By Collins Ughalaa….
*”Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay the tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of law: Justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done.”* Matthew 23:23.
Going by the recent controversy about tithing in the Church as stirred by an On Air Personality called Baba Freeze, it is obvious that the controversy about tithing didn’t started today. It was so in the days of Jesus Christ, when he had to confront the Pharisees on the issue. Now, the Pharisees must be given the credit that they were very meticulous on the issue of tithing, and Jesus Christ himself recognised this when he criticized them for paying attention to tithe – even the smallest herbs and vegetables. Jesus Christ did not stop there. He condemned the Pharisees for paying attention to the smallest herbs and vegetables while ignoring the weightier things such as the universal and scriptural principles of Justice, love, mercy and faith, which are the hallmark and high calling of the Christian faith and the major requirements of the Law God gave to the Israelites.
Like Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees were ignoring the major things commanded them in the scriptures, the Christian pastors and bishops have ignored the weightier things of the scriptures and are concerned about money from tithes and other forms of offerings they introduce from time to time. But while the pastors and bishops were busy with money and wealth, they fail to recognise three major things: (1) tithe is not, should not, be paid with money; (2) tithes should be paid with farm produce such as animals and crops; (3) tithes were paid to the Levitical Priests who were physical descendants of the tribe of Levi in the physical Israel.
Granted that tithing was practised in the Old Testament, one would know that the only items that were tithed are animals and crops, as no mention of money was ever made. Jesus Christ agreed with this when he upbraided the Pharisees, saying that they were collecting tithes on even insignificant farm produce such as cummin, anise and mint; farm produce like nutmeg, curry, uziza, ginger, garlic, ugu, etc.
This position finds support in the Old Testament also as recorded in the book of Leviticus 27:30: “A tithe is of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruits from the trees belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord”. This is consistent with the teaching in Malachi 3:10, saying: ” Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, (the storehouse is a place where grains are stored) that there may be food in my house”.
A lot has changed in the worship of God since Jesus Christ died and resurrected and handed over to his disciples, including changes in temple worship, sacrifices, feasts and priesthood. Some passages of the Old Testament teach tithing to Israelites but they do not apply to the Christians who worship in the Churches, have no priesthood that comes from a tribe that offers sacrifices to God and comes from a lineage, who do not have any business or inheritance in their land but God. The Old Testament tithe was for temple worship and not for Christians to pay tithes to the church.
The book of Malachi which the Christian pastors rely on was written more than 400 years before the first church was built in Jerusalem, this is notwithstanding that Jesus did not build or worship in a church. He neither paid tithe nor collected same from anyone. Rather he told the story of how “many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents”. This story which is now known as The Widow’s Mite occupied Jesus’ attention that he told his disciples his mind, saying: “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood”, ( Mark 12:41,44; Luke 21:1-4). Remarkably the person that Jesus praised was the poor widow who gave just two small coins.
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Applying the commandment of temple worship because we need money in our accounts only destroys the written word of God, whom the Christian pastors claim to collect the tithes on his behalf and rain down curses on defaulters.
There is no incongruity in the Bible teaching on tithes except that from time to time people try to manipulate them in order to improve their economy. For example, the origin of tithing was not commanded by God. We read in the book of Genesis 14:20: “And praise be to the God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand. Then Abram (Abraham) gave him a tenth of everything'”. This passage is the first mention of tithe in the Bible, but Abraham did not pay money as tithe to the King of Sodom but goods. Nevertheless, we find that the concept of tithing as began by Abraham was later included in the Law and mentioned 18 times in the Law as Israelites were to share their farm produce and livestock for temple worship and to support the Levites who worked in the temple. This is also found in the 2 Chronicles 31:5: “when King Hezekiah ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the Lord. As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the first fruits of their grain, new wine, olive oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything.”
If you consider Bible passages carefully you will have no difficulty seeing that only farm produce were paid as tithes and not money and properties as requested by the pastors. Does it mean that there are no more farm produce today? Why the introduction of money and making it take the place of farm produce? Even in the so-called harvests organised by the churches, the demand that the members bring cars, fans, electronics, cars, money, etc, and not the farm produce.
It is interesting also to note that despite that Jesus Christ did not tell his disciples to pay tithe but tax, we see that a time came when the Church began to grow after Jesus was gone. The church grew beyond the Israeli shores and reached the Gentile nations. At some point the Apostles had to contend with the issue of whether to teach the gentile brethren to obey the Mosaic laws because of crisis that broke out in the new churche. They set up a committee and came up with a few instructions on what the gentile brethren were required to do. They never mentioned tithe as one of the things they must do.
The committee reported: “It is my judgement, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immortality, from the meet of strangled animals and from blood”, Acts 15: 19.
This may be why you do not read about tithes in the New Testament.
And rather than the greedy fixation on collecting tithes by the pastors and bishops, the principles in the New Testament that encourages the Christians to give voluntarily to support the needs of others as recorded in Acts 2:45; Romans 15:25-27 should be paramount because they are built on love. Christians are also enjoined to give voluntarily to support Christian workers as recorded in 1 Corinthians 9:11,12; 1 Timothy 5:19; and for the purposes of expanding Christian outreaches or missions (Philippians 4:15,16). The principle of voluntary giving does not attach any specific amount or percentage, while tithe is paying 10% of one’s finances, as demanded today by the pastors.
In teaching voluntary giving instead of tithe, the apostles meant that there is no limitation to what one could give to support the work of God, as early Christians sold their houses and land to meet the needs of the church (Acts 4:34-37).
In holding the principle of voluntary giving, the Apostles did not breach any known teaching of the Bible or Jesus Christ. They paid attention to more important things that would grow the faith of the people in God and not overburden them. Jesus Christ himself said that making peace with one’s brother is more important than paying tithe or making any offering in the church, when he said: “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” Matt 5:23-24.
Despite this fine teaching of Jesus Christ, what the pastors do today is to use tithing passages in the Bible such as Malachi 3:8 to make Christians who don’t pay tithe to feel guilty and be compelled to pay tithe so as to run away from some curse, even when many of the pastors do not give tithe. No matter how the preachers pretend and no matter who among them preaches it, the fixation on paying tithe is selfish and unbiblical, because the system of tithing cannot be transported to the New Testament brethren because we are not physical Israelites who received the laws from Moses. Neither are all those expected to pay tithes spiritual Israelites. Moreover, we do not live in the promised land as the Israelites. We don’t also have a levitical priesthood and offer sacrifice literally as done by physical Israelites who got the laws of tithing and others. What the Christians are now expected to do is to voluntarily support those who minister in the church and give to the poor.
Interestingly, instead of tithes, the emphasis in the New Testament is that our giving be done out of gratitude and not compulsion or fear of a certain curse. One other thing the Christian pastors ignore is that the principle in Malachi 3 as they often quote is about includes supplying the needs of others and not about giving 10% to a church or pastor.
The Christian clergy should know that the Church is not a storehouse of God. The book of Nehemiah 10:37,38 says that “the Levites shall bring up a tenth of the tithes to the house of our God, to the rooms of the storehouse”. This shows that only 1% of the tithes is received in the temple and 9% are stored in Levitical Cities called the storehouse.
From the curses placed on Christians who do not pay tithe, it has become obvious that many clergymen have not understood the fact that Malachi 3:10 lists two different places: the “storehouse” and “my house. God’s “house” is not the “storehouse”, and the storehouse is not God’s house. Suggesting that both my house and the storehouse mean the same thing would mean to suggest that the grain and vegetables offered as tithes were sitting in the Holy of Holies? Or that the Israelites stored some of their corn in the ark of the covenant of God?
What we discover when we search the scriptures is that there was no Shekinah Glory sitting above the grain house or the storehouse because God’s house was not a place to bring your goods or possessions for storage. It was not a place for any kind of business transactions. And it was to maintain the sanctity of the house of God as a place not for business transactions that Jesus Christ in Matthew 21:12-13 entered the temple courts and drove out all those who engaged in commercial activities and overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.
He said to them: “It is written, ‘my house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”
But in order to force tithes from the pockets of Christians the clergy forget that the temple is not the Church building we have today and it is not as if these restrictions in the Temple are applicable to the churches. But if the restrictions are not applicable, then it would also mean that the Church building is not a kind of the Storehouse or the house of God.
From what the Bible says, the storehouse is not considered a holy place or part of the worship process. The storehouse was only needed because there was food to be stored. In the temple the worshippers were asked to pay the temple tax also. This was a monetary contribution for the upkeep and maintenance of the House of God and was never kept in a storehouse.
Moreover, throughout the New Testament scriptures, there is no reference to a Church storeroom where members are asked to bring their tithes or offerings for storage. The reason for this obvious “omission” is not carelessness but because the New Testament teaches that our storehouse is not in this world but in heaven.
From what the Old Testament teaches, the House of God is a building where God lived, as found in Isaiah 66:1-2 , 1 Chronicles 17:6 , 1 Kings 8:27. But in the New Testament, our soul is where God lives, as also found in Acts 7:48 , John 1:14 , 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. On the other hand, in the Old Testament the Temple was known as the House of God, but in the New Testament we learn that God does not live in houses made with hands. So we learn that we are the temple of the living God and should therefore present our bodies holy and like a living sacrifice to God.
Also, an earthly storehouse stores corruptible things (Luke 12:16-21, Matthew 6:19), whereas the stores in heaven offered to the New Testament believers store incorruptible things; and we are asked to invest here – Matthew 6:20 , Matthew 19:21 , 1 Peter 1:3-4.
From what the Bible says, the earthly storehouse is only symbolic of the purpose of an eternal storehouse and does not symbolize a worship building or any other form of infrastructure you may have as storage facility in any local church of today. The symbolism of the storehouse is used so much that it perfectly describes Matthew 6:19-20 where Jesus commanded his followers not to store up treasures on earth but to store them in heaven. It is therefore huge disservice to consider the worship building God’s storehouse. The numerous and great programs that take place in some churches cannot make them the storehouse of God.
And of course, it is not God’s purpose to raise an army of Christians that will focus on earthly legacies but to focus on eternal legacies.
Conclusively, Malachi 3:10 should not make us fear some curses but to serve as critical reminder to us to lay up our treasures in heaven where they do not rust instead of on earth where they suffer rust and perish.
RipplesNigeria… without borders, without fears