FEATURE ARTICLE

Olagunju John AyodeleMonday, December 25, 2017
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TITHING CONTROVERSY - LITERAL AND PURPOSIVE INTERPRETATION


ithing has always been a divisive subject among Christians but the controversy has deepened in the past few months. While some devotees remain unperturbed and remain resolute in their beliefs and convictions, there are those who have found their voices, confidence and platform to express their long- held views and scepticism. Moreover, a sizeable number of believers have become bewildered, not entirely sure of which side of the argument to lean. The critics believe that tithing is no longer relevant and therefore should be declared incompatible with the modern times Christian ethics and practices. The beliefs of some people have also evolved over the years, while they never had strong held opposing views about tithing but until recently, courtesy of the recklessness of some leaders; it is arguable that the problem is not the "principle" but the "persons". In Matthew 23:23, Jesus rebuked the "persons" but upheld the "principle" of tithing.

Tithing is a spiritual precedent, for example, the UK does not have a written constitution yet one of the most law abiding nations on Earth. As one of the sources of law, the court uses judicial precedent (Common law) where judges make current and future decisions based on the judgement made in past cases. For example, the case of Donoghue vs Stevenson [1932] (google if you can) the court ruled in 1932 that "you must love your neighbours and must not cause them harm", it does not matter if your name is Donoghue, Stephen, Jade or John, the same principle of this ruling is binding now and hereafter. Many precedents were set in the bible and the principles remain potent, transferable and workable both now and in the future. Abraham vs Melchizedek [Gen 14:20] Abraham gave a tenth of everything. Jacob & God [Gen 28:22] Jacob gave the tenth. Israel vs Levites [2 Chro 31:5-6] Israel paid tenth to Levites. Levites vs Chief priest [Numb 18:25-28] Levites paid tithes to the priest.

The argument of the proponents therefore is that, the commandment about tithing was expressly between God and the Israelites, Jews, Levites etc., the Bible is full of spiritual precedents; many of the promises and principles in the old testament are applicable today and can work for any believer even though God was not speaking to us directly. For example, God & Israel [Deut. 28:1-14] The blessing of obedience. God & Solomon [2 chron 7:14] The blessing of repentance. God & Judah and Jerusalem [Joel 3:10b] 'Let the weak say I am strong'. God & Israel [Exodus 14:14] 'The Lord will fight for you'. Seed of Abraham & God [Isaiah 41:10-15] 'Do not fear for I am with you'. Christ & Israel [Isiah 53 :5] By His 'stripes we are healed'. While these precedents were not expressly between 'us' and God, the principles are honoured when we apply them. Tithing is a dependable, tried and true precedent. If you feel well after taking a particular medicine, that indicates its potency, the argument of the critics will therefore be valid if they can prove that tithing does not work. If something is not broken, why fix it? if tithing works for the practitioners, why the objurgation?

The bible can be given either literal or purposive interpretation. Because tithing places a demand and forbearance on us and our resources, it is often given literal interpretation by using the most basic, plain and ordinary meaning of the language; claiming it is old covenant and specific to the Jews. Purposive interpretation on the other hand, produces illumination and revelation, this is based on God's intention in a particular scripture. It is therefore hypocritical to discriminate between what we interpret literally and purposively especially, when the latter will accrue some benefits to us. Among others, God's intention for tithing is that there may be meat in His house; this intention is still relevant to the contemporary church; money is fundamental to functioning and fulfilling various obligations. There are people on the payroll and others whose means of livelihood and businesses are directly or indirectly interwoven with the Church. Many churches are playing phenomenal roles in their communities and nations; providing food, shelter and clothing for the vulnerable in the society; FREE medical care, education and training for the less privilege. A few churches have gone PLC; may God open their eyes.

However, there are a handful of leaders who thought they were invincible and untouchable, their recklessness and lack of transparency can be blamed for this outburst, confrontation and confusion. Such leaders need to retrace their steps. While our salvation is not based on tithing, it is equally important for the critics to thread with caution so that the exercise of their freedom of speech and conviction does not become a stumbling block to the weak.

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