Date Published: 07/12/10
What Pastors Won’t Tell You About Tithes by Kola Oshobi
“And my people shall know the truth and the truth shall set them free” “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse for ye have robbed me even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the store house and prove me now herewith saith the lord of hosts if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing, that there would not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3 : 8 -10
The above quoted scripture is probably one of the most quoted in the bible.
Unfortunately, it is being quoted out of context and used as a weapon of mass intimidation, manipulation, extortion, oppression, cajolery and outright lies and deceit by some church leaders to collect 10 per cent of the gross income of their church members who have been hoodwinked into believing that they are doing God’s will.
Before I go into the details of this discourse, I want to state categorically that I am a God-loving, bible-believing Christian who has the fear of God in his heart. I am also not writing this article to undermine any church or pastor, but to let people realize the truth about tithes and remove the yoke placed by some pastors upon them. I also want to state categorically that I strongly believe in giving to the church for the sole purpose of propagating God’s work and the Christian ministry. I will continue to encourage all Christians to give their all to God as exemplified by the widow’s mite which Jesus Christ himself referred to in the bible.
Now, back to Malachi 3:8-10, the first question one should ask is who was this message directed at? The answer lies in the book of Numbers 18:25-28 which states that “The Lord commanded Moses to say to the Levites, when you receive from the Israelites the tithe that the Lord gives you as your possession, you must present a tenth of it as a special contribution to the Lord. This special contribution will be considered as the equivalent of the offering which the farmer makes of new grain and wine. In this way you would also present the special contribution which belongs to the Lord from all the tithes which you receive from the Israelites. You are to give this special contribution for the Lord to Aaron the priest.”
From the above, it is clear that it was the Levites that were directed to pay a tithe they collected from the Israelites to the priest who represents God and not the people of Israel. It was these Levites that were being referred to in the book of Malachi as those who rob God. A thorough study of the book of Malachi would reveal that in those days the Levites were collecting the tithe from the people of Israel and not remitting a tithe of it to the house of God, hence Malachi’s statement which is now being quoted out of context.
To understand what tithe really means one would have to understand the social reasons and cultural/religious setting within which it was situated. This concept of tithes was properly explained in the bible as stated in the laws of the tithe which can be found in the books of Leviticus 27:30-34, Numbers 18:25-31 and Deuteronomy 14:22-29. Upon reading these passages one would understand what tithes really mean, but unfortunately most pastors prefer to neglect these passages that tell us the true meaning of tithes and emphasize on Malachi 3:8-10 which was directed to the Levites of that time to remit the priest’s share of the tithes they collected to him. It is worthy of note that Malachi does not even define what tithe is and how it should be paid.
The definition of tithes, as practised today, was manufactured by modern day pastors to suit their purpose as it is completely in contrast with what is in the bible and it only seeks to manipulate Christians to believe that God requests 10 per cent of their gross income from them.
So what is tithe and why did God request that it be paid to the Levities? The answer can be found in the following passages: Leviticus 27:30-32 which states that “one tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain or fruit belongs to the Lord. If a man wishes to buy back any of it he must pay the standard price plus an additional 20 per cent. One in every ten domestic animal belongs to the Lord. When the animals are counted, every tenth one belongs to the Lord.” And Deuteronomy 26:12 which states that “every third year give the tithe, a tenth of your crops to the Levites, the foreigners, the orphans and the widows, so that in every community they will have all they need to eat.”
The above quoted passages clearly tell us what tithe is and the reason why God directed the people of Israel to pay tithes. It is very evident that it was a social arrangement for the less privileged in the Jewish society of that time. It was also meant to take care of the Levites because they had no land or property of their own (today, pastors are amongst the wealthiest property owners in Nigeria). This social arrangement is obviously not relevant to us today. It also states that every third year is the year of tithing, not the weekly/monthly tithes being extorted from church members today.
Another passage illustrates the true meaning of tithes properly and also states clearly that tithe is not money. Deuteronomy 14:22-29 says: “Set aside as tithe a tenth of all that your fields produce each year then go to the one place where the Lord your God has chosen to be worshiped and there in his presence eat the tithes of your grain, wine and olive oil and first born of your cattle and sheep. Do this so that you may learn to have reverence for the Lord your God always. If the place of worship is too far from your home for you to carry there the tithe of the produce that the Lord has blessed you with, then sell your produce and take the money with you to the one place of worship, spend it on whatever you want ,beef, lamb, wine, beer and there in the presence of the lord you and your family are to eat and enjoy yourselves. Do not neglect the Levites who live in your towns for they have no property of their own. At the end of every third year, bring the tithe of all your crops and store it in your towns. This is food for the Levites since they own no property and for the orphans, foreigners and widows who live in your towns. Do this and the lord your God would bless you in everything you do.”
From the above passage, it is very clear that tithe is not money and it is not the exclusive preserve of the Levites (church). It was a religious practice in those days to give reverence to God and to celebrate God in his place of worship. The Levites were only included for the main reason that they had no land of their own and that reason is not relevant in today’s society. Yet some pastors would tell you that you are cursed and would not go to heaven if you don’t give them 10 per cent of your gross income. All this hypocrisy would not have bothered me if all the money being collected was being used to propagate God’s work. But the truth as we all know today is that this money is being used to finance lavish, flamboyant and exotic lifestyle that is unbecoming of a man who truly claims to serve God, as a pastor who is expected to be meek and humble like our Lord Jesus Christ was.
As a concluding part to this article, I would want to refer us to the book of Hebrews, which was written to the early Christians. This provides irrefutable proof that Christians are not meant to pay tithes as the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ does not require it.
Hebrews 7:5, says: “And those descendants of Levites who are priests are commanded by the law to collect one tenth from the people of Israel, that is from their own countrymen even though their countrymen are also descendants of Abraham.”
From this verse, we can jump to verses 11-13 which say: “It was on the basis of the Levitical priesthood that the law was given to the people of Israel. Now, if the work of the Levitical priests had been perfect there would be no need for a different kind of priest to appear, one who is in the priestly order of Melchizedek not of Aaron. For when the priesthood is changed, there also has to be a change in the law. And our Lord of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe of Judah and Moses did not mention his tribe when he spoke of priests.”
The above passage is self-explanatory and it states clearly that the practice of tithing has no place under the priestly order of our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, the passage suggests that the collection of tithes is belittling of the priestly order of our Lord Jesus Christ. It states that it is wrong for us as Christians to receive or pay tithes and is not relevant to us as Christians because we belong to a superior priestly order.
Once again, I would like to state that this article is not meant for us as Christians to revolt against the church or our pastors. It is just meant to establish the biblical truth about tithes and remove the yoke from people who labour to pay tithes–not required of them by God–while their pastors are living luxuriously. Today, many pastors see the church as their personal business and even fraudulent people are opening up churches so that they can have access to people’s tithes and use it for their personal comfort. I encourage all of us as Christians to remain vigilant and continue to serve God in truth and in faith to the glory of his holy name. Amen.
Another point of note is: how come out of the 613 biblical laws of Moses which were handed out to the people of Israel, it is only an adulterated version of the law of tithe that is still being practiced today, apart from the Ten Commandments? How come we are no longer required to offer burnt sacrifices? How come we no longer stone people to death for sinning? The truth is that only tithing was dug out of the laws of Moses because it presents material benefits to the collectors of tithes. Given that most Christians do not study their bibles and depend on their priests to guide them through, it was easy for pastors to pick a passage in the bible (Malachi 3 : 8-10), quote it out of context and use it to manipulate the flock into parting with 10 per cent of their income. Furthermore, it is worthy of note that neither Jesus Christ nor any of the apostles ever preached about or collected tithe. In fact, in the bible, Jesus Christ only spoke about tithes in Luke 11:42 which states that: “But woe unto you Pharisees! For ye tithe mint and rue all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” Here we can see that Jesus Christ is rebuking the Pharisees for laying emphasis on tithes instead of the more important things of the spirit, like our pastors are doing today.
In Acts 15, we find outlined what the apostles all agreed was necessary for the newly converted Gentiles to practise, and by inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, tithing is conspicuously missing. Yet, what is one of the very first legislated duties taught to Gentile converts by the Church today? It is that they must tithe their annual salaries to the Church. Where did this unscriptural law of Christian tithing come from?
Notice this telling bit of history from the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1963, volume 22, page 253, ‘TITHES’). “Tithes in Christendom—The earliest authentic example of anything like a law of the State enforcing payment appears to occur in the capitularies [Ecclesiastes] of Charlemagne at the end of the 8th or beginning of the 9th century. Tithes were, by that enactment, to be applied to the maintenance of the bishop, clergy, the poor, and the fabric of the church. In the course of time the principle of payment of tithes was extended far beyond its original intention. Thus, they became transferable to laymen and saleable like ordinary property, despite the injunctions of the third Lateran Council; and they became payable out of sources of income [not just farming and herding, but other trades and occupations and salaries paid in the form of money] not originally tithable.”
The Catholic Church knows its own history. Here is how tithing got back into the Church after being absent for nearly five centuries:
“As the Church expanded and various institutions arose, it became necessary to make laws which would insure the proper and permanent support of the clergy. The payment of tithes was adopted from the Old Law… The earliest positive legislation on the subject seems to be contained in the letter of the bishops assembled at Tours in 567 and the [canons] of the Council of Macon in 585.”—The Catholic Encyclopaedia.
They “extended” their base of tithe collecting to eventually include all forms of income. All Christian scholars know that although money was in wide use in ancient Israel, it was never a titheable commodity. But modern pastors don’t want tithes of goats or oil or corn, they want money–cold, hard cash! God has a word to the “shepherds of the sheep”, and it is the very same message that He had for the Levites in the book of Malachi. And it is this:
“My people have been lost sheep, their shepherds have caused them to go astray” (Jer. 50:6).
Were Israelites aware that they were being led astray by their spiritual leaders? Not most, and neither are Christians today aware that they are being led astray by their spiritual leaders.
– Oshobi is a businessman based in Lagos.