BRIAN HOUSTON, Hillsong, Australia, Pentecostal
COMMENTS: Russell E. Kelly, Ph. D.
NOTE: This article is not intended to be a rebuttal of any other doctrine taught by Brian Houston and I wish him
God’s blessings to the extent he preaches the gospel according to God’s Word in other areas of doctrine.
HOUSTON: I’ve heard many arguments and teachings why one should or shouldn’t tithe. It is sad that there is so much confusion and debate about a simple task of giving ten per cent of your income to God. I believe confusion often comes from a lack of knowledge, so let’s start by looking logically at what the Bible says.
COMMENTS: This opening statement insults the reader/listener by implying that merely using a little “simple logic” will enlighten one. If such were true, then he and his fellow pastors should eagerly answer the questions about tithing asked by simple uneducated church members. Instead they often prefer to make it a taboo subject.
HOUSTON: Tithing, I believe, is an eternal principle [1x], like sowing and reaping. Some things clearly belong in the Old Testament, while others are New Covenant promises, but the eternal principles [2x] were established in the beginning of time. While you may not be bound to them by the Law, you will obviously reap the benefits by living according to them.
COMMENTS: This is the only attempt Houston makes to define “eternal principles.” However, he never connects “the beginning of time” to tithing.
HOUSTON: Let me be straight: the reason why I teach on tithing and putting the Kingdom first is because I can testify personally that it works. I have seen it work both in my life and in the lives of many others.
COMMENTS: When asked “Why do you teach tithing?” the answer is “because it personally works for me.” Yet the greatest per cent of “tithers” are found remaining in the lowest income brackets and it has never worked for them. Neither argument is “proof” that tithing is an “eternal principle.”
HOUSTON: The concept of putting God first in your finances and tithing is eternal. It is emphasized a lot in the Law of the Old Testament, but as New Testament believers, we choose to tithe and we give offerings over and above that tithe.
COMMENTS: Tithes never were the same as “first-fruit.” Compare Numb 18:18-30: Lev. 27:30-30-34: Neh. 10:35-38. “First-fruit” were the “first” small token gifts and later went directly to feed the ministering priests at the Temple. “Tithes” of food were “the tenth” of the total harvest. “Tithes” of animals were every “tenth” animal and not necessarily the “best.” Food and animal tithes were brought by the people, not to the Temple, but to the Levitical cities (Neh. 10:37). “Offerings” were not necessarily “above or beyond the tithes.” Farmers and herdsmen were expected to give tithes. Everybody was expected to give offerings. The formula in Malachi 3:8 is not “tithes plus offerings”; rather it is “tithes and offerings.”
HOUSTON: Tithing was a principle [3X] that was established in the book of Genesis. We’ll probably need to go into a bit of Bible history here, but literally a tithe means “one tenth”.
COMMENTS: This is the third time tithing is called a “principle” without offering any textual evidence. Although it is true that “tithe” literally means “one tenth,” with the lone exception of Genesis 14:20, it is also true that the Bible never uses the word alone. In God’s Word, it is always the tithe “of food” from within His land of Israel.
HOUSTON: Principle [4x] of first-fruit: first-born of his flock. Genesis 4:3-5. One brother gave the first of his increase, while the other waited to the end of his harvest and gave of his left-overs. God honored the offering that put Him first place, not the after-thought. The eternal principle [5x] of first-fruits was established here.
COMMENTS: This comment is manipulation of God’s Word – making it say something that is not plainly there. First, as previously discussed “first-fruit” is not the same thing as “tithe.” Second, the Bible does not say that Cain gave of his “left-overs” or that he “waited to the end of his harvest.” What gives Houston authority to change God’s Word? Third, we are not told exactly why God honored Abel’s offering rather than Cain’s. This offering (minchah) could have been either animal or vegetable. Verse 7, not quoted by Houston, implies that Cain’s offering had been rejected for some other reason. Compare also Hebrews 11:4.
HOUSTON: Jacob made a commitment to God that whatever God put into his life, he would give a tenth to Him (Gen. 28:20-22). This principle [6x] has nothing to do with the Law, because at that point, there was no Law. From Creation, God established the principle [7x] of first-fruits and the tithe, which were incorporated in the Old Testament law and continue to be an eternal principle [8x] in operation today.
COMMENTS: Again the text does not say what Houston claims. I hope that his listeners read along with him and ask where he got that interpretation. First, Jacob made a vow which is free-will. Second, Jacob set conditions for God on whether or not he would fulfill his vow and I doubt that Houston teaches this to his church. Third, since this was before the Law and the head of each family was a priest, then this vow of a tithe has no connection to Law-tithing. Jacob’s gift would probably have been left at an altar for the poor and not used for pastoral support.
HOUSTON: Most of the arguments against tithing today are those that claim that tithing was done away with in the New Testament – mainly because it isn’t emphasized in the same way it is in the Old Testament. However, I believe tithing was firmly established and understood in Jewish society at the time of Jesus and the early church.
COMMENTS: Jewish society taught that the tithe belonged to the Levites and priests. Jewish synagogues were led by rabbis (not Levites and priests) who, like Paul, considered it a sin to receive money for preaching God’s Word. They accepted some help, not because they were due the tithe, but because they were poor and were fulfilling Matthew 10 and Luke 10 to stay poor while evangelizing. Thirty years after Calvary and after Pentecost the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were still “zealous” of the Law and evidently were still bringing their tithes, not to the church, but to the Temple. Acts 21:24 “Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.”
HOUSTON: Here are five particular portions of scripture in the New Testament that I believe reflect the essence of tithing. [Matthew 6:33 is quoted.] The key here is FIRST. Jesus didn’t say that things will be added to you – His point was that you have to put the Kingdom first, and in doing so, reap the promise. This is the principle of first-fruits. When you put God first, He promises that all the other material things you need in your life, such as food or clothing will be added to you. [Quotes Malachi 3:10.]
COMMENTS: Most of Houston’s arguments to prove the tithe are from NT texts using the word “first.” Again Houston is confusing the difference between tithes and first-fruit. Lev 27:32-33 “And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD. He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.” The biblical tithe of the herd was the tenth, not the first. It is questionable at the least to quote Malachi 3:10 besides Matthew 6:33.
HOUSTON: The principle [9x] of first fruits and putting God first in your life is your choice. In John 3:l6, it tells how God loved us so much that He gave His best – His firstborn Son. For this reason, I choose to give of my first-fruits (tithing on my income) to Him, and in doing so, the promise of that eternal principle [10x] begins to work in my life.
COMMENTS: Biblical tithes were not the “best” – they were the “tenth of farm produce and herds.’ Biblical first-fruit was not the “best” – it was the “first.” The term “best” only applied when the Levites gave the “best” tenth of the tithe to the priests in Numbers 18:29, 30. However, Houston would rather not read those texts and Nehemiah 10:37-38 because they limit the preacher’s tithe (the priests) to only one per cent (1%) while their Levite servants who did not minister before the altar received the full tithe. Also, to Houston first-fruits” means “tithing on my income.” Jesus did not tithe because he was a carpenter. Peter did not tithe because he was a fisherman. Paul did not tithe because he was a tentmaker. Craftsmen and tradesmen were nor required to tithe and no texts exist which prove otherwise.
HOUSTON: Luke 11:42 “But woe unto you, Pharisees! [Matt: hypocrites] for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over [Matt: the weightier matters of the Law] –judgment [Matt: mercy and faith] and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”
This is the only instance where Jesus specifically spoke about tithing in the New Testament. The Pharisees were absolutely rigid about rules and laws, including paying tithes, even on the little things such as herbs. The point Jesus was making to them was how they were neglecting other important things. He was certainly not rebuking them about tithing. Look what He said: “these [paying tithes] you ought to have done”. He only said ONE thing about tithing and that was “you OUGHT to do it!”
COMMENTS: The context of Matthew 23:23 is Matt 23:2-4 The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”
“The Pharisees were absolutely rigid” about tithing laws. In fact Jesus called them “hypocrites” because they had far exceeded the original intent of tithing by including very small kitchen herbs and making tithing a burden. At the same time the Pharisees paid LESS tithes by trading among themselves. I seriously doubt that Houston’s congregation counts or weighs seeds from their gardens to pay tithes! Jesus was speaking in the context of the Law which was still in full force (Gal. 4:4; John 19:20). Since the Pharisees had allowed them to occupy Moses’ seat (vs. 2-4) then Jesus commanded them to obey the Pharisees.
HOUSTON: As the only specific reference Jesus made to tithing, He was saying that you should be doing it. It didn’t need to be discussed because it activates the blessing of the principle [11x] of first fruits in your life.
COMMENTS: Again “tithing” and “first-fruits” are not the same ting in God’s Word.
HOUSTON: He also said that you should “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).You need to make sure that you give what is due to the government in the form of your taxes, and in the same way, give to God what is rightfully His.
COMMENTS: This is dangerous territory for tithe-advocates. During the OT the kings of Israel actually received the first “tithe” and a “tenth” of the people to run his God-anointed government (1 Sam. 8:14-17). This turned the Levitical tithe into a “second” tithe. Israel’s kings such as David and Solomon actually used Levites and priests as government employees (paid from the second tithe?). According to 1 Chronicles 23-27 Levites and priests functioned as judges, treasurers, temple craftsmen, governors, guards, soldiers, bakers, etc, etc.
HOUSTON: Quotes Matthew 5:20 “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus said that He didn’t come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it (Mt. 5:17). This is why the Old Testament is still relevant today.
COMMENTS: This is more dangerous ground to support tithing because it creates many more questions than it answers. There is little agreement between denominations about the interpretation of Matthew 5:17-48. Some teach that either all of the law is still in effect or none of it is. Others teach that only the ceremonial worship ordinances and civil judgments ended. The problem here is that “tithing” falls in the category of the law called “ordinances” and both of the views must reject it as purely law.
HOUSTON: However, the challenge to believers is not to live below the level of righteousness upheld by the Pharisees – His challenge to us is to exceed, or go beyond, it. What the Pharisees did is only a starting point. Jesus took everything one step further. For instance, one of the Ten Commandments is not to kill or murder. Jesus said we shouldn’t get angry, because that would lead us to sin.
When Jesus said that the Pharisees ought to tithe, that sets a precedent for us to go further. New Testament tithing is different to the bondage and legalism of the Old Covenant.
COMMENTS: This is the basic false assumption used by many other tithe-advocates. It falsely assumes that everybody in the Old Covenant was required to tithe and, since New Covenant standards are higher than OT standards, then everybody in the New Covenant should at least begin their giving level at ten per cent. However, the basic assumption is wrong! In fact under the Old Covenant only those who earned their livelihood through farming and herding were required to tithe. Within a few generations the inheritance laws pushed most off the land and they either worked land owned by others or moved to the cities and became craftsmen and tradesmen –who were not required to tithe. Therefore, since the basic assumption is wrong, then the conclusion reached by using the wrong assumption must also be wrong.
HOUSTON: 1 Cor 16:1-2 “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”
The Apostle Paul taught about giving in proportion to our income, and that is what tithing is – a proportion of our income. The translation in the New International Version makes it clearer, saying that each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income. Tithing is all about proportion according to first fruits.
COMMENTS: Many tithe-advocates would not dare quote these texts because (they teach) that they only refer to free-will offerings which must be given after the tithe is first paid. Yet Houston quotes them to prove tithing itself and he also inconsistently teaches “tithes plus offerings.” First, the texts neither discuss tithing nor support of a local church ministry. Second, believers are instructed to store up FOOD at home for famine relief in Judea and await the signal that Paul’s ship has arrived to carry the food there. (The church is not called a ‘storehouse’ here or elsewhere.) Third, the NIV is wrong when it translated the Greek word logia [c.f. logistics] as “money.” Money does not buy food in a famine area. Fourth, “as God has prospered” does not refer to a per cent amount as Houston wants to imply is a tithe. 2 Cor 8:13-14 “For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:” While the poor might give much less than 10% the rich can give much more than 10% so that the poor might not suffer for their giving and so that the giving might result in EQUALITY. Proportional giving does not mean that everybody should begin giving at a minimum 10%. That is not what the Bible teaches Christians.
HOUSTON: For Abraham, it was a tenth, for Jacob, it was a tenth and Moses was instructed about the tithe. It’s all about taking an Old Testament principle [12x] and applying it with a New Covenant spirit.
COMMENTS: For Abraham it was a tenth of spoils of war taken from filthy cities such a Sodom. Such a pagan tithe would not be allowed into the Temple and would not be used by Levites and priests. Like other spoils of war, it went to the king’s treasure house outside of the Temple. There is absolutely no connection between Abraham’s tithe and that taught by either Moses or Jesus. Where is the “principle” in God’s Word? None of these Old Testament examples are repeated in terms of grace for the Christian.
HOUSTON: Luke [8:2 And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils.] 8:3 and Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.
These New Testament women took a portion of their income to support Jesus. It’s a great thought that people working for Herod were financing His ministry. Many people feel frustrated about working according to the world system, but in actual fact, it is an incredible opportunity to finance the work of the Kingdom. Being able to tithe and provide from the finance they earned blessed Jesus as He fulfilled His purpose on earth. You can do the same today.
COMMENTS: Houston does not quote verse 2. It might shock us to learn what kind of work Mary Magdalene performed in the “world system.” God would never include money earned from devil worship and possible prostitution to count as “tithes.” The Bible does not call their funds “tithes” and Houston should not call them such.
HOUSTON: Jesus never spoke against putting God first in your finances, and He never spoke against tithing. I believe He didn’t have to, because it is an eternal principle [12x].
COMMENTS: Jesus lived a perfect sinless life in order to fulfill all of the Mosaic Law. It that context, He would have no reason to speak against tithing because the Levitical priesthood was still operating. Although he has used the term “principle:” twelve times already, he has not yet explained what makes tithing an “eternal principle.” Merely being very old and worldwide does not make it a principle because those characteristics also apply to things such as idolatry and child sacrifices.
HOUSTON: The rigidity and condemnation of the law was nailed to the cross, so that you now live in freedom and grace.
COMMENTS: At the very least, the ceremonial worship ordinances/statutes (which included tithing) were nailed to the cross (Eph. 2:14-16; Col. 2:13-17). Tithes were commanded to support the Levitical priesthood (Heb. 7:5). Because of the new covenant high priesthood of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4), it was necessary to “change” the ordinances for supporting that old priesthood (Heb. 7:12). That “change” was its complete annulment (Heb. 7:18) especially including tithing.
HOUSTON: You are the one who chooses what you live under: blessing or cursing.
COMMENTS: A New Covenant Christian cannot choose for God to place him under an Old Covenant curse (Gal. 3:10-13). This makes no sense.
HOUSTON: It amazes me how some people look for reasons to explain tithing away …
COMMENTS: It amazes me how some people try to justify tithing by calling it either the “first” or an “eternal principle” when it was/is neither. 2 Cor 3:10 “For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.” Nothing in the Old Covenant has any glory in the New Covenant unless it is taught by the Spirit in the terms of Calvary (3:11-18).
HOUSTON: … but it should never be a legalistic situation. Don’t see tithing from a point of restriction and bondage – see it as an opportunity.
COMMENTS: What he means is “Just do it!” “Opportunity” for what? To be blessed under the promises of the Old Covenant? Houston had just said “You are the one who chooses what you live under: blessing or cursing.” Actually both the blessings and curses of tithing are part of the Mosaic Law. Both are legalistic.
HOUSTON: You should take joy in sowing in faith into God’s Kingdom, and look for ways to exceed what the Pharisees could do. Take God at his Word and, in faith, believe what He says, and begin to experience the blessing and fullness of God.
COMMENTS: Agreed. Sow what you can in faith. This is a new covenant principle found in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 in the context of free-will offerings (not tithes) to help hungry Christians.
HOUSTON: Some may say “Well, I’m not going to tithe”. The chances are they won’t fall down dead. Tithing is a choice and while you can lead a horse to water, you cannot make it drink.
COMMENTS: How can tithing be a choice when most “tithing-churches” make it a test of fellowship for elders, deacons, teachers and worship leaders. The ability to give a certain per cent of one’s income is not listed among the qualifications for elders and deacons in 1 Timothy 2 and Titus 2. The ability to earn extra income to help others is not a gift shared by all church members in 1 Corinthians 12. By what authority does the church deny leadership positions to gifted members merely because they are financially less gifted (1 Cor. 12:22-24)?
HOUSTON: Many people want the promises, but not the challenge. People can sit in church every Sunday, but live outside God’s promises. They will never know the fullness and abundance of life in Him.
COMMENTS: Prosperity preachers promise Old Covenant promises of physical prosperity to tithe-payers. God’s Word promises in Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Wealthy ministers are not envisioned in God’s Word (Matthew 10; Luke 10: 1 Cor. 9:1-19; Acts 20:29-35).
HOUSTON: CHOOSING TO TITHE. I’ve said that I see tithing as a choice, rather than a legalistic, religious ritual. Yet tithing is actually more than a choice; it is a commitment. I believe in order to make a wise, informed decision that you are going to tithe, you need to understand the eternal principle [13X] you put in operation when you do.
COMMENTS: How can it be an “eternal principle” if it was (1) only commanded to national Israel, (2) could only be food items from God’s holy land of Israel, (3) could only be brought by an Israelite, (4) could only be brought to Levities and priests and (4) could not be used to send missionaries to Gentiles?
HOUSTON: All the reasons for and results of tithing can be found in Malachi, chapter three: [Quotes Malachi 3:10-12.]
COMMENTS: Houston saved his strongest point for last and it does not come from the New Testament after Calvary as a command to the Church taught by the Holy Spirit. Texts from Malachi have “no glory” in the New Covenant unless blessed by the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:10). That covenant has been replaced by better covenant built on better principles. Heb 8:13 “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”
HOUSTON: Besides giving ten per cent of your income to the Lord because you put Him first in your life, on a practical level, tithing is all about keeping the storehouse full in order to meet the needs of others. The church needs to go beyond holding lamington drives or cake sales, in order to keep the storehouse full. It is up to believers to make provision for the vision.
COMMENTS: During the old covenant the “storehouse” was one building in the courts of the Temple (Neh. 13:5). The ordinary people brought their first tithes, not to this storehouse, but to the Levitical cities (Neh. 10:37). Since the priests and Levites normally only served 1 week out of 24 at the temple, then they brought only what they needed to the Temple storehouse for that one week. In Nehemiah (Malachi’s context) the PRIESTS had stolen the Levite’s share of the tithe and the Levites had returned to their fields (Neh. 13:4-12). If this sounds strange to you, it is because the truth about the Levitical cities and the 24 courses is never taught. “Bring ye all the tithes to the storehouse” is very likely a command for the priests to return what they had stolen from the Levites (Neh. 13:10, 11).
MORE COMMENTS: It is clear from Numbers 18:20-24, Second Chronicles 31:15-19 and Nehemiah 10:37 that the ordinary people were expected to bring their tithes to the Levitical cities. Why? That is where most of the Levites and priests lived with their families most of the time. See also Nehemiah 13:10. . Beginning with King David and King Solomon, they were divided into 24 families. These divisions were also put into place in Malachi’s time by Ezra and Nehemiah. Since normally only one family served in the Temple for only one week at a time, there was absolutely no reason to send ALL of the tithe to the Temple when 98% of those it was designed to feed were still in the Levitical cities (1 Chron. 24-26; 28:13, 21; 2 Chron. 8:14; 23:8; 31:2, 15-19; 35:4, 5, 10; Ezra 6:18; Neh. 11:19, 30; 12:24; 13:9, 10; Luke 1:5).
MORE COMMENTS: Houston takes advantage of his own failure to teach early church history when he calls the “church” the “storehouse.” Early churches did not even have buildings for over 200 years after Calvary. They met in secret and moved around to escape detection. THEY WERE NOT STOREHOUSES! The only conceivable word in the Greek NT which comes close to “storehouse” is thesaurizo in 1 Corinthians 16:2. Commentators cannot agree on the meaning of this word. Many teach that it merely means “store up by yourself at home.” Paul did not use it to mean the church in 2 Corinthians 12:14 “…for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.” Jesus did not use it for the church in Matthew 6:19, 20 and Luke 12:21. God’s Word never describes New Covenant churches as “tabernacles,” “temples” or “buildings” in which God dwells! God’s church, God’s dwelling place, is within the believers. Believers do not “go to church” — believers “assemble to worship.” Also, since OT priests did not pay tithes, then tithing cannot logically continue. Therefore it is wrong to call a building “God’s storehouse” for tithes. (1 Cor. 3:16, 17; 6:19, 20; Eph. 1:22, 23; 2:21; 4:12-16; Rev. 3:12). Compare First Corinthians 16:2 with Second Corinthians 12:14 and Acts 20:17, 32-35.
HOUSTON: Giving God His ten per cent of your first fruits puts an incredible promise into action. He even challenges you to prove Him in it. It is almost a dare. You are being challenged by God to see tithing as a faith adventure! The first promise is that He will open the windows of heaven and pour out such blessing on your life that you will not have enough room to receive it all. But we were never meant to contain it. As the storehouse fills up, it should be continually flowing out, financing the work of the Lord.
COMMENTS: Free-will giving is superior to tithing. The following New Covenant free-will principles are found in Second Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9: (1) Giving is a “grace. Second Corinthians, chapters 8, uses the word, “grace,” eight times in reference to helping poor saints. (2) Give yourself to God first (8:5). (3) Give yourself to knowing God’s will (8:5). (4) Give in response to Christ’s gift (8:9; 9:15). (5) Give out of a sincere desire (8:8, 10, 12; 9:7). (6) Do not give because of any commandment to give (8:8, 10; 9:7). (7) Give even beyond your ability (8:3, 11, 12). (8) Give to produce equality. This means that those who have more should give more in order to make up for the inability of those who cannot afford to give as much (8:12-14). (9) Give joyfully (8:2). (10) Give because you are growing spiritually (8:3, 4, 7). (11) Give because you want to continue growing spiritually (9:8, 10, 11). (12) Give because you are hearing the gospel preached (9:13).
HOUSTON: Secondly, a promise of protection comes into operation as He rebukes the devourer (the devil) for your sake. In Old Testament times, the devourer related to the curse of plagues destroying crops, which was the substance of the people. In the same way, He promises to protect you and your interests from the enemy who is seeking to steal, plunder and rob you.
COMMENTS: I encourage the reader to READ Malachi. It is four short chapters. A shock awaits you. The real culprit in Malachi, like in many churches today, is the ministers, the priests –not the people. (1) God is angry at the priests: 1:6 O priests, that despise my name.” 2:1 “O ye priests, this commandment is for you.” (2) The pronoun “you” found in 3:8-10 begins in 1:6 with the priests and does not change away from them. (3) 1:6 – the priests dishonor God and do not fear Him. (4) 1:7, 8 – the priests bring less-than-perfect sacrifices. (5) 1:10 – God wants the priests to close the doors to worship if they will not reform. (6) 1:12 – By their actions the priests have profaned God’s name. (7) 1:13, 14 IMPORTANT. They already HAD what they needed to worship correctly from the people, but they (not the people) ROBBED GOD – and they (the priests) were CURSED for their robbery. (8) 2:2 – God threatens to CURSE the ministers (not the people) three more times! (9) 2:3 – God is so angry with the Old Covenant ministers that he promised to throw DUNG into their faces and have them expelled. (10) 2:4-6 – CONTEXT: The “covenant with Levi” was made with the priests/ministers, not the people. (11) 2:7 – God is still speaking to the priests. (12) 2:8 – The priests/ministers have caused many to stumble because of their dishonesty. (12) 2:9 – Even today many Christians have this same kind of contempt for “ministers of the Gospel” because of dishonesty and waste of what God has placed into their hands. (13) 2:10-13 A temporary shift to all Judah is evident by the use of “we.” (14) God resumed his criticism of priests at the altar. (14) 2:14-16 – Even priests had married pagan wives in Ezra and Nehemiah. (15) 2:17 – Priests/ministers dare God to discipline them even though they had kept the best of the offerings for themselves and had given God the sick and blind offerings. (16) 3:1-5 -God answered the priests by promising a cleansing of the priesthood/ministry by fire. (17) 3:6 – This is not a change of addressees. Priests are also “sons of Jacob.” (18) 3:7 – The only “ordinances” mentioned thus far in Malachi are the “ordinances” of the covenant made with Levi. (19) 3:8 – The “you” is still the priests from 1:6. Those who have “robbed” God are still the priests from 1:7-14. The priests have robbed God of “tithes and offerings” from Nehemiah 13:4-11. (20) 3:9 – The “curses” are continued from God’s curses of the priests from 1:14; 2:2, 3. God did not suddenly stop cursing the priests and begin cursing the people. Again the priests had healthy animals in their flock (1:14 probably from the tithes). “This whole nation” is a Hebrew clarification and could naturally mean “every priest in this whole nation.” (21) 3:10 – “You” still refers to the priests (not the people) from 1:6. The “storehouse” refers to the one building mentioned in Nehemiah 13:5. “All the tithes” refers to all the tithes which were supposed to have been brought to that one building to feed the currently-ministering course of Levites and priests. It does NOT refer to ALL the tithes of the entire nation. Otherwise Nehemiah 10:37 and 2 Chronicles 31:15-19 are in error. The vast majority of the people whom tithes were meant to feed remained in the Levitical cities. (22) 3:10 – The blessings were specifically for obedient priests in their Levitical cities watching their herds (from tithes) (Num. 35:2, 3; 18:28-30.
HOUSTON: This is powerful stuff, once you begin to see what it means! God is always thinking about us and how he can bless us. Tithing puts so many promises into motion, but it is only the starting point. Giving takes you to a whole new level. Those who choose not to meet the challenge of tithing will never know the full blessing of giving. By living according to eternal principles [14x] and putting God first in your life, you build a solid foundation that releases the promises of God: blessing, prosperity, wealth and riches. And all those things will be added to you.
COMMENTS: Houston has changed God’s Word for the fourth time. See Genesis 4:3-5; 28:20-22; Luke 8:2, 3 above. According to him Mathew 6:33 should correctly read “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness AND BY TITHING all these things shall be added unto you.” Although I really think Houston knows better, he still confuses “first” with “tenth.” And he has used the terms “eternal principle” 14 times without defining them. For a Pentecostal he has strangely been completely silent about the power of the Holy Spirit to empower God’s people to give abundantly when they hear good evangelistic sermons about a world without Christ. There are no promises found in God’s Word when one tries to mix grace and law in order to replace the omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit.
Mr. Brian Houston, my friends and I would certainly like a reply in order to dialog with you on this important matter of God’s Word.
Russell Earl Kelly, Ph. D. www.shouldthechurchteachtithing.com; June 12, 2006