Saturday, 8 June 2013

Three Questions (or ‘Headstrong’ Part I)

They wanted to know why they have never seen me come out to give my tithe.

They asked in the nicest, most polite way possible. I understood that their intention was not to be offensive, and I took no offense. I also sensed that this question was a sort of build-up to another, overarching question – that this visit was no ordinary visit.

I have to explain what they meant by ‘come out.’

For years in my church, tithe-giving (that is, giving a tenth of one’s income towards the work of God) was a private affair. In the recent past, however, this changed unceremoniously. As I remember it, one Sunday, a visiting pastor asked all those that had their tithes to come out to the altar for a special prayer. And that was it. From then on, it became a weekly occurrence – an announcement each Sunday for all those with their tithes prepared to come out for prayer prior to the act of giving.

I thought this was odd as I had never witnessed this practice before in my years of church attendance in various countries, but I also reasoned that it wasn’t obligatory to come to the altar if one didn’t feel right about it. (This wasn’t a cult, after all.) I kept my thoughts on the matter to myself, though, and have continued to give my tithe privately. No one had ever called me out on it, and I never expected anyone to as no rationale was ever given for this abruptly-introduced, new practice. In the meantime, I have observed as the number of tithe-givers at the altar increased from month to month.

I appreciated the fact that I was now asked this question point-blank by a couple that I deeply respect. My response to them was that the fact that one doesn’t give their tithe publicly doesn’t necessarily mean that one isn’t a tithe-giver. My position is that the important thing is to give your tithe, and that the process of doing so may be different for different members. If the church has concerns that its members are not doing so, then it needs to devote time to teaching about the rationale and power behind giving.

I’m very aware of the debates around tithing and I’ve met one or two members of my own church who are of the opinion that tithing isn’t meant to be a modern practice. Even then, few people I’ve met that have issues with tithing believe that Christians should simply not be givers. I think most people of faith are more concerned about being manipulated (or about watching others experience this) than about giving itself.

With my divorce, I’ve had to get smarter about my finances, and so I have a number of finance-related books by my bed. I must have at least 4 of Suze Orman’s books. I read Jean Chatzky, too, and some others. One of the things that I know Suze Orman teaches for sure is the importance of giving some of what you have away (I think Jean Chatzky does, too, but don’t quote me on that!). Giving really does seem to be an important principle that the wealthy tend to adhere to, whether they are people of faith or not – and, of course, there are so many ways to give that are beyond finances alone.

They assured me that the church didn’t raise any concerns about my giving, and that these were just their personal questions to me.  I explained that I thought it was a bit manipulative to have all tithe-givers make themselves known publicly. It also had the potential to encourage certain wrong motivations for giving. There was some agreement about this, but I was asked to consider those who might not be giving their tithes because they had the impression that I (as a church worker/leader) wasn’t giving mine, either.

I pointed out that it all goes back to proper teaching, if this was indeed a concern. Besides, why would anybody base their tithing decisions on my behavior alone, and not on that of the majority of the church members who did give their tithes publicly?

There was a reminder that being ‘under authority’ in a church, sometimes you do things out of respect for the authority that you operate under. I explained that I believe in reasoning with the authorities about things I may not agree with. Plus, even the authorities have blind spots, and if no one points them out, then we’re all in big trouble.

The tithing question was one of three that I was asked that day. The discussion took me back to how I began tithing in the first place.

I started tithing at age 16 or 17, which is the first time I actually heard the word ‘tithe.’ In those days, Bishop Benson Idahosa’s ministry brought Frederick K. C. Price’s ‘Ever-Increasing Faith’ program on the air in our little town, and Frederick Price was doing a series on tithing. I got the part about the tithe being ‘one-tenth’ of your income, but I didn’t fully grasp the process through which tithes should be paid. I calculated my tithe for the first time ever and it was exactly five naira. I mailed it to the address on the screen (Idahosa’s ministry), with a note saying I wanted to buy some tapes with it (I don’t remember if they were music tapes or teaching tapes). My understanding was that I could use my tithe to buy ‘Christian’ stuff. (I’m not sure how I came up with this idea.)

Some weeks later, I got a package from Idahosa’s ministry. I was so excited! It was pretty large. I thought it would contain the tapes I meant to purchase. I opened it up to find a large book instead. It was a book by Fred Price about tithing. There was a note, too, politely explaining that I couldn’t actually purchase things with the tithe, but that here was a book that would help me understand tithing better.

I read the book from cover to cover and referred to it many times over the years. I wonder where that book is right now. It was such a good resource and I think it mysteriously disappeared in my early years of marriage.

Now, that’s how I learned how to tithe. I learned because someone took the time to teach me. They could have taken my ‘measly’ five naira tithe and ignored me and my note. It was such a small amount of money, after all – certainly not worth the book and the postage back then. But they took the time, bless their hearts, and sowed a seed that has absolutely flourished over the years. The message that their actions impressed on my teenage heart was that giving was so important that they were prepared to spend their money to ensure that I learned how to do it. Again, it all goes back to proper teaching.

So do I give my tithe? The answer is a big ‘YES!’  I’ve been a serious tither ever since that day. Just not publicly.


  1. I feel you on the 'coming out to tithe matter' but I hear them more though-about you being 'an example' to onlookers(if ure in a position of authority)Recall Apostle Pauls'(sounds like one physically knows him from somewhere?) theory of 'not eating that food if it'd bring ur neighbour down'etc... On a different note...amazing how much attention Idahosa's ministry paid to your tithe matter at the time...can't help wondering if it were today-what would ve happened? God help us all...

    1. Hi, Kiki. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! I would find my church's position a bit more compelling if they had always been this way. I've been with them 7 years, and this just started about two years ago. So for people to suddenly be regarded as being in the 'wrong' when it was once 'right' ... I just don't get it. Plus, I guess I always think about Matthew 6: giving without letting the right hand know what the left hand is doing, and being careful not to practice our righteousness in front of others, to be seen by then. I guess we will each think of these things differently, and it really does boil down to ensuring you're a giver, and ensuring everyone else is carried along with good teaching. But yes, it still amazes me when I think about the time and effort Idahosa's ministry took with one individual completely unknown to them. God help us, indeed!

  2. Hmm, in my case, I vividly remember in my church the family meeting where it was put forward as an idea to 'encourage' (coerce in my opinion) people to pay their tithes.As for me, O-Y-O for them as I sit singing. But come to think of it how many that come out are actually paying one tenth? Furthermore, is it the prayers they say on coming out that generates blessings or your obedience? As for authority, Paul said follow me as I follow Christ; implying to me, follow me when I follow Christ, when I choose my own opinion... Ignorance destroys within and outside the church. God bless the Idahosa ministry, as they taught you the truth, tithe is within you and wherever you go, whether they come out or not,whether the authority figure is there or not you will pay it needing no coercion, sorry encouragement.

    1. You’re so funny – I had to laugh (‘encouragement’ and ‘OYO as I sit singing’)!! And that’s right: follow me as I follow Christ – not blindly. Seriously, though, did you ever watch the Jim Jones movie? Gives me the chills. All it would have taken was for someone to speak up. Jim Jones started out as a really sincere Christian, and he gradually became something else while everybody around him just watched and most eventually died. As you say: O.Y.O. state.

  3. I have been struggling with the tithe issue for a couple of months; not really on whether to give it or not but rather on who to give it to & I'll come to that soon. I however do believe that calling members forward is a bit manipulative especially if it's not been a custom in the church beforehand. Luckily I go to a church that though tithing is encouraged, it's not overemphasized as in some churches nowadays, this is clearly not in the spirit of 2 Corinthians 9.

    A few weeks back, I put a post on Facebook asking if one can give the tithe to a sister or brother in dire need, I wasn't referring to some brokeass guy who wasn't interested in working but a believer who had issues. My question had a bit of background, a dear brother whom we lost in the Dana air flight of a year ago left behind a young wife & little girl. We members of his unit in church decided to contribute monthly to the widows upkeep since she was not working at that time, in addition to what the church was doing in respect of the child's education. What peeved me was the level of solicitation that had to made before folks could send in their contributions, I thought that wasn't good enough. Some 3 months back, I wasn't in country and couldn't send in my contribution on time, I got back and saw the mail soliciting for the brethren to pay up. I was torn between sending in my contribution & paying my full tithe due to my cash flow at that time, I chose the former.

    This and some other happenings made me put up that post, sure enough I got bashing from people saying you must always pay your tithe to the church, it's the law blah blah blah, I read their comments and just thought of this dear sister & my widowed aunt that I had been contributing to her children's education for years.

    I decided to do some study and stumbled on Deuteronomy 26:12 that talks about giving tithes to the strangers, fatherless & widows & I thought if tithing was established during the law, I have been even giving more than my tithes over the years. I felt a tinge of relief after this discovery although I have a couple of questions unanswered.

    I believe we should tithe but also believe we should uphold the weightier matters of the law as Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 23;23.


    1. Hi, Demashi. Good to hear from you and great question. I’ve wondered about the same thing in the past and also stumbled on passages in Deuteronomy and that cleared things up for me. I still feel like I have an obligation to give regularly to my church home because the bills do need to get paid, but I also have those occasions when I strongly feel like I need to give part of it elsewhere (not a random person, either, but usually people like missionaries going where no one else wants to go to do stuff for God that no one else wants to do). There are good reasons why the tithe should go to the church home, but there’s also a fine line between being legalistic and being … I don’t know what term I’m looking for (Spirit-led?). Who needs it most at the time – the church or the widow? Tough questions. I agree with you that we should uphold weightier matters of the law (justice, mercy, faithfulness) – without neglecting tithing, though!

      Incidentally (and off topic), I lost someone in the Dana crash, too. A sort of father figure who went out of his way to generously buy my ex-husband and I a brand new set of furniture when we were newly-weds. May all of their souls rest in peace.

    2. Hi Demashi,

      I struggle just like you with the tithe too, as i have always had a problem with who to give it to, thank you for articulating properly what i think and bless you RMJ for putting this up too.

    3. Thanks for leaving a comment, Jemima. This is definitely a topic that raises all kinds of questions for many of us.

  4. I wish this was Facebook, i really wanted to click the "like" button in a couple of places. Thanks for sharing RMJ! Thanks Demashi too for your comment.

    1. Thank you, Casio. Been a while; hope you've been well. (=

    2. Yes i've been well and truly missed you! :)