PASSAGE: Malachi 3:10-12 "Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. I will rebuke the locust for you, so that it will not destroy the produce of your soil; and your vine in the field shall not be barren, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will count you happy, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts" (Mal. 3:10-12 NRSV).
COMMENT: Malachi writes at a time of severe hardship. The people have returned from exile in Babylon, and they have rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem. But they are suffering from drought, poverty and a sense of despair. They wonder why God has turned away from them. Malachi writes that the fault is not God's – "I the Lord do not change" (Mal. 3:6) – but theirs. They are not keeping up their end of the covenants that have defined their relationship with God throughout their history. In this passage the Lord promises that if the people will do their part – "bring the tithes into the storehouse" – the result will be "an overflowing blessing" from the Lord.
This passage is, of course, often used by churches as a ringing endorsement of the practice of tithing – and it is that. We often react to financial fear by first eliminating the tithe – the 10 percent that belongs to God and is to be sent out into the world to accomplish divine purposes. The result is that the fear from which we refrain from tithing grows and magnifies in our lives. Giving freely, in joy and love, is always the essential first step toward a prosperity consciousness and, in course, an abundant life.
Metaphysically, I think the passage also invites us to be sure we tithe with our own energy as well. If we freely give 10 percent of our daily energy to the service of God – through prayer, meditation or supportive works for others – our lives will be blessed and joyful. If instead we fearfully focus our energy solely on solving the challenges of life, putting any spiritual commitment on a far back burner, we will in effect be creating more fear and challenge as a result.