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TITHING – JUST A WORD ON TITHING.

Some fifteen to twenty years ago, tithing became a strong issue in the Catholic Church.  We were not collecting tithe and some priests started asking if they could be collecting tithe. Eventually it crept in and it became operational in Nigeria, but outside Nigeria, they do not collect tithe as far as I know. I have been to Europe, America, there is nothing like tithe in the Catholic Church. I do not know of other African countries. Tithing has never been an issue before the present time. As part of the practice of the Christian faith, it has never been from history for 2000 years because there was no need for tithing.  I will tell you the reason. The Disciples of Jesus left everything to follow him, and leaving everything was like giving everything up for Jesus. They had no inheritances, nothing. After the death of Jesus and his resurrection, the Christian groups in the Acts of the Apostles gathered together and they were living together sharing everything and at that time the Apostles left everything, they had very little means. Whatever they had they were able to work with their hands to feed themselves. They also got some help from the people. There were some women in the Bible who were also disciples of Christ. They took care of Christ from their own means. So, the Christian communities were sharing things together; so, those who came to believe (if you read from the Acts of Apostles Chapters 4, 5, 6) saw that these new converts were selling their property and bringing everything to the Apostles. Remember the story of Ananias and Shaphira (Acts 5:1-11)). The disciples were living a communal life, bringing in100 per cent of their substance, so there was no need of bringing tithe and that was how the Christian community developed.

Some had disagreement with the Missionaries and they went to found other churches like the African church, Celestial.

From the 50s, 60s, 70s, the Protestants, through the influence of America, started and there was a boom in the 80s because of the economic factors. There was depression and a lot of people found themselves poor, they lost their jobs and there was nothing and the way the churches in Nigeria responded to that was to begin to promote economic prosperity. It was first started by Archbishop Idahosa; then, many pastors saw it as a solution. That was why there was a surge and many people rushed to Pentecostal churches in Nigeria. Now the issue of tithing cannot be seen in isolation, it is still part of the whole package that pastors, some twenty years ago, started invoking the Bible that when you pay your tithe, the economic prosperity promised in the Bible will become yours.  They go to the Old Testament to bring quotations to support that. And that was how tithing became something strong in Nigeria, and it has influenced everyone.

Tithing in the Old Testament, when the people of Israel came out of Egypt, there were 12 tribes and God told Moses to make Aaron the high priest. Moses was supposed to be God’s spokesman to the people, Aaron was the peoples’ representative to God. That was the way it worked. God made an experiment in Exodus 19; He wanted to speak to the people directly, He came in lightning and thunder and they were afraid to hear God speak. That was what necessitated the particular model of God speaking to the people through Moses, and Aaron represented the people in making sacrifice. Aaron would not be able to do it alone. They needed a priestly class and that brought about the idea of the Levites. So, the Levites became the priestly class to help Aaron and his sons in the sacrifice to God. And when they got to the promise land, because they were the priestly class, God said they could dwell in any part of the land. They had no land allocated to them. But these Levites were representing the people before God, they also needed a means of livelihood because land was supposed to be the heritage which they were not partaking in, but something had to come to them. That was why God made a rule that a tenth of everything should be for the priests. That was the idea of tithe; mind you there was also the issue of Abraham who was also the first to pay tithe when he went to war. Coming back, he met Melchidezek and paid the tithe of the booty to him. Later on, it was discovered that the Levites were also expected to pay the tenth of what they got from the people to the temple for the maintenance of the temple. And I learnt there was corruption, because the priests were not also remitting their own 10 per cent and that was why prophet Malachi had to condemn the priests also. The tithe was made because the priests had no means of livelihood. My own personal interpretation is that if there is anybody who has the right, according to what the Old Testament says, to tithing, it should be a Catholic priest. It is the Catholic priest who leaves everything to follow Jesus Christ. He has to live through the means of what he gets from the people. Not any pastor who has other business and is still collecting tithe from the people. It has experienced a surge because it is now a means of enriching pastors because when they have Church collections once every Sunday that may be N20,000 every week, but when it comes to tithing, a person earning N100,000 will pay N10,000 to the pastor as tithe and the pastor automatically becomes rich through the tithe but the church stays poor. Many pastors are not accountable in the issue of tithe. In the Catholic Church, the tithe is not for the priest, it is recorded and it is for the Church, but in many other churches it is for the pastors and they have become stupendously rich; richer than some states. If it is directed properly, tithing is supposed to help the church, a means of people contributing to the development of the church.

Indeed, tithing should be voluntary. You do not have to force the people.

 


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