I would like to start off with this humble caveat that this piece is not intended to stoke any theological debate or controversy, especially if it threatens or offends your opinion or social conscience, but simply to bring to our attention the stark truth that the Church Universal or the Local Church does more than taking (I guess the right word is ‘receiving’) tithes as the world and the ‘simple’ have been made to believe.
The unpleasant surprise handed down by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) these last few months is unprecedented in the history of mankind. This challenge has seen super powers helpless and defenceless even as they do their best to utterly reverse the effects of this invisible enemy.
It is also obvious that faith-based organisations like churches and other religious organisations have not been spared the effects of this pandemic. It is in the light of this that we have seen spontaneous response from the Mainline, Pentecostal, Charismatic and other Christian religious groupings trying to bring relief in various forms to their members and even the general public who are adversely impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown.
We appreciate and commend all public-spirited individuals and churches for doing their very best to give out their ‘widows mite’ to alleviate the sufferings of the needy and the vulnerable amongst us, especially those in the house of faith.
At this point, the natural unanswered question is: why this outpouring of support and love by the Church to its members? I guess the natural response is: they can feel the pain of their members and humanity.
I dare say without any equivocation that most of these churches funded or are still funding these initiatives from their meagre revenue in the forms of tithes and offerings which have been met by steep opposition and hijacked by anti-church crusaders who consider it as an Old Testament religious practice or principle, which is inapplicable in New Testament era.
Interestingly, if the opposite was the case in the face of current happenings, trust me, these same crusaders would have been shouting from high heavens all in an apparent attempt to give the church a bad news for shirking or abdicating its responsibility to help members.
Also, I am tempted to safely conclude that it is the ‘meat or food’ in the house (church) by way of the tithes and offerings the church received as stated in Malachi 3:10, which is what is enabling the church do what it is doing now. Is it not amazing the concerted effort of governments and nations around the world, including ours here in Ghana, has helped to mitigate the discomfort of the needy with bailout packages coming from the taxes of the same people?
Whilst tithing or first fruits is mathematical in terms of percentages in the Old Testament, I have come to understand that tithing under grace, for that matter the New Testament, is even much more where Jesus asked the young rich ruler (Mark 10:17-22;28-30) to go sell all he had and come follow him. Thus tithing in the New Testament is about giving all to God and not about percentages based on your love and commitment to Him, which was far higher than the requirement of the law.
In the Early Church we see examples like Barnabas and others who laid their offerings at the feet of the Apostles as recorded in Acts 4:34-37, which was an excellent example of how people gave to God, because they saw themselves as stewards of what they owned. They gave to help eradicate poverty in the early church – none lacked.
From the scriptures, you will always see how God commands His people since the Old Testament time to demonstrate their love and be of immense support to humanity, especially their community.
I end by saying that if helping the needy in the church or the vulnerable in society is not an Old Testament concept or practice, then tithing or giving CANNOT be an Old Testament concept or practice either.
Let’s continue to give to the church to enable her to fulfil her mandate here on earth. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18
I thank you and ask for kingdom blessings for you for making time to read this piece.
>>>The writer is the pastor of ICGC Open Heavens Temple, East Legon, Accra, Ghana.