Rethinking All We Have Been Taught About Tithe
Rethinking All We Have Been Taught About Tithe: I must honestly admit that there was a time in my life (I was not a priest then) when I would boldly stand to preach with the microphone and I will speak these following words authoritatively:
“If you are not paying your tithe, you are not only robbing God but incurring upon yourselves heavy curses. So many difficulties that you are having right now in your life can be traced to your refusal to paying tithe. Read your Bible, it is there in Malachi.”
I thought I was saving souls from damnation. I thought I was opening their eyes to seeing that why they suffer sickness, delayed marriages, demonic attack etc is because they withheld their tithes. So for a long time, I held it as not just an obligation but a mandate to constantly talk about tithing especially in those strong terms.
I was wrong.
Few years ago after I got to understand the right teaching on tithe, my younger sister got a job immediately after her secondary school as she awaits university admission. She just wanted to keep busy or else there would have been no need for the job. Her salary was N10,000. In a month she spent more than N20,000 for transport and feeding. My Dad was paying for that. Then, once she collects her salary, the first thing she does is to pay her tithe.
Paying her tithe was not the problem. The problem was why the tithe was paid.
She paid tithe because she was scared that God will curse her and the curse will affect her future, especially in marriage, having children, being perpetually poor etc. Her success and failure in life depended on the payment of tithe.
She paid tithe because the idea of robbing the “Almighty” scares her to death. She will always be restless until the tithe is paid, it does not matter if there is a dying person close to her that needs little financial help or if she will starve that month at work.
It struck me deeply because we were very close. I could not even talk her out of it, she would have seen me as being used by the devil.
This for me was prison. This was brainwashing. This was not why the people of Antioch called Christ’s followers Christians. In short, this is not Christianity.
If your reason(s) for paying tithe is close to my younger sister’s, I say this very respectfully, you have been brainwashed, and indeed negatively. And I must say this, the biggest progress you will make is to get liberated from seeing God that way.
Let us not blame preachers of tithe totally. The graphic image of Malachi 3:8-9 can be scary. Some ministers feel they will be failing in their responsibility if they don’t stress tithing. Take your time and read it word by word. It says:
8.”Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me!
But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’
In tithes and offerings.
9. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.”
Scary, isn’t it???
The point we often miss in this passage and many other passages of the Bible when interpreting is that we are often quick to apply them to our life without first asking the basic question of exegesis. We are often quick to apply curse meant for another as though it’s ours, and blessing meant for others as if it’s ours.
That basic question of exegesis is: who are the first audience? To put it in another way, whom was it originally written to and what necessitated it?
A sincere quest to answer that question will take you to Nehemiah Chapters 9 and 10. If you can take your time to read that passage, you will see that the people of Israel all assembled, and on their own VOLITION and WILLINGNESS and without COERCION made promises to God. They called it a “firm agreement” about what they will be offering God every year. They made these promises in writing.
I will quote some of the agreements they made in Nehemiah 10. Remember, they made this freely…
Verse 32: “We also LAY on OURSELVES the OBLIGATION to charge ourselves yearly ONE THIRD of a SHEKEL for the service of the house of our God.”
Verse 35: “We OBLIGATE OURSELVES to bring the FIRST FRUITS of our soil and the first fruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year.”
Verse 36,37,38: “Also we OBLIGATE OURSELVES to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God, the FIRSTBORN of our sons and of our livestock. . .And to bring to the LEVITES the TITHE from our soil. . .And the priest, the descendant of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the LEVITES shall RECEIVE the TITHES.”
So, when the Israelites were NOT keeping all they wrote and swore to do, especially with paying tithe and when the Levites were not bringing the tithe of the tithes to the store house of of, it necessitated those words from Malachi that they were robbing God. Other version used “defrauding,” “afflicting” etc, of course when you make a promise and adamantly violate it, what is it called?
That passage was NOT IN ANYWAY referring to the present Christians whom through the death of Christ on the cross brought forth a new dawn, as such, a new covenant. In this new covenant, tithe is no where emphasized.
If we are to pay tithe in the way the Jews do, then. . .
1. First, we must have Levites: It is only the Levites that collects tithes. And he does this in the presence of the priest (Nehemiah 10:37). They are given this mandate because they have no inheritance (Deuteronomy 14:28). No Nigeria priest or pastor qualifies to be Levites in the strict sense of the word. To be a Levite, you must be from the tribe of Levi. Levites still exist till date, but they don’t believe that Jesus is God unlike priests and pastors in our churches.
2. In Deuteronomy 14:22 tithes are supposed to be paid annually. If we are really interested in following the Bible strictly, then it can’t be monthly even if you claim you are paid monthly.
3. The Israelite don’t just drop their tithe and leave. No! In Deuteronomy 14: 23-26 you are mandated to eat your tithe with the poor, the orphans, etc.
It is usually the tithe of your tithe (10% of your tithe) that the Levites collect and take to the store house of God. (Nehemiah 10:38). For example, assuming your tithe is N100, N10 will be taken to the store house, the remaining N90 is what you will eat with the poor.
4. In payment of tithe, it will interest us to know that if you have money to pay, you don’t pay with money. You have to use the money and buy things of your choice and eat it with the poor, orphans, those in need etc (Deuteronomy 14:23-26). Why do we pay money and yet still want to follow the Bible?
You may take your time to read up those passages in the bible.
“Fr Kelvin Ugwu, are you simply saying that we should stop paying tithe, and that tithe boxes and tithe Sundays in our churches are wrong?”
It is our Christian duty to support our ministers and our church. It is also our Christian duty to support the poor. Many ministers will argue that tithe could be a means of supporting the church and missions. This is fine.
On the other side, so many Christians today have faith paying their tithes. So many people have got one or two testimonies on how tithe works for them. We all have different ways we relate with our God.
So, Fr Kelvin is only telling you that if you are paying tithe, understand that it is about you and your God, anyone quoting Malachi to persuade you, is ignorant. Now read that again. It should not be because you want to avoid being cursed. God does not do that. Again, no one should make another feel emotional guilt or feel sinful because he or she is not doing as you do. The person may have other ways he or she is supporting his ministers and church. There is no strict rule about it.
People give God their talent, time, gifts, hearts. It is not just about money. What makes you think you are better and more blessed than that woman that silently cleans the church every Mondays simply because you come out with an envelope for tithe on Sunday while she did not?
God is not as wicked as some people will make you believe. Some humans can cast you to hell because you did not pay tithe, whereas, God is not even aware you have done anything wrong. Now, following Matthew 25, we shall be judged by how we help the poor. In fact, the easiest way to rob God is to neglect the poor.
God doesn’t demand a fixed amount of money from us. He wants us to give from our heart. As such, people can even give more than 10% or less. If people are forced to give a certain percentage of their money, that is extortion, it’s fraud. Don’t let anyone make you feel unnecessary guilt.