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Money: A Great Evil Or Encouragement?(2)

Some biblical guidelines for using money to solve instead of cause problems: (1) The Principle Of Tithing – The beginning of solution which God might provide for a particular need is the practice of faithful tithing to the lord. Tithing means giving to the lord the first 10 percent of all that a person receives. This can be in the form of money, goods, food or anything a person has. Many Christians have learned the blessing that comes from faithful tithing. Tithing was required in the Old Testament (Lev.27:30, 32). And Jesus encouraged the same practice in the New Testament (Mt.23:23) For many dedicated Christians, giving 10 percent of what they have is just the beginning of their giving to the Lord. Many Christians have learned the blessing of giving a double tithe (20 percent) or even more. Some who have more resources discover that they can give 50 percent, 75 percent or even 90 per cent of what God has given them and still have enough for their own needs. In the matter of giving to God, it is necessary to understand the nature of money and all material things. A mature Christian realizes that everything he or she has belongs to God-not just 10 percent of his or her money it is not that ‘this much belongs to God and this much belongs to me.’ It all belongs to God. Long ago king David recognized this truth in one of his prayers when he said,’O Lord our God, as for all this abundant that we have…it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you’ (1 Chr. 29:16). Consider the following promise concerning tithing made by God to his people. Notice especially the reference to food.

“Bring the whole tithe into the store house, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD almighty, “and see if l will not throw open the floodgate of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it”(Mal. 3:10). Here God promises a direct response to faithful giving. The promise of blessing is general (‘So much blessing that you will not have room enough for it’). This blessing may come in different forms.    A seminary student gave the following testimony from his local church about the blessing about the blessing God promises to those who tithe. The story began about 20 years ago in a rural area of southern Ethiopia. The student wrote, “At that time, our people were deeply committed to following Christ and the commandments of his word. Everyone in our local church practiced tithing. There was abundance at our annual thanksgiving tithe conferences. The church used some of these gifts to set up a fund for needy people in the church. As a result there were no needy people at all in our church at that time”. This example referred only to that student’s local church. What effect would following such practice have on a community, a local government or even a nation, if all churches in the country took part? Unfortunately, this story has a sad ending. The same student reported the following sequence of events which dramatically illustrate what can happen when relief funds from outside sources are not given or handled wisely by the church. The student wrote:

“When the famine came, a very large amount of foreign aid money was given to bring famine relief to our church area. There were few guidelines on its use except to provide food. Even when the worst crises of famine have passed the relief programme was continued. Church leaders began to fight over the money they did not devote themselves to the care of the needy. Because outside aid was being given to help the needy, many people in the church stop tithing altogether and the churches own relief fund dried up. Today, very few people in my church tithe and there are many needy people in the congregation and in our community, even though the famine is past”. The story reveals both the good and the evil that are possible through the right and wrong use of money and other resources. It demonstrates how it is possible to meet human needs when the people of God do what God has commanded them to do with their money. It also shows the enormous power of the love of money to destroy people and to spoil the Lord’s work. It shows what happen when financial help is given in the wrong way. As we have seen, the first biblical principle to provide for the Lord’s work and to meet human needs is the principle of tithing. In the Old Testament, the tenth part of a person’s resources belonged to the Lord (Lev.27:30). When God’s people did not give him a tithe, the Lord said that his people were robbing him and that they were under a curse (Mal.3:8-10).

Those are strong words. They indicate that a matter of giving God a tenth of what he have is a matter of obligation, and not something based on our emotion or generosity. Generosity begins after a tithe has already been given. In the New Testament, Jesus taught that giving a tithe was still expected from the people of God. (Mt.23:23) Tithing is God’s way of supporting both the local church and other ministries for the Lord. This includes meeting the needs for the poor. For example, he apostle Paul took up a famine relief collection from the tithe of the churches in Macedonia and Greece in order to help those in need far away from Judea and Jerusalem (2 Cor.8:1-7). This money was part of the tithe and offering collection each week during the regular Sunday worship (1 Cor. 16:1-3).           Here is a simple way to understand tithing. In theory it should only require ten people, each giving a tenth of their income or resources to the church, to provide the support for one full-time pastor or Christian worker to live at the average level of the ten tithing people. The pastor or Christian workers should also tithe what he or she is given, in practice, it will take more than the ten people to support the local church because there are other expenses to be paid in addition to the pastor’s salary-such as the maintenance of the church building, the pastor’s housing and other needs. Twenty more people, each giving a tithe, should be able to provide for the church’s upkeep. If there are more than thirty people giving a tenth of their resources, it ought to be possible to support other ministries in addition to the local church. This might include supporting an evangelist to reach the unreached people, providing help for the poor and needy, or supporting students in bible school and other ministries-depending on the size of the local Church.

Suppose there were one hundred people in a church and all of them were regularly giving the tithe of about seventy people to support other ministries beside that of the local church what could be done with the tithe of these seventy people? Missionary outreach, helping the poor and needy and supporting bible schools and other good work to advance the kingdom of God are just some of the possibilities. In the Old Testament, when God’s people were challenged to give their possessions and jewelry in order to make the furnishings of the tabernacle in the wilderness, they were so generous in their giving that Moses had to tell them to stop giving (Ex. 36:2-7). Enough was freely given to meet every need. This story reveals to us that it is well within the power of God’s people to provide for very great needs when they give generously and willingly and those gifts are handled carefully. Suppose the members of all the churches in one community or city were faithfully tithing. Imagine there were ten churches in the town, each with hundred members. There would be a total of one thousand people in these ten churches. That could possibly leave the tithes of about seven hundred people for ministries beyond the support of each local church! How much ministries to feed and rehabilitate the poor and needy could be maintained through the regular gift of seven hundred dedicated Christians-or even three hundred Christians, assuming that sum of these tithes would be used for other ministries? It is not hard to see how this simple plan of God could care for a multitude of needy people in those churches, as well as helping other needy people in the community outside the church. It is clear that it should never be necessary for a local church or group of churches to depend on support from other sources to provide for its own ministry – even in more communities. Most churches should also be able to provide help for other needs as well as their own. God intends for giving and tithing to be a community action by God’s people. Such a community effort can produce much greater results than the effort of just one person.

This is one secret of the great power of the church of Jesus Christ. As individuals, we are weak and limited. But the whole body of Christ acting together as a single community can do amazing things. The beauty of God’s plan for the local church in Africa is that it fits the core value of community in Africa. Giving or working together as a community to accomplish a goal is popular even in the non-Christian African community. Jomo Kenyatta made the concept of ‘harambee’ (working together as a community to accomplish a task) popular in Kenya in the 1960s. In Nigeria, such efforts are often called ‘rallies’. How much more should this practice be true for the church?  For Christians, tithing should just be the beginning of giving to the Lord. The New Testament principle is giving should be done generously and gladly (2 Cor. 9:6-7) according to the extent to which God has prospered and blessed a person (1 Cor. 16:2). Many people in the local church should be able to give more than one tenth because God has blessed them with what they need. It is therefore not surprising that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the gift of giving (Rom. 12:6-7). This means that God has giving some people the ability to give much more than 10 per cent. With people giving more than 10 percent of their income, much more money can be made available to the Lord’s work than what has been described in the examples above. When local churches give as God intends for them to give, miracles can happen in the most difficult situations in Africa- just as when Jesus fed the 5,000. But there is a condition. It is the condition of a willing, obedient and generous heart on the part of every single member of the church.

God can do it through his people. But are the people of God willing to let God do it through them? There is also a need for great care in handling and using the money which God’s people give. Otherwise there would be temptation and sin due to greed and the misuse of money. It is very important to understand that the principle just describe apply to any church in the world, regardless of whether they have rich or poor members. Paul said that even though the members of the New Testament churches in Macedonia were very poor, they gave very generously for the needs of others  even beyond their means (2 Cor.8:1-4). The reason they were willing to do this is because they first gave themselves to the Lord (2 Cor 8:5).             Wholehearted commitment to Christ, together with strict accountability and safeguard for the handling of church money, are the keys to generous giving in the local church. When the Lord’s people are sure their money is being used for the purpose for which it was given, they will be much more willing to give. The Local church members must insist on careful record keeping and strict accountability by church leaders for all donated money. Otherwise, church money will be misused and people will stop tithing. These examples give us a glimpse of how much good could be done by a group of churches if all the members practice tithing and demanded strict accountability. Tithing explains how the large African church mentioned earlier in this series had enough money to build a theological college in the capital city in spite of the bad economic conditions in that country. Not done read part 3 of this series. (Resource: Biblical Christianity in Modern Africa by Wilbur O’Donovan).


Dr. Lewis Akpogena


E-mail: akpogena@yahoo.com

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