I remember one favorite plot of TV detective shows: the widow who was suspected of killing her own husband just to get his insurance money. It turned out the lady had either married some rich guy for his money or she never loved her husband at all and only stayed with him to get what she could out of him. And how happy the little gold-digger was when her man said he loved her so much, he’d taken out a life insurance policy to make sure she’d never lack for anything should something happen to him.
Well, the guilty TV character made darn sure something DID happen! But the wicked woman was wise (clever) as a serpent without being harmless as a dove. She cried crocodile tears at the funeral. For a week or so she wore her black dress and made a show of weeping for her dearly departed. She kept a properly somber face as the will was read out and the life insurance claim was settled on her behalf.
Once everyone was out of sight, the guilty gal stripped off her black attire and got ready to go shop for some glad rags. Until a knock was heard at the door and her crime was uncovered by a suspicious homicide investigator.
I read about religious greed taking place on an unprecedented scale in the church world. It’s getting beyond bizarre now. Pampered preachers are so desperate for cash they’re becoming downright ghoulish. A newly bereaved widow had barely buried her husband before religious vultures came knocking on her door demanding that the grief-stricken lady tithe on her insurance settlement! And, for her personal convenience, they would happily accept a check based on ten per cent of what she expected to get, and could they please have it right away?
Not a word of comfort to the bereaved, nor concern that she might have bills to pay or children to care for. Maybe the poor woman needed the breathing space provided by the money because she was so devastated by grief it would be impossible to go back to work right away. But the main issue here is bad doctrine (unscriptural tithing on money) enforced by “believers” with hearts hard as stone. No tender-hearted love, no caring and sharing on their part. Just PAY YOUR TITHE! What a terrible testimony to unbelievers when TV preachers resort to trickery and lies to trap the gullible and make poor people poorer! How many are in hell today because religious con artists painted a picture of the Savior that scared them away from Christ!
The horseleech has two daughters crying “give, give” (Prov.30:15). Money corrupts hearts which are not centered on the love of God in Christ Jesus. Those who have forsaken their First Love of Christ (Rev.2:4) end up with a void in their hearts which will invariably be filled. Mammon (love of money) is a god which dethrones God in the hearts of apostates (Luke 16:13). Many televangelists and “miracle workers” who had a good, sincere beginning with the Lord gradually became corrupted as they adopted un-Biblical, sensational doctrines centered around money and riches. A lot of greedy wolves appear on your TV screen begging for vows of faith but there are plenty of well-dressed panhandlers in pulpits of local churches.
Jesus promises these signs will follow those who believe:
Mark 16:17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; in My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
VERSE 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
Jesus did NOT say:
And dollar signs shall follow those who believe; in My name shall they teach doctrines of devils; they shall speak with a forked tongue: They shall take up money like a sneaky serpent, and if they swallow deadly doctrines it shall not hurt them financially; they shall hoodwink the sick to take their money and make them poorer.
What mission did Jesus give His twelve disciples when He sent them out to minister?
Matthew 10:7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
VERSE 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
VERSE 9 Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses,
VERSE 10 Nor scrip (money bag) for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves (walking sticks): for the workman is worthy of his meat.
Jesus did NOT say: And as ye go, preach, saying, the Kingdom of Heaven comes in handy for money-making. Rob the sick, clean out lepers’ bank accounts, raise funds, telecast doctrines of devils; greedily ye have received, sell religious gimmicks for profit. Gold-plate all your furnishings, fly in a silver jet, and be bold as brass when you preach lies. Fill those money bags, fill your wardrobe with designer duds, wear a new pair of shoes only once, then buy more; and carry a big stick when you take tithes: for the worker of iniquity is worthy of his filet mignon.
All across America and many other parts of the earth, even the poorest of Christians are being dunned by church leaders for money they DO NOT OWE! We are not under the law but under grace (Rom.6:14; Gal.5:18). We are children of the Great King and are not under tribute (Matt.17:26). We are kings and priests in Christ Jesus (I Pet.2:5,9). Even under the Old Covenant, the Aaronic priesthood did not owe any tithes or pay any. The Israelite farmer or rancher (not the wage earner) paid tithes of the fruits of the land only (Lev.27:30). This tithing was commanded under the Law of Moses, and this law was given FROM MOUNT SINAI BY MOSES TO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL ONLY, as you’ll discover at the end of the chapter, which closes Levitus, a Book of Mosaic Law. Any Levites who did not belong to the Aaronic priesthood would receive tithes from the other tribes of Israel, but they themselves would pay ten per cent of those tithes to the priesthood, or one per cent of all the yield of the land (Numbers 18:25-32). And after the lower-ranking Levites gave the priesthood the best ten per cent of their own tithes received from other Israelites, the Levites were commanded to eat the rest of the tithe in verse 31. Nowhere does God command the Levites to take money tithes and go to a ritzy restaurant for a steak dinner! No, they are to directly eat the tithe! Can you imagine chewing on a fifty dollar tithe check? Care for a little salt on your direct debit?
Even if the church is about to go bankrupt, it doesn’t change what the Bible says. The end does not justify the means. No Israelite was ever authorized to collect money tithes, not even under Moses’ Law! If it would have been a terrible sin to exact tithes on a widow’s sustenance under Law, how much worse a sin must it be in God’s sight to see this very thing happening today in the Body of Christ! Wage-earners are being pressed heavily by their church to tithe on what they need to live on and feed their families with. But people’s salaries and wages were NEVER tithed on under the Old Covenant. Wage-earners were classed with the widow, the fatherless and the foreigner as being in a vulnerable class who were not to be exploited (Malachi 3:5). Those who wrest the Scriptures for personal gain misapply a few verses yanked out of context to bully those ignorant of how to rightly divide the Word of Truth. This favorite chapter of tithe-collectors is not aimed by God at the wage-earner. Wage-earners are among the ones being wronged by those God is speaking to. In Malachi 3:5 someone is oppressing the hireling, along with the fatherless and the widow. Well, it just doesn’t stack up here, folks. If this passage is directed by God to the hireling (wage-earner), then how can the hireling be oppressing the hireling? Contrary to what religious tax collectors would have you believe, God’s message in this passage is specifically directed at the religious officialdom of Israel, the “sons of Levi” (verse 3) who, along with the other Israelites, are the “sons of Jacob” (verse 6). Is the average poor tithe-payer out in the pews a literal son of Levi? Do you think your typical Native American or Japanese believer is a descendant of Jacob? Malachi was written specifically to rebuke the Old Testament priests and Levites, plain and simple!
So, if it’s illogical that the hireling would be oppressing the hireling, and it’s very plain that this message is NOT directed at the wage earner, then why, oh, why, should God suddenly switch gears in midstream three verses later and make the poor hireling responsible for bringing a tithe into the storehouse? A tithe of what? The storehouse was a place where grain and other EDIBLE foods were kept, not a bank vault for cash and checks! If a Jew didn’t farm or raise livestock, he was exempt from having to tithe, period.
In Malachi 3:10 God is ordering somebody to bring all the tithes into His storehouse, that there may be meat (food, not money) in His House. Herdsmen and farmers were responsible to present the Levites with tithes of fruit, grain, cattle, sheep, and other produce, but whose job was it to replenish the storehouse (granary) of the Lord’s House with good things to eat? It couldn’t have been the people. Any ordinary Israelite who disguised himself as a Levite so he could draw near to God’s Holy things and do a Levite’s job for a day would have run the risk of being executed by the Lord Himself.
Nehemiah 10:38 And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes into the House of our God, to the chambers, unto the treasure house.******* According to Strong’s Concordance, the word for “treasure house” in the Hebrew is the same as the word used for “storehouse” : owtsar , which means a garner, or storage building for grain. The laity of the House of Israel (non-Levites) were NOT responsible for taking any tithes to the storehouse of the priests. That was the Levites’ job. Ordinary Israelites were responsible only to bring the Levites their portion of the tithes, and the Levites would themselves take their own tithe to the Temple storehouse to feed those priests who were on duty in the Temple during their course of service. Ordinary tithe payers were to store tithes up in their own cities (gates) to feed the fatherless, the alien, the Levite and widow (Deut.14:28-29). Other tithes were EATEN by the worshipper himself in a party of thanksgiving to God during their annual feasts (Deut. 14:22-27). So the ones God rebuked in Malachi for failure to bring all the tithes into the storehouse had to have been the Levites, who were the ones responsible for keeping good things in God’s House.
Malachi 1:6 A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master; if then I be a father, where is mine honour? And if I be a master, where is my fear? Saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O PRIESTS, that despise my name. And ye say, wherein have we despised thy name?******Modern tithe collectors have their theology all mixed up, the way they use the terms “Levite” and “priest” interchangeably and call themselves either “spiritual Levites” or “those who minister at the altar” to distinguish themselves from all other categories of Christians who supposedly do not draw near to the Throne of Grace as Christ’s priests. Professional ministers claim the honor and supposed perks that go with their position of “spiritual Levite-priest”. They teach that the pulpit minister is the New Covenant counterpart of the Old Covenant priest, and that makes them our Levite class. But some of Israel’s Levites were not in the actual priesthood. They served in lesser capacities. God’s original intention had been that the entire nation of Israel be unto Him a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6). But after the Israelites’ rebellion against God in the wilderness, only the sons of Aaron were permitted to draw near unto God as priests (Exodus 28:1; Numbers 18:1-7). In the Book of Malachi, God rebukes the priests for despising His Name and failing to honor Him properly.
VERSE 7 Ye (the priests) offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, the table of the Lord is contemptible. *****These priests were not careful to offer only hallowed bread upon the Altar of the Lord. If modern pulpit ministers want to identify with these shady characters, let them claim the rebukes as well as the imaginary rewards that go with the office. Polluted spiritual bread is being offered today on the altar of the Lord, in the way the leaven of religious heresy and outright deceit is being mixed with the pure Word of God to create a corrupt loaf in the name of Jesus.
Malachi 2:1 And now, O YE PRIESTS, this commandment is for YOU. ******This message is being directed specifically to the priests, not the migrant farm worker who picks pomegranates to earn a few pennies to support his family!
VERSE 2 If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings; yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.*****Better pay your tithe, or preachers will dig out the dreaded Curse of Malachi to threaten you with! But who does God aim this curse at? Not the poor nurse’s aide or the hungry pensioner, but the priest! Why haven’t I ever heard money-hungry preachers preach about who the REAL Curse of Malachi was directed against?
The Book of Malachi should remind everyone not to treat the things of God with irreverence, but it was not addressed to the Body of Christ! It was written to Levites and Priests to correct some major league ministerial sins which would result in judgment upon their land. In ancient Israel, only the Tribe of Levi was allowed to draw near unto the Lord to do Him service. But we live under a new and better covenant (Heb.8:6-13). Under the Old Covenant God distinguished the Levites from the rest of the Nation of Israel, but Christ does not recognize a two-tier system in His church of clergy and laity. The clergy-laity distinction was invented by corrupt men to wield power over the weak, and exploit them for gain. We are all a kingdom of priests and a holy nation in Christ, and we are not under the curse of the Law (Gal.3:13). Christ’s Body is to be one, and those who would divide it for sordid gain are running the risk of God’s wrath.
How pathetic, that some who ought to be harmless as doves instead act like vultures, circling overhead in the sky waiting lustfully for somebody to die so they can squeeze money out of the bereaved! They are worse than the unmerciful servant who seized his fellow servant by the throat and growled: Pay what you owe! (Matt.18:28). And like the unmerciful servant, rich oppressors of Christendom will torment those who refuse to pay. Fear of the Curse of Malachi (preachers’ favorite part of the book) or even of the Unpardonable Sin is sometimes inflicted upon poor people by religious predators.
God promises heaven for those who abide in Christ. But parasites seek their paradise in the here and now. Instead of forsaking lying vanities, they tell lies for filthy lucre’s sake so they can purchase vain pleasures to feed their endless lusts.
God is not mocked. There are those who perform religious activities but really are workers of iniquity (Matt.7:23). Judgment is coming upon those who oppress others with lies (Rev.21:8).