Of tithes, thieves and the Church tax

Dear fellow thief,

The tithing debate is back with us, and I feel as guilty as sin.

A tweet attributed to Mavuno Church Uganda this Sunday jolted my conscience. The tweet quoted Malachi 3:8–9, perhaps the hardest hitting statements in the bible about tithing; the tweet called all non-compliant people thieves.

‘Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.’

Last time I had a conversation with friends about tithing there were sharply drawn lines about what exactly the tithe should be: a tenth of one’s gross earnings, a tenth of net earnings or a tenth of all your possessions’ we did not conclude that debate, and I strongly believe this article will not come to an explicit conclusion.

‘And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord’ (Lev. 27:30–34)

So what is a tithe?

My fellow thieves, you need no explanation this but the sake of you who are yet to be acquainted; God demands that you give a tenth of your wealth to the Church.

Perhaps a church tax should be introduced?

The Church tax in Germany is another interesting concept. I was prompted by a group chat from my friend Doreen Mbalo who lived in Bonn, Germany , who told us about paying a Church tax as a member of the Catholic Church.

That piqued my curiosity and I went on to read more about the Church tax and found out that Germany and a number of Nordic countries require tax payers to pay a Church tax as an element within income tax. It is believed that the bulk of Germany’s income is from Church tax. All Germans who officially register as Catholics, Protestants or Jews on their tax documentation must pay a religious tax of 8 to 9 percent on their annual income tax bill.

This has led to many questions about why the government is collecting the tax on behalf of the church. In our case, if local churches were openly publishing their financial records for reasons of transparency, without a doubt, many more people would be paying their tithes, cheerfully.

so, I haven’t tithed in a while because I have allowed myself to have a personal conversation about where that money goes. Sometimes this argument has been viewed as an excuse not to tithe. However, I have lost my belief in the Church’s ability to wisely manage finances. So, I have, in my stubborn opinion decided to find other ways of giving to people and places I believe need the money.

Here’s my argument and I’m happy to quote Deut. 14:28–29 which says ‘
At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.’

This passage talks about tithing for orphans, widows, and sojourners, and I strongly believe that the reason why across the world, philanthropic funding is growing faster than Church offerings is because the Church is losing ground, and losing its congregants and also losing the moral authority to collect tithes, especially since in recent years, church ministers have grown to become some of the wealthiest people in society.

So will I quietly tithe and watch our church ministers cruise around in 4 by 4 vehicles and private jets accompanied by burly security personnel while hungry children walk about hopelessly in destitution hoping that tomorrow they will eat something?

Will God forgive me for taking my money to an old people’s home or children’s home or buying food and clothing for the poor using my 10%?
Does God care that money given to Churches is spent wisely on what the tithe was meant for, which is building the church and spreading the gospel?

What is the Church’s role in giving to the poor?

What does the Church use its donations and offerings for?

The question I really want to as though is; is God is still resident in some of our houses of worship.

I have a mixture of fear and anger when I raise these questions even just with myself, and my biggest fear as a thinker is that I read and question ideologies, whether biblical, atheist or even scientific, even though sometimes my belief in God and principles of faith push me to drawing some fine lines. I don’t know about you, fellow thief, but I grew up on proclamations such as ‘Do not question God’ and I find that no matter how educated or socially exposed I get, I still find it difficult to question some biblical philosophies as an upshot of my Christian upbringing.

Anyway, let’s move on to my other argument. The bible says that God loves a cheerful giver. Note, this not the cheer some churches have adopted by telling congregants to rise and sing and be cheerful just before offertory. I find that a number of Churches use a mix of Bible induced manipulation, bullying and threats to their congregants by using verses such as the one from Malachi quoted earlier about thieves, when we all know thieves will burn in hell.

On the flipside, human nature dictates that we believe in the Principles of plenty.

Honour the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. (Prov. 3:9–10)

Most Christians who give cheerfully might belong here with the rest of us mere mortals. This verse however, in my humble opinion introduces a ‘this and that; or a ‘give and take’ nuance to tithing. But, is this the right kind of correlation?

God clearly knew that we would ask this and said, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

I believe in that. Really I do, and in testing God as well in as far as tithing is concerned.

I believe we need perspicuity on these growing controversial thoughts about whether you will be stealing from God if you give your tithe to charity.

Dear fellow thief, these are just my personal convictions, I must say that I am drawn into this debate as a fence sitter, just keen on finding clarity.

Because I do want to do the right thing, for God and my country, but for now the Government takes 30% and God takes 10%, but when I look at the ‘give and take’ ideology, I wish it was the other way round!

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