Ever since Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God threw a shade at Cool FM OAP Daddy Freeze over the issue of whether tithing is mandatory for christians or not and the reply of the MC to the highly revered man of God, the social media has been agog with comments for or against this age-old christian practice. This piece is not an attempt to justify or repudiate tithing by christians; that is a job for theologians.Rather, it is an attempt to look at the casus belli of the agitations for the abolition of tithing by some christians and the roles the church can play in our quest to achieve greatness and prosperity for all in Nigeria.
The critical factor which triggered this debate about tithing is nothing but the lavish and luxurious lifestyle of Nigerian preachers in a time of economic recession. At a time when 80% of the population are living below the poverty line, the news of the recent acquisition of a Private Jet and a Rolls Royce Phantom by Pastor David Ibiyeomie of the Salvation Ministries in Port Harcourt to celebrate his 55th birthday anniversary has left a sour taste in the mouths of many. Majority of the preachers in Nigeria do not have any other source of income other than their total dependence on the tithes and offerings of the faithful. Politicians also face criticism from the people due to their corrupt and lavish lifestyle but theirs is mild compared to preachers because they occupy a tenured position while preachers can be in office till death do them part. Also, their teachings about tithing and giving has deadened the conscience of many Nigerians towards the poor and vulnerable in the society around them. It is a belief in several African cultures that when you genuinely help the poor and less priviledged around you, you would be blessed by God in return. This was what prompted many Africans to embrace the extended family system and to extend a hand to the poor and needy in the society. But today all that has changed. The Pastors now teach that it is when you pay your tithes that God would bless you and failure to pay it would attract a curse form God. Many people now pay their tithes faithfully to the churches but at the detriment of caring for their parents, siblings and other members of their extended family. We have also heard of several instances of people who steal money in their workplaces and pay the tithe of the money to the church in a bid to attract a blessing to their lives. The non-accountability of Pastors to their members on how the tithes of the members is spent not only leaves a lot to be desired but also ample room for speculations about corruption and embezzlement of tithe funds.
The Church should harp more on spiritual values like love, honesty, sacrifice, brotherhood, integrity, loyalty and patriotism rather than it’s current focus on prosperity and materialism. We are currently experiencing the gradual destruction of our value system as most Nigerians are determined to become rich at all costs seeing that the corrupt rich are being celebrated as heroes while the honest poor are regarded as villains. The church should serve as the moral anchor that Nigerians would cling unto in these times of moral and ethical relativity. Also, the church should become socially responsible by giving back to society. The missionaries who came to Nigerian in the 19th century built schools, established newspapers, hospitals and awarded scholarships at practically no cost to the Natives. They did all these with less than 10% of the funds that Nigerian mega-churches are currently controlling.
Church leaders should avoid allying themselves with and endorsing politicians during elections. They should be neutral so as to enable them speak truth to power without fear or favour. Nigerian Churches should emulate their counterparts in other countries where the church is a positive force to reckon with politically rather the kow towing to the whims and caprices of any politician who makes a donation to the church.
The prosperity doctrine of giving and receiving has been grossly misrepresented by the clergy and misunderstood by the laity. Our Pastors should rather dwell on the building blocks of economic prosperity by teaching their members principles like thrift, entrepreneurship, productivity and savings. They should engage in economic empowerment schemes which will benefit the members. They should also invest their surplus earnings in the productive sector of the economy (e.g Agriculture) which will not only create jobs for their teeming members but will also contribute significantly to the GDP of the nation. They should endeavour to reduce their investment in consumables like expensive automobiles, luxury yachts, private jets,e.t.c as these do not add anything to the Nigerian economy since they are not manufactured here. Rather they take away from our economy as they are often purchased with scarce foreign exchange.
This is a clarion call on the church to curb it’s excesses and rise up like a giant to fulfill it’s role in Nigeria’s voyage towards peace, progress and prosperity.