are already in the SDA church, but are searching for the truth, to please allow me to offer a different explanation for the claims of the SDA. Remember : "The truth will set you free" (John 8:32). I can answer your questions pertaining to the beliefs and history of the SDA. I am not able to answer questions concerning spirituality or church discipline.

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I have extensively studied the theology of the Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA) for a number of years. I have many books and tape sets produced by experts in this field of study. I have debated current members of the SDA church. I have a great desire to help these people see the truth.

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M.S. degree in Food, Nutrition, and Dietetics

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