By Reno Omokri
The recent todo on the issue of tithing which was sparked up by popular On Air Personality, Daddy Freeze, is actually a sad reflection of the state of Christianity in the world in general. Why? Because it proves that it is still true that if you want to hide anything from many people, all you need to do is to put it in a book! If all those who have opined about this matter had cared to read about what The Holy Bible says about tithing, I am convinced that it would not have led to as big a controversy as it is today. So many people have spoken for and against tithing and the thing that bothers me most about their interventions is that it references their pastor, a certain sermon, their opinion or something they have heard. As a matter of fact, somebody commented that if only I read a certain book by David Yongi Cho, I would know that he (the commenter) was right in his opinion on tithing.
On the issue of tithing as well as on any other ecclesiastical issue, there is only one reference point and that is The Bible.
2nd Timothy 3:16 says: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for DOCTRINE, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (KJV). This pretty much covers it. Any controversy about tithing must be settled by The Bible.
The truth is that tithing as presently practiced by many churches, especially the so called Pentecostal or Evangelical churches, is unscriptural. Take away tithing and the attraction and motivation to be the founder and president of an ‘international ministry’ would disappear. The Bible actually warned us of such times as this in 1 Timothy 6:5-6.
Constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. (NIV).
Tithing is an age old AGRICULTURAL practice that predated even Abraham and Moses. Ancient communities, including African communities, set aside a certain potion of their harvest (usually a tenth) and sacrificed it to their gods through his priests. Now the tithing that Moses taught about was instituted by the living God because the Levitical priests were not given a portion of the land of Canaan as an inheritance and as a result they were to be supported by their fellow brethren..
Numbers 18:20-21 says: The Lord said to Aaron, “You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites.“ I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the tent of meeting. (NIV).
From the above it is clear that the tithes were specifically gifted by God to the Levites. You will never find anywhere in Scripture were God, His Son Jesus or the early apostles and disciples asked the New Testament church to pay tithes to pastors. Pastors do not replace Levites. In the New Testament, pastors worked and earned a living. They were not dependent on the church and the following verse proves it. “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”– Acts 20:33-35. (NIV). This was a farewell message from Paul who had pastored a church in Ephesus. I have been to Ephesus. I have been to the market where Paul had his tent making business. Neither Jesus, nor Paul nor any of the fathers of the early church collected any tithes from their congregation because they were not Levites who were prevented from doing any type of work other than temple service.
Rather than tithing, the book of Acts teaches us in Acts 2:44-45 that the early Christians lived a communal life and shared EVERYTHING they had. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Too often, pastors try to manipulate their congregation by quoting Malachi 3:8-10
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole NATION—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. (NIV).
I want readers to note the words ‘NATION’ in the Scripture above. Scripture must be used to unlock Scripture. This Scripture was directed to the NATION of Israel and is clear in Malachi 3:6: “I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed” (NIV). The reason God said the Israelites were robbing Him is because, as I have proved above with Scripture, on their way to the promised land, God made a deal with them that He would not give the Levites a share of the land of Canaan so that they could focus on Him and the work of the Temple. In return the rest of the Israelites were to give God the tithes of their agricultural produce from the land He gave them and God in turn gave His tithes to the Levitical priesthood.
It is funny that pastors who insist that Malachi’s verses on tithing must apply to them do not insist that other Old Testament provisions should also apply to them. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 commanded the ancient Israelites to stone their stubborn children to death. Are tithe receiving pastors then prepared to stone their own stubborn children to death because of that Biblical verse? Quoting an Old Testament verse to justify a New Testament life may appear hypocritical especially as Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith and His early disciples did not preach about tithing. Jesus talked about tithing only in passing while condemning the Pharisees. Pay your tithe if your conscience allows it, but don’t use Malachi to justify it.
In the final analysis, I am not saying pay or don’t pay tithes. I am just presenting the facts as an ordained pastor.
In fact, when the Pharisees insisted that the first Gentile converts to Christianity must be circumcised and keep the Mosaic Law, including tithing, the Council in Jerusalem overruled them and in Acts 15:19-20 gave only four commandments to the new Gentile believers and tithing was NOT one of those commandments.
Jesus mentioned tithe once (in passing when admonishing the Pharisees) but He preached salvation over 100 times.
Let our message in the church focus on Salvation not tithe! Abraham tithed. But He did not tithe to be blessed or that the devourer would be rebuked. In fact, the tithing that Abraham tithes was completely different from the tithing God commanded the Israelites to do.
Abraham tithed from the goods he reclaimed from the kings he fought against. He did not tithe agricultural goods.
Are those pastors who insist on collecting monetary tithes aware that money existed during the times of the ancient Israelites, yet God never told them to pay monetary tithes. He only requested for AGRICULTURAL tithes so the Levites who had no farms could eat. As a matter of fact, God told those Israelites who lived far away from the Temple not to even bother paying their agricultural tithes but to convert it to money and spend it on themselves.
We see this in Deuteronomy 14:24-27: But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the Lord your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the Lord will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the Lord your God will choose.
Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice. And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own.
Yes, Abraham tithed from his military victory but it does not mean that you must also tithe. Abraham had concubines. By the same logic, you should also have concubines. The point I am trying to make is that the faith of Abraham culminates in Christ and under Christ, there is no compulsion to tithe. God has given each of us a conscience and His Spirit. If you are led to tithe then tithe. If you are not, then don’t. But let him that tithes not look down on him that does not tithe and let him who does not tithe not hold those who do in contempt. Your salvation is dependent on your faith in Christ Jesus and not whether or not you tithe. You can make heaven if you believe but don’t tithe but not if you tithe and don’t believe.
As a New Testament believer, what is required of you is a willing offering not a compulsory tithe. This is why 2 Corinthians 9:7 says: Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. We ought to understand that the biblical practice of tithing had two origins. The first was from Abraham, the prophet and patriarch and the other is the Mosaic Law.
In Christ, both the tithing by the prophet and the law have been fulfilled hence in Matthew 5:17 Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. ”So because of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, we do not need the Levitical priesthood as go betweens us and God since Jesus is “The Way, The Truth, and The Life.” (John 14:6).
In the same way, we do not need Abraham’s blessings since God has blessed us “with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3). Colossians 2:10 teaches us that ‘we are complete in Christ’.
So don’t let any pastor psyche you into believing that your worship of God is not complete until you have paid your tithe.
Reno Omokri is a Pastor, writer, speaker and blogger.