Religion of 2013-12-26

The Tithing Controversy

The principle of cheerful giving and its tributary of prosperity preaching seem to have outshone and overtaken salvation—the underlying raison d’etre of Christ’s first coming and the very bedrock of Christianity—salvation!

The ever-potent rhetorical thought of the pointlessness of wealth amassing to the detriment of salvation appears to be have been muffled into painful oblivion. The distorted view about tithing bandied about by modern churches is understatedly lamentable. Evidence of sophistry in tithing and seed-sowing offerings has not just reached epic proportions, but has relegated Christ’s mission to the background.

Joshua’s plan—tithes—formulated to ensure fairness in ancient Israel has become the cash cow and a subtle ploy of modern charlatans. Basing its authority on Biblical verses, the piece seeks to shed a much-needed light on the topic while seeking to impede the deceits of those “clergy” of whose calling God is oblivious.

Underlying Reasons for Tithes

Tithes were invented as a solution to assist the Levites who were left out of the “inheritance”—the inheritance being the lands Joshua was dividing among the twelve tribes of Israel. The scriptural basis for tithing appears in Deuteronomy 14:22-29 and the oft cited and clichéd Malachi 3:8-10.

In Deuteronomy 14:22-29, it becomes apparent that one’s produce from the field must be tithed and the producer and his family must eat that tithe. The instruction does not give the slightest hint of tithes being the church’s right. Therefore, the Bible enjoining that tithes be taken to and eaten in the House of God may be suggested to be symbolic—accentuating one of the dominant themes permeating the Bible. In tithes, the fear of the Lord is cited just as baptism means being born again and the Holy Communion, eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood.

Consequently, the searing falsehood that puts monetary value on tithes becomes poignantly disconcerting. Despite the indispensability of money in contemporary economics and way of life, the truth is that tithes have nothing to do with money! This is evident in verses 24-26 of Deuteronomy 14 where if one cannot carry their tithes because of distance, they are required to exchange it for money, which should in turn be traded for whatever one desires. Crucially, those who claim there was no money in those days have their answer!

However, the desire for pompous lifestyles—as opposed to humble living—has brought about a grand disregard of the scriptures, where so-called pastors lift and cling onto Biblical verses they can falsify facilely to fool many gullible a Christian. Believing that we perish for lack of knowledge (Hosea, 4:6), this article aims to subjugate modern confidence tricksters who exploit the Bible to perpetuate their lavish lifestyles.

Levites and Tithes: Veritas vos Liberabit

Thus, the Latin phrase prefixed to this section with its anglicised rendition of “The truth shall set you free” informs both the scriptural meaning and a common-sense approach in demystifying tithes.

Nowhere in the Bible is it written that tithes are to fund the administration of churches nor the remuneration of the clergy; fattening the latter who appease the needy congregants with the utopian “sugarcandy mountains” reminiscent of the timeless Animal Farm. Tithes were not completely earmarked for the Levites; the Israelites were not to forsake them when enjoying their tithes. The same request not to forsake the Levites was extended to include strangers, orphans and widows.

Being a specific means to helping the have-nots, a full inquiry is required to establish why the modern, non-Jew clergy should even ask for tithes with the abundant evidence in the Bible (ibidem and Joshua, 18:7). Modern churches’ unbridled claim to tithes—a birthright of Levites—demands first, the identification of a Levite and the quest to corroborate if the contemporary clergy belongs to that special tribe. Therein lies the greatest disgraceful scam ever devised by humans to outwit their credulous peers! Let the scriptures be cited on how Jesus’ death makes every pastor a Levite and hence Jews of everyone!

The Bible is unequivocal on why the Levites should be helped with part of tithes: they have no inheritance/land and not because they do God’s work (see Deuteronomy, 14: 27, 29). The agricultural economy at the time meant that the Levites could not survive without help from fellow Israelites because they had no lands. Since the reason for helping the Levites was not because of the “priesthood of God [being] their inheritance” (ibidem), it beggars belief that modern educated, working pastors demand tithes. And how morally charming the whole phenomenon becomes when a rich pastor fleeces the poor congregants by employing the mistranslated text in Malachi that says those non-tithe-paying people are cursed.

Common-sense Theorising about Tithes

Tithing is one of the symbolic ways of showing the fear of God—a theme that pervades the entire Bible (Proverbs 9:10; 1:7 and Psalm 111:10). It is patently obvious that the present-day clergy cannot lay claim to being the helpless Levites who, even imbued with the zeal to farm, had no land on which to work.

The legitimate question is on whether or not tithes should be paid. The modern pastor is not a Levite and the agricultural economy being almost non-existent coupled with the fact that modern pastors are educated and have the ability to take employment mean that they do not deserve tithes. The Bible posits that at the end of every three years, tithes kept in the storehouse be brought out to feed the Levites (they are redundant now), strangers, orphans and widows. Are there churches following this very humane dictate of the scriptures? In the negative response to this rhetorical question, tithes should be paid directly to the needy in society and to charitable organisations rather than entrusting them to a few sordid people whose selfishness and personal welfare take over any godly considerations.

Moreover, in the twenty-first century where tax-collecting governments bill citizens over ten per cent to build roads, schools, hospitals and for supporting welfare funds, no unregulated organisation (including churches) should collect tithes from its members. The average twenty per cent tax each citizen pays is clearly more than the ten the Bible requests. And if tithing means a tenth, what happens when a farmer has nine sheep and not ten?

Concluding Comments

In summary, the philosophy of coercing people to give and the threat of curses for not paying tithes are quite un-Christian. The Bible is littered with giving from the heart but not grudgingly. Christ Himself made a fitting example of the widow’s mite. The shocking tale of Ananias and Sapphira’s perfidy and its outcome in Acts Chapter 5 is an excellent example why nobody should be forced to give to God.

Moreover, if Christian means of Christ, then Christians’ actions must bear a semblance to Christ’s. His excruciating metaphor: camel going through the eye of the needle and the rich entering God’s Kingdom must not be lost on anyone; for, it underpins humility against opulence, which has become a byword of the modern clergy. In fulfilling the scriptures, He sat on a donkey and not a flying horse. Hence, the sophistry-filled rationales supporting so-called Men of God driving about in flashy cars, acquiring private jets and expending immorally huge sums of money on their birthdays must be rejected flatly.

The point is not that blessed people should not help the church financially. But it must be remembered that a penny from the heart is more of a blessing than a cargo of gold given begrudgingly. Using one’s resources to help the needy in society must be encouraged as tithing. The despondent penchant of the modern clergy to “cite scripture for their purpose” (with apologies to Shakespeare) is disturbing. Since ignorance is not strength in God, woe unto those whose witless grasp of the subject of tithes is tantamount to mass deception.

Thomas Dickens (