Is God only worthy of a tithe of our income?
David says: “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1). How then can we insist only a tithe of our income belongs to God? God does not only own ten percent of our possessions, he owns everything we have. As a matter of fact, we belong to the Lord, even as he also belongs to us. Thus, Jeremiah declares: “The LORD is (our) portion.” (Lamentation 3:24).
Jesus says: “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33). Therefore, a “tither” cannot be a disciple of Christ. I used to pay tithes. But when I finally grasped the full import of Jesus’ message, I concluded that giving only a tithe of my income for kingdom purposes is grossly inadequate. Some of us should give nothing less than eighty percent because we are very rich. God can even require that we give our entire monthly salary on occasion; after all he owns all we have. But giving to God should not be confused with giving to a church.
What is God worth to us? Is he only worthy of a tithe of our income? Every Christian should be allowed to determine this for himself. Institutionalised tithing limits the generosity of a believer. Once we give ten percent, we believe we have fulfilled all righteousness. But this limitation is short-sighted. Jesus says: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38). Therefore, don’t use the measure of a delimited tithe.
The truth is that pastors have little faith in Christians. We are convinced they would never give out of their own volition. So we lay down the Law of Moses and threaten those who disobey with the disdain of heaven. Thereby, we nullify the faith of our parishioners by making them give out of compulsion. But our God is a God of free will.
That was the error of Moses. He was convinced the Israelites were a wicked people. So he thought it would be unwise to tell them God is against divorce because they would still not be able to obey. Moses decided the best he could do was to limit the propensity to divorce by regulating it and by laying down certain procedures that must be followed before a man could divorce his wife. In the process, he ended up by legitimising divorce and, thereby, misrepresenting God.
Jesus was quick to correct this error. He says to the Jews: “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:8-9). Therefore, don’t accept the indictment of money-grubbing pastors that you won’t give unless cajoled, and then would only give a tithe.
Bolaji Ogundimu was distraught. She asked her good friend for financial assistance and she refused even though she had the money. She told Bolaji the money with her was earmarked for her tithe. God forbid her tithe should be used to help someone in need. According to the brainwashing she had received, her tithe must only be handed over to her pastor; otherwise it would be nullified. Little did she know that her pastor, in his greed for her money, had made her into a bad Samaritan.
Pastors who insist you must bring your tithe to their churches are only interested in your money. Never believe any man who preaches anything beneficial to him directly or indirectly. If he preaches the righteousness of giving, listen to him only up to that point where he tells you to bring the money to him or to his church.
If he is really interested in teaching the way of righteousness, he should encourage you to give the money to other institutions apart from the one he is involved in. Let him tell you to give the money to the orphanage, and his message is thereby purified. But once he passes the basket round after such a message, his motives immediately become suspect.
Don’t fall for the trick where a special guest to your church is the one encouraging you to give to your church. It is also conventional for him to say it is necessary for you to “bless” your pastor. This is a game of deception played by pastors. I ask people to give to you when I come to your church, and you tell people to give to me when you come to mine.
Looking unto Jesus
Jesus must, in all cases, be our example. When he preached the gospel to the chief young ruler, he said to him: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor.” (Matthew 19:21). He did not tell him to bring the money to him or to his church. Why must the money only be brought to the pastor or to his church? The righteousness is not tied to the church but to the giver. The righteousness is not sown in the church but in the believer’s heart.
There is no spiritual benefit in receiving money. But there is great benefit in giving to others. Irrespective of the amount, the money we give can never make a real difference in the true lives of the recipients. However, when we give, it makes a difference in our lives. Giving may not change the receiver, but it often changes the giver because it works on our heart. The foundation of giving is love, compassion, mercy and faith. Therefore, giving produces in us the fruit of righteousness which is pleasant to God.
Don’t believe the lie of pastors that by giving to your church you are giving to God. The kingdom of God has nothing to do with pastors or with local churches. Jesus told the Samaritan woman: “Believe me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.” (John 4:21). The hour has already come. God is not worshipped in local churches. He is worshipped in our heart-of-hearts. The true church of Christ is not a building but a people.
Tithes are often used to build the kingdoms of pastors as opposed to the kingdom of God. They are used to finance the pastor’s sometimes lavish lifestyle; to build huge mausoleums to the pastor’s glory; to buy airplanes which most church-members cannot fly in; establish schools and universities which poor church-members cannot afford; or establish banks which only benefit the rich.
But the kingdom of God is about giving to the poor, the widows, the orphans and the stranger. These are the true representatives of God. Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40). In the churches, pastors are not the least but the greatest.