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    Q: #423. Does tithing to the storehouse (Mal 3:10) apply to the church today?

By: Steve Shirley

    A: There is a good deal of disagreement on this subject. While I believe that tithing is a good practice today (I speak of this here), there is no command for the Church (all Christians make up the "Church") to tithe in the New Testament. However, God did command His chosen people (the Israelites) to tithe in the Old Testament (i.e. Lev 27:30-33, Num 18:21-28, Deut 12:6,11,17). (Mal 3:8-10) is also one of these sections on tithing, and it is within these verses that we find "the storehouse."

     Let's begin by posting the Malachi verses.

(Mal 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. (9) Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. (10) 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.

     These verses are sometimes used by churches to say that tithing should be done today. The "storehouse," is equated with the Temple, and the Temple is equated with the church. In other words, Christians today must "tithe" to their local church, just as the Israelites were commanded to "tithe" to the storehouse. Is this a valid comparison? For the following reasons, I do not believe that it is.

     First, it is important to understand what the "storehouse" was. The Greek word used for "storehouse" is "owtsar." It is used 79 times that I can find in the Bible, primarily for the words "treasure(s) (61 times) and treasury (10 times) (storehouse(s) is used 3 times). Strong's defines it as "a depository." In relationship to the Temple, the "storehouse" was not specifically the Temple, but rather, the storehouse was rooms which surrounded the Temple, built specifically for the purpose of storage. Tithes were stored in some of these rooms (and other "treasures" - 1 Chr 26:20-28, Josh 6:19,24).

     Secondly, while different types of tithes may have been stored in these rooms, the verses in Malachi appear to be speaking primarily of tithes of food. Notice again verse 3:10, "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be MEAT in mine house." (caps emphasis mine). In addition, note that in verses 11-12, God speaks of blessing their crops if they obey. In fact, food may well have been the primary thing stored in the "storehouse" (Neh 10:35-39)(Neh 12:44)(Neh 13:5,9-12).

     Thirdly, these tithes (of food) were to be given to the Levites by the Israelites. (The Levites were the tribe that God chose to minister in the Temple [Num 18:6][Num 3:5-13].) Therefore, based upon these verses in Malachi, it seems clear that the Israelites were not properly tithing, and thereby not providing the Levites enough food to eat. (Neh 13:10) mentions that as a result, the Levites were having to neglect their duties in the Temple to work in the fields to have enough to eat.

     Fourthly, the VAST majority of the tithes that the Levites received were not placed in the "storehouse" of the Temple, but rather, they were used to support the Levites and their families who lived in cities throughout all of the land of Israel (48 cities: Num 35:1-8). Only a small portion of the Levites (males from 30-50: Num 4:34-50) worked at the Temple at any given time (see ***Note below). The tithes that were placed in the "storehouse" were used to feed those who were working in the Temple. ALSO, it appears that the food in the "storehouse" was only about 1% of the total that was given to the Levites! The Israelites tithed 10% to the Levites, and in turn the Levites tithed 10% of that tithe to the "storehouse" (Neh 10:35-38). (They also tithed 10% to God: Num 18:21-32.) (The "storehouse" of the Temple could never have held ALL of the Israelite tithes anyway [when Israel was properly tithing].)

***Note: The Levites were broken into 24 different "courses" (groups) (1 Chr 24:1-19). Most believe that these "courses" each served for one week periods (Sabbath to Sabbath: see 2 Chr 23:8, 2 Kin 11:5, 1 Chr 9:25), twice a year (plus they all served together for 3 weeks for the festivals). (The Jewish year being about 51 weeks.)

     Looking at these as a whole, does this "storehouse tithing" seem to correlate to giving a tithe to the "local church" today? It doesn't to me. The tithe that is spoken of in Malachi appears to be primarily food (not money). The "storehouse" was used to "store" a portion of that food to feed the Levites/priests who worked there (the local church does not have rooms to "store" food [or "treasures]). Finally, the Levites themselves (not the Israelites) were responsible for what went into the "storehouse."

     The Bible tells us that we should support those who teach God's Word (like our pastors) (1 Tim 5:17-18)(Phil 4:14-17)(1 Cor 9:11-14). And, again, I believe that Christians should give 10% (at least) of their income, and that God will bless that sacrificial giving. However, teaching that these verses command that this giving must be a tithe, directed to a person's local church seems incorrect.

     Most scholars agree that the "law" of tithing was commanded for the Israelites, but no longer applies to the "church" today (the words "tithe" and "tithing" are used only 8 times in the New Testament). When the Council of Jerusalem met in (Acts 15) to determine what "laws" Gentile converts needed keep, tithing was not among them. Instead, we are also told to be cheerful givers (2 Cor 9:6-8), and to give liberally (Lk 6:38). Where your giving goes is between you and the Lord. However, I suggest that it does go to Christian ministries.

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