In the beginning of the year I had this experience. I met my friend standing by the curbside with a peculiar look in his face. This was after the first Sunday of the year 2017.I knew he was a bit troubled by a thought. I decided to engage him and this is what I got;
“I have to pay my First Fruits (Handing over your entire paycheck at the beginning of the year). I was troubled because the Pastor was unable to validate how missing the idea of paying my tithes in the first month is covered by First fruits. So maybe I will do what the bible says which requires a 20% surcharge + tithes = 30% (Leviticus 27:30-32) for anybody not paying his tithes for a certain period.
Other thoughts floating in my mind includes making a vow for the beginning of the year which requires “seed”. My dues for Men’s fellowship is required and I am a part of the Pastoral Care Dept in the church! He went on and on and these expenditures did not include collection for him and his entire family. Collection for Tuesday Bible class and Collection for Thursday Prayer night! This did not include money you throw on the alter when Pastor hits a point in the sermon or the money you hold in your hand before closing prayer to put in the bin after saying a proclamation for a great week!
It slowly dawned on me that this was something that we need to address. A risky venture when you consider that people are so brainwashed that nobody is even allowed to ask questions even though the bible permits us to test the spirit behind all these events.
Trivia Question; What is the most secured room in the USA that is not a bank vault or the White House?
Answer; The account rooms in the branches of African churches overseas where all the money from the congregation is counted!
Redeem Christian Church of God ,Winners Chapel,Omega Fire Ministries and the list goes on and on . The race is on to have a branch in every city in the USA and every city in Europe. We are talking about 52 weeks of Sunday payday that is taken to the beloved homeland.
The flip side of this trend is that never before in my life have I seen the number of Nigerian Pastors,that I see living in cities likeHouston ,Texas. Also for some strange reason they are majority Igbo people.Pastor,Apostle,Evangelist,Bishop and Singing Ministers.
Let us see the advantages of this trend in our lives.
Jews and other religions have a place you can go and pray in as sanctuary, anytime of the day. These African churches are exclusively locked for most of the time unless you are a staff or Pastor’s confidant. No, you cannot use their Wi-Fi and no do not ever ask for any favors.
In other words, if your Father or Mother died, they died, go and bury them in Nigeria!
You lost your job? Too bad and that’s that!
You cannot pay your bills? Buy your coffin!
Your child couldn’t make it to college for lack of scholarship? Go and watch Pastor’s baby!
You had a baby? Getting married? Holy Ghost overdose for you and the dollars, Euros and other foreign currency are for us!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In all this you now wonder about your humongous list of dreams! In the same repertoire is money you must send to the aged parents back home. Money, you must send to other loved ones, family members and friends. There is the pressure of building an edifice in your village and nearest metropolitan city to show you made it in the USA or Europe plus a nice car in each edifice’s garage to complete the pic.
Your children’s college fund? Your dreams of opening a viable business someday in the USA or Europe?
It is amazing, it is mind boggling.
My friend’s voice brought me back from my mental wanderings when he told me that he is also struggling with the financial aspect of Christianity. He could not shake off the last crusade he attended in which the pastor with a sneer criticized how people dressed in the USA but lived on credit or drove cars with credit and owned houses with credit. Then he calculated in his mind that if he paid his tithes faithfully for the year 2017 it would amount to $9000. He could sure use that sum to alleviate the scourge of credit!!!!!!!!!!!!
Shortly after that, he perused Nigerian media and watched the spiritual leader in question chummy up in a picture with a politician that notoriously looted his sector dry as a governor and he wondered if he was doing the right thing.
I did give him the advice that is famous in the bible when he had opened up about all these observations,” Give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and unto God what belongs to God! I bade my friend bye and decided to go home. My mind was racing while I made the journey home and questions in my mind were simple.
Was our Lord more readily seen with Zacchaeus or with Governor Pontius Pilate? Was our Lord more about the private jet and all this wealth or about riding into Jerusalem on a donkey? Was our Lord about telling the people to sit on the grass and give them food for the sake of their hunger or was he about taking from them what they have?
I began to do my research into the issue of tithes in the bible. Tithing as a command is not issued in the New Testament. Rather I see Jesus descend on the Pharisees in Matt 23:23 for pushing tithes to the very last penny when there are other important virtues such as justice, mercy and faith.
Most Pastors selectively talk about Hebrews 7: 1-12 as that Abraham payed tithes to Melchizedek and that made Levi in the future uniquely blessed as the tribe that received tithes in the temple. However, they fail to see that verse 12 says that change in the priesthood (From Levi to Jesus Christ) also leads to a change in the laws.
So tithes is now more of where your heart is, that will be the place your money goes. It is generosity that God requires from us without the strings attached as law obeyed or disobeyed and it does not replace the power of the Blood of Jesus to keep evil at bay!!!!!
Enough of the theology, however with a sober mood I ask myself a deeper question.
Is there any institution that Nigerians can demand accountability from?
The church is too big and holy to ask for accountability and what exactly are they giving back to God’s people? The Government is too big and “honorable” to ask for accountability and has ruined the lives of countless generations by deceit and impunity. Both have the same strange attributes of taking all from the society and having fierce followers who bristle at the very thought of authority of their entities questioned. A two-tiered slavery system in which the Africans are doomed to stay in forever.
I think in the end we must love ourselves, for then shall we prevent people from taking advantage of us!
Just me using my thoughts!!!
By Clayton Udoh, USA