How can man rob Almighty God?

Malachi 3: 8 - 12

8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 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. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.

I don’t understand how an Almighty God can be robbed. What are these tithes and offering God talking about? What is the difference between tithe and offering? In what sense God is robbed here?

Can someone please enlighten me, I would be very thankful!

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@MrB In the Old Covenant which God had with Israel the Israelites were required to give a tithe to the Lord - a tenth of everything belonged to God. This tithe was used both to make offerings to God and to provide for the priests, who had no other way of supporting themselves. As New Testament believers, we are not required to keep this tithe because we are under the New Covenant - we now give freely out of the love God has placed in our hearts and to the extent which the Spirit moves us to give.

Leviticus 27:30 - A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.

Malachi is calling the Israelites to account because instead of giving God the best of their flock and of their harvest, they are giving God lame animals or nothing at all. They are robbing God of what is His due according to the covenant and dishonoring Him through their meager / lame sacrifices.

The “robbery,” in this case, is Israel withholding the tithes required by the Law of Moses (Leviticus 27:30). Malachi’s prophecy is structured in several waves, rolling back and forth through the same topics. This verse is part of Malachi’s fifth “oracle.” Its mirror-image is the second oracle, found in Malachi 1:6–7. There, Israel’s priests are criticized for bringing offerings which are improper and impure. Here, Israel is criticized for bringing offerings which are too small. The people are holding back from God what He has told them to give.

The reference to robbery is key to understand God’s perspective on this sin. Israel is not being accused of being stingy, or unloving. They are charged with robbing God. That implies taking something which belongs to someone else. God clearly sees this tithe as something which belongs to Him, not to Israel. To withhold it is to steal what Israel has no right to possess.

It is key to remember that this verse, and the accusation, are in the context of the Old Testament law. This is part of the covenant between the nation of Israel and God. Tithing is not a universal, eternal law applied to all people at all times. The requirement, the blessings, and the curses of this rule are exclusively between Israel and God.

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Thank you @SeanO for giving me the background context of this passage, it helps!
So in this case, is “robbing God” still relevant to current time? If yes, what example you could think of?

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@MrB As New Testament believers, we are to honor God mind, body and soul - we belong to God. It is not just a monetary tithe - we serve God by renewing our mind and living a holy life and serving one another in love. I would say that to do any less than that is to rob God within a New Covenant context.

Romans 12:1-2 - Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I Cor 6:18-20 - Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Philippians 2:3-5 - Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus

Ephesians 4:32 - Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

All throughout Scripture, we are called to give God all that we are, but as followers of Christ that commandment is now rooted in the cross and in the love of Jesus.

Deut 6:4-9 - Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

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So I have kind of a follow-up question to this. My view, like yours, is that tithing was part of the old covenant with Israel. However, my pastor brings up the fact that Abraham tithed to Melchizedek way before the law or the Levitical priesthood was put into place. My mentor tells me that Abraham only did that once, that he did not continue to do it. But…to me, that is not enough of a satisfactory answer to give someone should they ask me about this subject. So I am wondering, what would you say to that?

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@psalm151ls If you read Hebrews 7 the author uses Melchizedek to point out that uniqueness of the priesthood of Christ and actually implies that the Levites paid a tithe through Abraham to Melchizedek because they were still within Abraham at that point (his seed). So, in a sense, the author of Hebrews is suggesting that Melchizedek foreshadowed a higher priesthood than the Levitical one.

A few points to keep in mind:

  • we are never told to follow Abraham’s example in tithing to Melchizedek - not even in the OT - it has never been the basis for the tithe
  • Abraham did not give of his own possessions, but rather of the spoils of war
  • Abraham gave 10% to Melchizedek and 90% to the King of Sodom / other folks - Abraham actually kept nothing of the spoils of war here…

Genesis 14:18-24 - Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”

22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, 23 that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ 24 I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”

Hebrews 7:1-3 - This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, 2 and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” 3 Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.

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Yes, thank you, Sean. When my pastor and I were discussing this I did point out the context of the passage in Hebrew and that he was a foreshadowing of the higher priesthood of Jesus. But he insisted that he still paid tithe and I didn’t know what to say in response. It is helpful, I think, that you pointed out that he gave the rest away and also that it was from spoils of war. Don’t know why I didn’t think of that or why my mentor didn’t bring that up…thanks, Sean!

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@psalm151ls Sure thing! You know, for some people the idea of tithe is part of their cultural heritage, so even if they do not have a 100% rational reason for it they will never let it go. Their conscience is actually trained to think that the tithe is part of obeying God. Not saying that is the case with your mentor, but with some folks certain ideas are so deeply ingrained its hard to make them think through passages of Scripture in an unbiased fashion… And of course we do not want them to violate their own conscience either (I Cor 8 / Rom 14). May Christ grant you wisdom as you discuss with your mentor.

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Thank you, Sean, and yes, I never really tamper (funny way to put it, huh?) with people’s thinking who already have their minds made up unless they let me know they are open to discussion about it. Only if they thought their salvation depended on it would I speak up, but I have never found that to be the case, thankfully :). Usually unless I’m teaching a Bible class and it comes up, I don’t bring it up. My mentor believes like you and I do, but my pastor, on the other hand, is the one that holds on to the %10 tithing as being binding. He’ll discuss it to an extent…but I think I found what I was looking for here :). I want to be well prepared if someone questions me on it if I’m teaching sometime! It has and continues to come up at different times in the Bible study. Thanks again, Sean!

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