THE NEXT time you attend a church service, don’t be surprised when in between sermons, there’s a special program slotted in for the pastor talk about development of the church.
In most cases, majority of issues put forward involve money: a house for the pastor, financing a trip within and abroad or even buying a car for “pastoral” use. Then one usher or two will walk around with special envelops which they distribute among the congregation. Christians are expected to put their tithes inside these envelops.
However, some people have questioned if it’s God’s command that Christians should tithe, considering that there’s no specific demand for tithing in the New Testament. They base their argument that neither Jesus, his disciples nor Paul tithed, let alone instructed Christians to do so.
But first what is tithe and what is its origin? In the Old Testament, the Law of Moses required tithing where Jews were expected to give 10% annually to the Levites, 10% annually on feasts for worship and 10% every third year for Levites and poor. In total, they surrendered about 23% of their annual income. However, a tithe was and is still different from offerings, vows and sacrifices.
There are a number of Christians today struggling with the subject of tithing. In a number of churches, tithing is over-stressed. At the same time, there are many Christians who refuse to yield to the biblical demand when it comes to tithing and making offerings to the lord, while others say that tithing or giving is intended to be a joy and a blessing.
John Iragena of Christian Life Assembly Church Nyarutarama, says that contrary to perceptions from some quarters that Christians now are not obligated to tithe, the New Testament clearly talks about the benefits and importance of giving. “We are told to give as we are able to, which could mean giving more or less than 10%. It all boils down to ability of the Christian and the requirement of the church.”
He adds that even though the New Testament is silent about tithing, it doesn’t imply that Old Testament traditions were to be done away with in totality. “In Matthew 5: 7, Jesus says, ‘don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the Law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.’”
Thus, he says that this is a strong basis in which Christians should continue to pay their obligation to God. However, he regrets that there are many church leaders today who preach more about “planting seeds” and do little to prove spiritual nourishment.
He says that Christians should be guided by the bible, since it encourages them to give freely without any coercion whatsoever. “The book of 2 Corinthians 9:7 says ‘ that each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’ Therefore it’s our responsibility as Christians to give, whether you are rich or poor according to your worth.”
Jeannette Kayonza of the Anglican Church in Kiyovu agrees. She says that Christians should give to the church, so long as religious leaders are accountable for the money they receive and use it for spreading the gospel. “They should give to the men of God who labour fulltime in the ministry, the poor and the widows in their own and other churches.”