I have followed with certain bated interest the ongoing controversies in the public domain in the Nigerian landscape about tithing in the church. I have waited with anticipation, hoping that one of our so-called exalted “Men of God” for the love of Christ and all that is holy and true will stand and declare the truth as the scriptures made it clear as it pertains to the new testament church. The stand of many of these General Overseers is that, Daddy Freeze whose declaration wants to take away a huge chunk of the church revenue and pour sand into “our gari” lack the spiritual platform and accreditation to speak as an oracle of God.
Assuming Freeze lacks the credential to speak as an oracle of God, my question is: why is it that those who do are not coming out with scriptural arsenal needed to dispute his claim rather than advancing sentimental counter-punch and psychological manipulation to discredit him and further confuse the sheep? It is my fervent belief and unshakeable conviction that this issue would have not even become the focus of many of these men of God if it was not about money.
Over the years, especially in recent times, every modern church has found a way to make the issue of tithe a major doctrinal teaching, particularly among the Pentecostal movement. This is so because of this simple fact if the church must have the financial resources it needs, financial giving must cease to be a thing of personal choice, but something of a compulsion. And one of the ways in which churches compel members to give is the unending preaching of tithing based on Malachi 3:8-11 and its accompanying pronouncement of woes and curses for non-compliance.
But if the truth be told, this scriptural basis for tithing in the New Testament church, which is founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Apostles, is a wrong application of the scripture. Giving of tithe, or tithe payment as some will like to code it, is not applicable to the church. Abraham, the first man to practise tithing in the Bible gave tithe out of his plunders of war (Genesis 14). And the commandment of tithing as a requirement of the law is something done to support the Levites and it was specified to be given in agricultural produce (Numbers 18:25-27, Deut 14:22-23). Christ spoke about tithe to rebuke the Pharisees and the Scribes for their hypocritical behaviors as seen in Matthew 23:23 (without no reference to money) and not as teaching on something that is required of His followers. The Apostles and the early church never emphasized the payment of tithe because it was a requirement of the law and Christ who mentored and taught them for three and a half years never made it part of what is required under the dispensation of grace. This is very instructive considering the fact that Peter declared before the council in Jerusalem this famous words, “ for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). So I believe if it is something required as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, Peter would have taught it to the church in his days.
So if Christ the Chief Cornerstone of the church, the Apostles and the early church fathers whose teachings formed the doctrinal foundation of the church never emphasized the doctrine of tithing, why has it become the most important focus of most churches today? The answers lie in 1 Timothy 6:10 which says “for the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows”. The love of money has so become the main focus of the Pentecostal fold in Nigeria and in most part of the world today that salvation of souls which is our primary assignment has taken the backseat while tithing and financial giving has taken the center stage, so any teaching of the Bible that can be used to extort money from the people of God is being exploited to the fullest. This has become so bad that many pastors are now preaching tithing as a form of stipulated requirement for the salvation of your soul. Yes, the Bible talks about tithing, but not in the context in which the church is preaching about it today. Neither is tithing a requirement for believers in Christ. Giving, on the other hand, is what we are counseled to do and to do it joyfully either with your one, ten or hundred percent, do it with joy, not as a matter of compulsion or manipulative gimmicks of any pastor.
The desire for “filthy lucre” by most pastors in today’s churches has blinded them to the reality of the damage this manipulative teaching of tithing and giving is doing to the true gospel of salvation that we have been called to preach as believers and the attendant moral and spiritual decay it brings. It is for this reason that the church in Nigeria, that should normally be a place of honesty, morally principled individuals and people of integrity has become a den of robbers, winebibbers and whore mongers. On top of this is the myriads of false prophecies of miracle breakthroughs and prosperity from year to year which never materialize. The quest for wealth and materialism has become so bad in the church that practically every church has become an extension of the corrupt political class who uses the church for their selfish political gain. The lie that Satan could not sell to Jesus on worldly enrichment is what many of these so-called oracles of God have accepted without a second thought. It is like the Nigerian common man can not catch a break, for, between the political leaders who are never concerned with their daily struggles and the religious leaders whose mindset is all about fleecing the sheep, the average Nigerian is like the Israelites of the time of Moses who found themselves between Pharaoh and the Red Sea.
The church has become so corrupt in Nigeria that the idea is that go and make money in whatever way you can (either legal or illegal), in a godly way or by sinful means, it does not matter, as long as you bring your ten percent, God will bless you. I have always said with no iota of reservation and not minding whose horse is gored, that the malady of corruption, greed and selfishness which afflict the political class of Nigeria has become an integral part of the Nigerian churches. The church is as much the problem of the poor masses in Nigeria as well as the political leadership. The church that is supposed to be a place of compassion, love and upholder of godly truth has become a place of darkness, lust and greed, where the anointing of God is readily available for sale as long as you can pay the price. The church has seriously departed from that path of straight and narrow to follow that broad and wide way.
The Nigerian “church-scape” has become a place where our General Overseers are more concerned with the number of private jets they could acquire than the number of people in their congregation who could feed their families or comfortably take care of their household needs. The competition to see who can buy the fastest and latest jet is more important to them than the emasculating and crushing poverty of their teeming members. And for those who will be quick to defend the lavish and opulent lifestyle of these “Men of God”, my question to you is this: was there no golden chariot in the days of Jesus, why then did He entered Jerusalem on an ass? Paul despite his numerous missionary journeys never owned a single seafaring ship, rather he worked to support himself rather than become a burden on those he ministered the gospel to. Our General Overseers have become so wise and more important in their own eyes than Jesus our perfect example who lived a modest life, or the Apostles and the early church fathers who did not sought earthly riches and wealth, but sold all they had to feed the poor and meet the needs of those who lack within the church.
Things are like this because the church has replaced the standard of God with the standard of man (Isa 55:8-9). The church has replaced the biblical standard of value system and success with the standard of the world which bare no relevance whatsoever with the things of God. Things are like this because of the departure of the church from the teaching of the wholesome truth of Christ to the flaky prosperity gospel which is focused majorly on material riches and wealth. This dangerous teaching unshackles many church leaders from any form of restraint and moderation on their desire for recognition, the pursuit of wealth and replaces it with greed, lust and lack of any sense of accountability whatsoever.
And the sad truth is that most Nigerian Pentecostal ministries are run on the premise of lack of accountability. There is little or no accountability whatsoever, the leaders of such churches are all in all and they can get away with anything. This lack of accountability is what has given birth to present uproar on the issue of tithing that Daddy Freeze has raised. So instead of our General Overseers seeing the issues that Freeze has raised on tithing as an attack on their personalities and lifestyle, they should embrace it as a way the Lord wants to use to call them to order and correct them.
The idea that if you do not tithe you will be under a curse based on Malachi 3 is a manipulative teaching that do not live up to scriptural sound teaching when examined in the light of the balanced word of God. According to Romans 8:1-2, “there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death”. In the same token Galatians 3:13 says “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us...” So how can those who live under the law of grace by the power of the Holy Spirit still be under the curse of a Mosaic law that Christ had died and redeemed us from? If anyone is under any curse it is those who still give tithe in accordance with Galatians 3:10. Do not get me wrong, give your ten percent if you feel like, but give it as a free will offering as a believer in Christ (that is what I have been doing for over a decade now), not as a man observing the Mosaic laws. The Bible says that we should study to show ourselves approved, is it that those eminent pastors of ours who are defending their churches manipulative teaching on tithing are biblically ignorant or they just refuse to teach the truth that Christ declared can make us free.
In the year of the Lord 2017, when most Nigerians are living their own version of hell on earth, when our young men and women are being auctioned off in modern slavery in Libya, when many are dying in the desert and on the high seas of North Africa in an effort to cross to Europe with the hope for a better life, all our GOs could find time to defend and argue about is the issue of monetary giving to the church which someone is undermining. I am sorry to say this, but I will say it anyway, the truth is that the focus of many Nigerian pastors and church leaders have since ceased from being a model of Christ love and compassion, rather they have become more focused on representing their own interest. The unfortunate thing is that many of them feel they are beyond correction from those who lack the public visibility they have or the elongated years of ministry experience they have. But let me remind them of the story of Eli and Samuel in the Bible.
Daddy Freeze has stirred the hornet nest, he is like the young Samuel sent to deliver a very difficult message to the old prophet Eli, a man with the highest religious position in the land. Whether these “men of God” will hear and change is a different story. But let me say this, it is better these men of God change now, and return to their first love because this is still a family affair, after all, Daddy Freeze is a Christian like us. The historical viewpoint of the Bible has established one fact: when the people of God refuse correction from in-house, God uses the Gentiles to bring about the needed correction and repentance.
The Christ-like mind and character of compassion, mercy and love is gradually dying in the lives of many of our so-called “men of God”. The erudite scholar and Nigerian literary legend Wole Soyinka said, “the man died in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny”, in the same token the mind of Christ is dying in you as a pastor, bishop, or GO if you are more concerned with building personal mansions in all the major cities of the world while the majority of your members cannot pay their monthly house rent. Christ mindset is dying in you if as a minister of the gospel you are focused on increasing your fleet of private jets and luxurious cars while most of your members can not even buy a bicycle. Christ mind is dying in you as a GO, while you and your family eat sumptuous food, while those you are leading like Lazarus are scavenging for crumbs from your rich table to get a meal a day. Christ is dying in you, if you send your own children to the best schools in the world while your members could not even afford the school fees of the schools you build with their tithe and offering. Christ character and mindset is dying in you if while you as a minister outfit yourself in custom made designer suits while your members walk around in second-hand rags. The indictment of Matthew 25:41-46 is definitely upon most of the churches dotting the landscape of Nigeria and their leaders.
If you disagree with this remember the admonitions of 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 4:1-5 and 1 John 2:18-19. I will counsel you to be like the Berean Christians who do not just believe what Paul was saying at face value, but decided to search the scriptures for themselves to establish the truth of his word. For the unfortunate truth is that, most Nigerian Christians have in a kind of way turn their pastors to their God, for when it comes to believing the Bible and what the pastor is saying, nine out of ten will rather believe their pastors. There is a form of dogmatic inebriation that has clouded the mind of many that is making it very hard for them to truly sift the truth from personal revelations and psychological manipulations. But let me make something clear to you, no Pastor, Bishop, Archbishop or General Overseer died for anybody. We are all bought and redeemed by the shed blood of Jesus Christ and to Him and His word alone should we be faithful and obedient. But for those “men of God”, remember, “the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God”…( 1 Peter 4:17), and I am sure it will definitely start from the pulpit.