opinionBy Femi Aribisala
In the kingdom of God, the extent of our gift is not determined by what we give but by what we choose not to give.
Two men were shipwrecked in a deserted island. One of them began screaming and yelling: "We're going to die! There's no food! No water!" The other one was as calm as can be. His colleague shouted at him: "Don't you understand?! We're going to die!" Unperturbed, the other man replied: "We won't die.
I make ten million naira a week." "What difference does that make?" asked his colleague, now very irritated. The second man answered: "You just don't get it. I make ten million naira a week; out of which I pay ten percent in tithe every week. Wherever I am, my pastor will surely find me!"
Jesus says under the law there were much weightier matters than paying tithes. (Matthew 23:23). But pastors, who maintain Christians are not under the law, nevertheless give Christians the false impression that the main duty of the believer pertains to tithes and offerings.
They are what mercenary pastors use to determine their own true believers. The more money you give to the church, the bigger you are told your mansion will be in heaven and the more glory you will receive in church here on earth.
Evander Holyfield was a Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World who talked virtually non-stop about God. Some people went to his pastor, Creflo Dollar, to find out if his faith was no more than a public relations gimmick. But the pastor could not have been more certain about Evander's spiritual credentials. According to Creflo Dollar, Evander is a wonderful Christian for one basic reason: "He is a tither." He gives ten percent of his income to the church.
When Evander fought Mike Tyson for the heavyweight boxing championship, he was paid a cool $35 million. He dutifully gave $3.5 million out of this to Creflo Dollar. If a man can give that much money to his church, he must be a very good Christian indeed. Tithing is alleged by pastors to open the windows of heaven for "tithers." However, Evander has since declared bankruptcy while Creflo is rolling in dollars.
Vanguard reports Pastor Adeboye as telling his Redeemed Church congregants: "Anyone who is not paying his tithe is a God robber and from now on let it be clear; anyone who is not a regular tither cannot be married in the church. Anyone who is not a regular tither cannot be ordained in the church. We will not ordain robbers, nor will the church accept a non-regular tither to build in the sprawling redemption camp because we do not want to dwell with robbers of God."
In the jaundiced view of pastors like Adeboye, the best Christians are those who give the biggest offerings. Therefore, Adeboye even created a "millionaires club" in Redeemed. To be a member, you have to give him one million naira.
Shaming the poor
In churches, these millionaires are often paraded for special commendation when they make their fat-cat donations, even though the Lord insists our charitable deeds must be done in secret. (Matthew 6:2-4). As a result, the foolish person is declared generous and the miser is proclaimed to be bountiful. (Isaiah 32:5). Sometimes, the entire congregation is asked to pray especially for these exhibitionist Christians. So doing, we shame the poor who cannot afford their lavish gifts. We imply that, because of their lean resources, they are not good Christians.
But Jesus does not commend those who give big offerings. As a matter of fact, he singled out for commendation a poor widow who gave the least. Jesus teaches that, in the kingdom of God, the value of our gift is not determined by what we give but by what we choose not to give. The more we have but choose not to give, the less we are deemed to have given. (Mark 12:43-44). Nevertheless, pastors continue to use the worldly yardstick which sees the value of a man's gift as essentially its size.
Sunday after Sunday, the rich are encouraged to give ostentatious testimonies, glorying in their increased wealth. God derides this kind of money-centred religious showmanship. He said disparagingly to the Israelites: "Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years. Burn leavened bread as a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings- boast about them, you Israelites, for this is what you love to do." (Amos 4:4-5).
Thanks to pastors, the churches are full of hungry people. We are hungry for bread, for money and for breakthrough. But we are not hungry for God. Yet we are told God will meet our hunger for the vanities of this world. Pay first your tithes and offerings and all these things will be multiplied unto you. Worship God with a few pledges and he will be obligated to provide all you need. However, Jesus only proclaims blessings on those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. (Matthew 5:6).
Every church service, the main order of business is to sow money in order to reap a hundredfold financial return. In the process, churches have been turned into casinos, where people come to gamble on Sundays in the vain hope that they will multiply miraculously whatever they give. However, God's message is radically different. Isaiah says: "Come without money and without price." (Isaiah 55:1). Instead, what do we have in the churches of today? Jesus multiplied loaves of bread, but pastors multiply money.
Jesus says: "The seed is the word of God" (Luke 8:11); but pastors say: "the seed is your offering." Jesus says: "By their fruits you shall know them." But pastors say: "By their tithes you shall know them." Whose report will we believe?
The modern Christian church has become a harlot and not Paul's bride of Christ. A wife's relationship with her husband is based on love, while the harlot's relationship with another woman's husband is for the sake of money. The love of money is the bane of many churches. The Lord himself warns against this. He says: "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." (Matthew 6:24).
Hebrews maintains God rewards those who diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6). But he certainly does not reward those who diligently seek money. It is a contradiction in terms for God to reward a lover of God with money. Those who seek God are rewarded with God. God says: "I am your exceedingly great reward." (Genesis 15:1).
Let me tell you a parable. Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" Then Philip answered, "Lord, let us raise a special offering.
We shall call it 'the bread and fish offering.' We shall tell the people that whoever gives a special seed offering for it would get a hundredfold return." Then Jesus said to Philip, "Get thee behind me Satan, you are an offence unto me, for you are mindful of the ways of pastors and not of the ways of God."