If you’re Mormon, you’ve probably seen this scripture before:
“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. 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.” (Mal. 3:8–10)
It’s a scripture mastery. It’s in the Preach My Gospel manual that full-time missionaries use. It’s in the Gospel Principles manual. It’s the the Gospel Doctrine manual. It’s been used by many leaders in General Conference talks. It’s one of the most popular scriptures used in Sacrament Meeting talks on the topic of tithing.
Despite it’s ubiquity, I wonder if perhaps we’ve been getting it wrong all this time.
Normally, leaders in the church (and even those of us called on to speak on tithing) use this scripture to show that the Lord commands us to pay tithing.
However, nowhere in this chapter does it even say that the church is the intended audience, let alone Israel in general. There is no audience indicated anywhere in chapter 3. You can find an audience only in chapter 2:
“And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you.” (verse 1)
So, if the intended audience of Malachi 3 isn’t the Israelites generally—and just for the priests specifically—does that mean this scripture is for church members generally, like we think it is?
Maybe Malachi isn’t telling the Israelites to pay their tithing. Maybe he’s not telling members of the church that countless blessings will fall from heaven if they pay their tithing.
Maybe Malachi is telling the priests to stop hoarding the money. Maybe Malachi is telling the priests to put it in the storehouse, where it belongs. Note the footnote for meat;
“TG Food; Meat; Welfare.”
Perhaps Malachi is telling the leaders of the church at the time to make sure that offerings are put in the storehouse, so they can be used to provide for the poor. Maybe he’s telling the priests that the needs of the people are so important that withholding money from the storehouse is the equivalent of robbing God. Maybe he’s saying that we should be taking care of those who need—to quote the footnote—food, meat, and welfare.
Maybe he’s saying that we shouldn’t place members who give money over those who need money.