Letter to Malachi – The Lord’s Unfinished Business

Dear Prophet Malachi,

I don’t think Jesus likes you very much.

Pardon me, but this is no time for niceties. For over two thousand years you’ve been a fly in his ointment, a spot on the profile of the lamb of God, a lamb that is meant to be without blemish, and a problem that will not go away. I absolutely can see why you don’t make him very happy. Your words reign in his Church almost as much as his. His Ministers, those he picked up from all sorts, dusted up and made into beloved of the Father appear to love you more than him. For one they find you a more helpful resource than they consider him. They don’t even appear to be able to do the work he has empowered them to do without using you as the pump to get their juices flowing. However the use to which you are put calls to question the success of his supreme endeavour.

A man as spiritual as you should have considered the law of unintended consequence. Now the whole world of the Christian kind is supposed to be under a curse if they do not pay their tithes.

It’s all about that prophecy of yours. You said that all Israel was under a curse because they were robbing God of tithes and offering 1Mal 3:12. I know you were addressing Israel, but a man as spiritual as you should have considered the law of unintended consequence. Now the whole world of the Christian kind is supposed to be under a curse if they do not pay their tithes. Before you even conceive your posers, I will meet you head-on.

I imagine you insist you meant Israel. You would think so because you’ve been away too long. Israel is no longer Israel as you knew it. In fact, the biological children of Jacob lost the right to claim to be his sole heirs since one of them weaved an argument in the Bible that would leave Jacob apoplectic 2Rom 9:6. Israel (or spiritual Israel) is anybody who believes in Jesus. If you are a biological descendant of Jacob and you also happen to believe in Jesus, then you’re in. If you don’t believe in Jesus and you are Jewish till the sun comes down, then you come under the category of ‘natural’ Israel. So in short, the Christian Church is under the ambit of your prophecy.

I’ve even heard some say tithing was Levitical and point to the book of Hebrews which says that the Levitical order, its laws, ritual and practices are history; so why should tithing be maintained? I always told this lot that that line of argument bordered on heresy. No one should imply that the church of God in Jesus Christ couldn’t stick to a principled theological position. People got killed in the Middle Ages for much less than that! St Paul reminded us that we must not muzzle the ox that threshes the barn, as he said, God was not talking about a cow. He meant His ministers. One is no less a minister of God simply because he is not a Kohanim. People should re-order their thinking!

You may also be thinking that you were talking under the terms of the Sinaitic covenant to which only ‘the natural’ Israel was signatory. Perish that thought. Tithing for the sake of our argument is Abrahamic, not Mosaic. Okay, so it was not covenantal in Abraham’s time and therefore no obligation to honour it; and yes, Jacob gave God conditions upon which he would pay it and was not bound by any rules. I really don’t like getting into the kind of nit-picking that befuddles a serious matter. We are all called to sanctify God, whether there’s a covenant in place or not. Tithing is a matter of honouring God. End of.

I think what will probably bother you most about all this is why Christ might be taking the effect of your prophecy to heart. After all, it’s worked well for his church. Your prophecy has been the engine that has funded mega churches in his name. Whereas all he could afford in his time was a ride on a lowly colt, you’ve made his Ministers jet-setters. The church no longer needs to send people out by twos to preach your gospel. Satellite television funded with tithes and offerings do a more effective job. Christ should be blessing you and not gripping!

Wherever there was a curse, Christ took it on and freed us. His blood perfected our redemption and all who call upon his name are delivered from curses. Every curse, except as it turns out, curses you discussed in your prophecy.

I’m afraid it’s not that simple. There is a cardinal Christian belief that’s challenged here. The belief is that Christ became a curse for us and in becoming a curse, we are redeemed from curses. 3Gal 3:13 Wherever there was a curse, Christ took it on and freed us. His blood perfected our redemption and all who call upon his name are delivered from curses. Every curse, except as it turns out, curses you discussed in your prophecy. This is no mere theological gymkhana.

In effect you mean different things to different spectrum of the Church of Christ. To the clergy you are a dream, a blessing. Your words offer glorious promises for those who pay up and the threat of curses for those who don’t. Limitless opportunities abound for ministries that can use your prophecy to effect, and by God, do they! It’s not out of place to hear a Minister praise Jesus for removing curses from our lives while in the same broadcast, sometimes in the same breath, invoking curses from your prophecies upon those that Christ supposedly redeemed from curses, if they don’t pay tithe and offering. Mammon got his own back on Jesus.

At the other end of the spectrum are those upon whose faith lay the fear of curses. For these it would appear the work of redemption that Christ supposedly perfected is lacking in some important detail…you guessed it…the prophecy by Malachi. What good is a blood that washes away only some and not all curses. When Christ said on the cross, “it’s finished’, you weren’t in his equation obviously.

I’ve sometimes wondered what could possibly go wrong should the Son of God decide to dismiss the tithe-curse mongers as ambassadors of Mammon. After all he didn’t set up a tithe box in his ministry and did accuse religious elite of his time of overly promoting tithing at the expense of teaching righteousness. That would simply amount to burying his head in the sand while hoping your words would one day simply vanish out of the mouth of his ministers. The situation is more dire than that.

The curse, as you put it, is not blowing listlessly in the wind. It’s taking dominion in, of all places, the church of the Lord himself. Ministers have figured that if the tithe-curse threat is not sufficiently potent enough to cower the flock to honour God, they will give it a helping hand. In some places, a believer (that being someone Christ died for) will be denied a marriage sacrament (in Christ’s own Church) if the church cannot establish his tithing credentials. It gets worse!

Imagine you’re on the road to Damascus (not that that means anything to you, just work with me), and Christ accosts you and make you his minister. You go to Ananias for baptism and laying on of hands, regaling him with the blinding vision of your calling, but without a tithe certificate to hand! I shudder just thinking of it. It’s that bad!

You see how you’ve put a spanner in his work. You are the reason for his unfinished business. You might wonder why he doesn’t call them to order. They’ll ask how should they take the gospel to the end of the earth: on a donkey?

I can appreciate you thinking you shouldn’t answer for those who use your prophecy for personal ends. I stand shoulder to shoulder with you on that end. After all you started your prophecy by railing at priests who dishonour God and that hardly gets a mention. If there’s a problem in the church of God, the fault is not in prophecy. As with most good gone bad, the fault is in the human factor.

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