There has been a lot of conundrum in recent times about the issue of tithing and offering in churches. There are some who are of the view that tithing was the preserve of the Levites and it doesn’t apply to the modern-day Christian. There are some who also claim Pastors have enriched themselves with tithes and offerings at the expense of the well-being of church members, hence their unwillingness to pay tithes and offerings.
Over the week, this issue became a matter of contention during the International Central Gospel Church’s (ICGC) annual Greater Works Conference which is under the auspices of Pastor Mensa Otabil (General Overseer of ICGC). During the conference, one of the visiting Pastors, Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo (Senior Pastor Kingsway International Christian Centre, London) challenged the congregation to give a special offering. Interestingly, the offerings were segmented as shown in the image below.
This attracted the ire of many Ghanaians and has sparked the debate about churches being turned into a money-making business by some pastors. When a friend asked me about my thoughts, I told her I have come across pastors who claim they’ve been blessed with financial grace and if you sow into their lives by way of giving a particular offering, that grace will automatically be transferred to you. There are others who also, in the middle of preaching, claim God told them to ask the congregants for a particular offering. Some of them also claim God said a particular number of people in the congregation must give a particular sum of money. I have not reached that level of spirituality so I can’t condone or condemn them unless God calls me to be a pastor one day and I receive such instructions from Him.
Even though I can’t vouch for the veracity of such practices, I can share my opinion on the subject of giving in the church from the Bible and from the Holy Spirit who gives divine illumination on Biblical matters.
The verses above sound vague in terms of what to be given, the quantum to be given, and nature of the blessing a giver should expect. But Malachi 3:10-11 specifies what should be given and the nature of the blessings a giver should expect.
In this instance, we know the tithe should be 10% of our income, and in addition, God puts himself to a challenge and gives us an idea of what He would do when we obey. This verse gives a 100% guarantee of what a tither will enjoy when he/she gives.
As humans, there is a driving force behind everything we do and some call it motives or motivation. An action might look acceptable on the outside but the motive behind it can be bad and the motive behind every action determines its outcome. So let’s ask ourselves, what is the motive for giving in church? Is the motive in line with what God approves? Giving in this post is not limited to money.
I believe God set the tone for what should drive our giving within the Christian context in John 3:16.
What would motivate someone to give up his only son to be killed for the redemption of others if not love?
Jesus then comes in to accentuate this in Luke 21:1-4
This verse shows that the congregants knew the principle of giving and were given the chance to practice it without compulsion or cajoling. What will motivate a poor widow to give all she had to live on, if not out of love for God and the things of God.
During offering time in church, Pastors and Church leaders often make reference to Solomon in 1 Kings 3:4 where Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings to God after which God appeared to him in a dream and asked him to make a request. They fail to make reference to 1 Kings 3:3 which stated that “And Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father; only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places”. These pastors quote the thousand burnt offerings of Solomon to urge congregants to give more to God so as to provoke Him to visit them just like He did to Solomon. They make it seem like if you don’t give more to God, you cannot get his attention but let’s look at something interesting about Solomon. He was a King in the first place so one can assume that he was rich. Secondly, his father David was blessed with riches to the extent that he could give three thousand talents of gold (gold of Ophir) and seven thousand talents of refined silver, towards the building of a temple for God. If David could give such valuables out, you can imagine the wealth he had and the inheritance he’d have left behind for Solomon. So, Solomon had the luxury to give a thousand-burnt offering to God because he had the wherewithal to do so out of love for God. This principle cannot be applied to everybody in the modern-day church.
When this special offering brouhaha came up, there were some who claimed the monies would be used to cater for the expenses of the conference and wouldn’t go into the pockets of the pastors. I don’t dispute this but since Pastors and their congregation model the Bible, let’s see how offering towards God’s work was done in 1 Chronicles 29. We all know David as a man after God’s heart. At a point in time during his later years on earth, God told him that his son Solomon would be King of Israel and would build a temple for Him. Let’s see what David did in 1 Chronicles 29.
“With all my resources I have provided for the temple of my God – gold for the gold work, silver for the silver, bronze for the bronze, iron for the iron and wood for the wood, as well as onyx for the settings, turquoise, stones of various colors, and all kinds of fine stone and marble – all of these in large quantities. 3 Besides, in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my personal treasures of gold and silver for the temple of my God, over and above everything I have provided for this holy temple: 4 three thousand talents of gold (gold of Ophir) and seven thousand talents of refined silver, for the overlaying of the walls of the buildings, 5 for the gold work and the silver work, and for all the work to be done by the craftsmen. Now, who is willing to consecrate themselves to the Lord today”?
6 Then the leaders of families, the officers of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of the king’s work gave willingly. 7They gave to the work on the temple of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze and a hundred thousand talents of iron. 8 Anyone who had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the temple of the Lord in the custody of Jehiel the Gershonite. 9 The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly.
NB: These people didn’t give because they were promised a blessing. Let’s see how David reacted.
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. 15 We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. 16 Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. 17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you”.
There are a lot of cues to be taken from this scenario. Firstly, they all understood that everything they owned and even gave all belonged to God in the first place. Secondly, they all understood what they believed in, and loved what they believed in. No wonder they didn’t give because they wanted a blessing. It also shows that God makes provision for everything he requests for on earth through people.
Let’s now dissect the plot of this scenario. David can be seen as a man of God because God used him to accomplish things on earth. He was very wealthy which cannot be said of the people he had control over but most importantly, he loved God and had a good relationship with him, which reflected in how the temple was built. He, first of all, gave very expensive materials in colossal amounts towards the temple he alone was privy to see in spirit. He then asked his people who had not received any vision of the temple if they were willing to take part in this project. This was able to take place because David showed leadership and demonstrated to the people he was committed to the things of God through what he gave towards the temple. Secondly, the only way these people could have contributed towards a project which was shown in spirit to their leader without they being promised anything in return was their love for God and their submission to the spirit of God. Their focus was not on what they’d get from God after contributing. You’d realize that in the end, The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord.
We find ourselves in this miasma today because we fail to learn from the likes of David and the people of Israel in this context. On one hand, some Pastors have given their all towards the things of God but the congregations have not submitted themselves to God to move them to do things for him. On the other hand, some congregations don’t want to support the things of God because they’re pastors have not shown commitment towards the things of God to gain their trust. Instead of doing things out of love for God, people are rather doing things for God because of what they’d get in return.
This has resulted in some Pastors indirectly monetizing miracles which God hasn’t approved of in the name of using proceeds to further his kingdom. There are now special miracles which can only be afforded by the rich while the poor are left in the hands of God to use his discretion to bless them. When David wanted a contribution towards the temple, he didn’t ask for anything “special”. It was a collective effort which left everybody happy at the end of the day.
God has demonstrated on several occasions that he doesn’t force or cajole people to do things for Him. He already makes provision before making a demand. When he asked Moses to build a tabernacle, the Israelites already had the Gold and Silver. He gave Moses dimensions for the tabernacle and how it should be done and even told him the one to build the tabernacle in the person of Bezallile. He did same to David by giving him a privy of how the temple should look like.
Our men of God should be careful the things they do in the name of God because when He really wants something to be done for Him, He uses people who are willing and empowers them to do what He wants. Never in the Bible has He promised people “special blessings” before they gave to Him.
It is time congregants also got to know the God they serve well. It’s time they served God for who He is and what He stands for and stop turning God into an ATM machine. The persona of God goes beyond blessings.