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The Tithe: No controversy - By Oluwamuyiwa Okuseinde



Since the hoopla about tithing surfaced, many who know my teachings on the subject in the last one decade or so have requested my opinion on the matter. My usual response had been to direct them to the Bible and to the two mini books I have written on the subject. I feel there is no point engaging in any debate with anyone. God has warned us to beware of such arguments from scoffers who would abound in the last days. But in the last one week, a dear friend and brother has put so much pressure on me, literally begging me to say something. It is therefore in response to my friend (just as Dr Luke wrote for Theophilus, Luke 1:3-4) that I'm making the following submissions, hoping also that it would be of help to every genuine seeker out there.


I will reduce my contribution to only seven of the many issues that there are on the matter.


First, the idea that the tithe is not applicable in the New Testament is false. In His comments on the attitude of the Pharisees, Jesus upbraided them for paying tithe of little things while neglecting weightier matters of the law like justice and mercy. Then Jesus made a statement that I thought is clear even for the blind to see: "these [weightier matters] ought you to have done, and not to leave the other [tithe] undone" (Matthew 23:23). How could Jesus - the New Testament personified say that a particular thing should not be left undone and a true believer in Christ will presume to say that thing is a scam? Yet the righteousness of the Christian is supposed to surpass that of the Pharisee.


Today, it is convenient for us to claim promises of the Old Testament when they suit us but when it requires that we part with our substance, we quickly remember that we are in the New Testament. That is hypocrisy.


For those who may want to know, the tithe is neither Old nor New Testament. The tithe is 'trans-testament'. It transcends both testaments and is applicable to both testaments. The tithe was definitely before the law, being practiced 430 years before the law and what did not come with the law cannot go with the law. Abraham was the first to pay it, and he gave a tithe of all the booty he brought from the war (Genesis 14:20). The "all" must have included garments, gold, silver, animals, weapons etc. This clearly faults the argument that tithe in Bible times was only from agriculture. Jacob promised God a tithe of all that God would give him and we know that Jacob was not only rich in livestock, he had monetary asset with which he bought food for his huge household during the time of famine (e.g., see Genesis 43:12).


I have heard many make that mischievous statement, that they won't pay tithe because Jesus didn't pay tithe. Did Jesus give offering? Did He build a house or own one? Didn't He say that the son of man had nowhere to lay his head? Well, just as you argue that if a man pays tithe, he should go ahead and fulfill all the other Old Testament laws, so also, since you won't pay tithe because Jesus didn't pay, you should equally refrain from giving offerings, owning a house, riding a car or flying in a plane because Jesus did none of these things. If you are not being mischievous, apply the rule to yourself and ensure that you refrain from everything Jesus didn't do, including getting married and having children.


Secondly, this idea of the tithe not being for Gentile believers is a misreading of the New Testament. In Christ Jesus, there is neither Gentile nor Jew. Christ came to destroy that dichotomy, breaking down the middle wall of partition (Ephesians 2:11-22). We have all been baptized into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles (1 Corinthians 12:13). There is not a separate rule for Jewish Christians and another for Gentile believers. In response to such uniformed opinions, Paul asked, "Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also" (Romans 3:29).


Thirdly, the assumption that the tithe is the financial bottom line of God’s servants is false. Interestingly, none of those making this false claim have come out with empirical data to support their opinion. It will surprise you to know that in spite of the hue and cry about tithe, not more than a tenth of the church actually tithe faithfully. I know this because in the last ten years, I have been privileged to go from church to church, city to city, within and outside my country Nigeria to teach the saints on the subject of tithe.


Everywhere I go, without a single exception, approximately 90% of the congregants would respond to altar calls as tithe defaulters. This is something I have empirically verified and not a mere opinion. I find it disturbing to my rational mind that supposedly cerebral persons, even from the ivory towers, would make sweeping generalisations in matters they have not verified.


Even in the Old Testament, the Levites had other sources of income apart from the offerings of the children of Israel. While they had no inheritance as a tribe, the Levites had lands given to them in all the tribes of Israel. When the people failed to bring the tithes, the Levites resorted to working on their land. This happened during the time of Nehemiah (see Nehemiah 13:10-14).


The truth of the matter is that most servants of God are simply blessed of God, tithe or no tithe. If you are doing what God has called you to do, He will bless you. It is only a matter of time. For example, I am personally very blessed. This is the 23rd year I left my job as a university teacher to serve God full time. For more than two decades, I have not collected a dime as salary. I have a house that God built for me without a dime of any man's tithe in it. All the vehicles I have used (except two) were given to me by people. Hardly would tithes from people represent up to 10% of my sustenance (with my family) for more than two decades. When you don't know my story and you conclude that I must be living on the tithes of some people, it is both unfair and uncharitable. Sometimes to want to find out how a true man of God is sustained is like wanting to know what is talking inside the radio! It will lead to many errors.


Fourthly, to reduce the tithe to what a man eats and washes down with a glass of beer is to make mockery of sacred things. Truly, there is a biblical practice of eating a particular tithe in the house of God. But it is also clear from the Bible that the Levites were to receive the tithe as part of their sustenance. If the tithe is for you to eat, which one goes to the Levite? Doesn't it suggest already that the Bible is not talking about a singular item? In any case if the tithe is for you to eat, why should God be angry as He obviously was in Malachi if you don't want to eat? And like I always say, if the tithe is yours, it would make no sense whatsoever for God to say tithe defaulters are robbing Him. It is impossible to steal what belongs to you. If the tithe is simply something for you to eat, why would God tell defaulters to add a fifth (Leviticus 27:31)? Selecting a portion of the Scriptures to make general assertions is as wrong as it is foolish and ungodly.


A careful reading of the Scriptures shows that three different tithes were paid in Bible times, viz the Levite tithe, the festival tithe and the Poor tithe which is also called the third tithe. The tithe eaten by the giver in the house of God is the festival tithe which is done yearly. The Levite tithe (which is what the church teaches) remains the minimum irreducible obligation of God's children to His house.


Fifth, to say that a Christian who does not pay tithe will be cursed is not true. The Scripture is that the person is already under a curse. God said so (Malachi 3:9). No pastor has the power to curse you for not tithing. Besides, it is needless because God already did it Himself. And let's be clear about this. God laid down a blessing and a curse and tells us to choose one. Choose yours and live with the consequences.


Sixth, it has been observed that the major cause of the tithe discussion is the opulent lifestyle and stupendous wealth of some men of God which many assume (wrongly so) is being financed by the tithes of their members. While I won't stop you from having issues with extravagant lifestyle of some pastor, it is wrong to teach revolt against the word of God because of the actions of men. That a particular town is filled with fake or incompetent doctors won't remove the fact of the authenticity and necessity of medical practice. God's word remains true irrespective of how men behave.


Seventh and finally, may I say that we should all be careful how we weigh in on the things of God. Keep your opinions to yourself, for no man takes the honour of speaking on God's behalf upon himself except he that is so called of God (Hebrews 5:4). Suddenly, everyone has become a Bible teacher, even those who have never read the Bible from cover to cover. Those who don't have an idea of what it means to be called of God have now taken up apostolic mantles, postulating different positions and presuming to set codes and standards for Christianity without recourse to the mind of God. Have you stood in His counsel? Did God send you to say those things you are pushing about? Know that you will answer for every word you speak (Matthew 12:26). If you teach others against God, you will have your date with Him.

And to those who call themselves Christians yet are fans of those mocking your pastors and scoffing at your sacred things, I can only wonder what kind of Christianity you are practicing.


Rev'd Oluwamuyiwa Okuseinde was a university teacher until 1995 when he answered God's call to full time ministry. He presides over the Life Teaching Ministry Worldwide, Inc, an itinerant teaching ministry. He authors Today's Message, a daily inspirational message published on: www.todaysmessage.com.ng
Email: revoluwamuyiwa@gmail.com

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