Posted by: mattcolvin | November 14, 2011

Malachi 1: Do you value your relationship with God?


Wednesday of the 21st week after Trinity: Malachi 1.

Malachi 1 is YHWH’s Covenant lawsuit against Israel, in which He charges His people with failing to reciprocate His special love for them, and with despising his feasts and offerings, “the table of YHWH.” He has loved Jacob, and hated Esau. Yet Jacob (Israel) has not returned His love. YHWH threatens, “I will not accept an offering from your hands. For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles.” As a Christian, it is impossible to read this chapter and not see the fulfillment in Jesus’ table, which is opened to Gentiles on equal terms, and in the ministry of the apostle Paul, “to provoke Israel to jealousy.”

The chapter also contains a salutary reminder not to give God our leftovers, the scraps and remainders of what is left after our selfishness: “You bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick.” Israel was using the worship of YHWH as a convenient way to cull the worthless livestock from its herds.

What comes first? Our convenience and pleasures? Or God? How do we give to Him? Grudgingly, or with pleasure? Is it a “weariness” to us when the offering basket comes down our pew?

I am not an advocate of tithing as an obligation for Christians, because the priesthood is universal, so that the recipients of the tithe already have all the money. (Pastors are not Levitical priests, so the tithe does not apply.) But if we do not cheerfully and generously give to the church, and support our pastors even if it means giving more than 10%, then we are demonstrating that we despise the Table of the Lord.


Responses

  1. Interesting thought about tithing; that never occurred to me before. The first thought that comes to my mind is that the tithe was meant to support not just the priests but all Levites. So there seems to be more of an emphasis there of tithing’s being a ministerial thing and not a priestly thing. What is your reaction to that?

    • Can you unpack it a bit more for me? I agree that there is a positive obligation for Christians to support their ministers, who have a right to “live from the gospel” just like Paul and Peter had. (But note that Paul voluntarily chose to waive that right in order to win the Corinthians.) This obligation remains even if it means everyone has to give 20% to keep their pastor. But why would it be a tithe? And if there was such a tithe, why do we not hear of it in the NT? Why does Paul use apparently roundabout “general equity” arguments about muzzling oxen if he could have gone straight to a verse about tithing?

      Thanks for the comment. It’s always good to hear from another brother who appreciates Jim Jordan.

      • Thanks, Matt. I’m still trying to decide what I think about tithing as a present obligation. Intuitively I want to say that it is, but I’m not sure I have enough to go on.

        The priestly angle is interesting, but the presence of the Levites in the equation complicates it. The same goes if we think about tithing with respect to God’s house, with God’s house now being his people: not all of the tithe was brought into God’s house. The complication goes both ways, though. If the notion of tithe does apply to us as enduring sons of Abraham to our Melchizedekal priest-king, then the priest and house aspects show that part of our tithe ought to be expressed in generosity towards one another.

        I like what Mark Horne does with discontinuity, with the passing away of the law, so that inclines me to not read as much into Jesus’s “these you ought to have done.” But if the law passes through death and resurrection, then even if we do not hear of it again, that still leaves us with enduring principles for sonship that we need to apply in wisdom. Considering that, and considering the tithe as a tribute to God himself, I’m inclined to say that there is still a floor of 10%.


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