It has been an interesting week on social media in the wake of the discovery of what is purported to be the Special Offering memorandum of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC)’s Greater Works event. The annual programme – which is hard to categorize except to respectfully propose that it be called a Season of Motivational Speaking – brings in renowned charismatic leaders from across the continent to speak to, empower and motivate members of ICGC. For example: On his Facebook page, the leader and founder posited, “Don’t miss this year’s Greater Works Conference. It promises to be a heaven-on-earth experience. Come expecting to hear life-transforming words that will push you to your God-given destiny.”
Remembering that our God-given destiny is to “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord,” (Hebrews 12:14), it is up to us to judge for ourselves whether Greater Works serves any purpose other than to bind a church and its members together, market its own greatness and event-management prowess, and raise funds.
Before I go any further, let me say that this jungle boy is a staunch believer in God and the Bible.
Shocking, isn’t it?
But yes. No man can live as close to nature as I live, feel the seasons turn in his very veins as they do in mine and not be impressed to pursue after nature’s God and seek after His righteousness. And while I lay no claims whatsoever to any Theological expertise or credentials, I know my Bible paaa. I have read it from cover to cover, top to down and sometimes backwards and upside down. And methinks this on-going debate about whether it is right – or Biblical – for ICGC to demand donations between $70 and $5,000 in exchange for blessings that range from improving the life of the donor to surpassing Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos in the Millionaires Club is an opportunity to interrogate something non-Christians (and even some Christians) fail to grasp about Church-Giving.
Social Media Ridicule
I was intrigued about how those who were hardly fit to untie the shoelaces of the weakest, genuine Christian took to social media to ridicule the Christian faith in the giving of offerings, donations and tithes. Folks who hadn’t applied a single Bible principle to their entire lives suddenly had some nerve to make such gleeful fun of Christians and their culture of giving. But even more disappointing to me was the responses of Christians and members of ICGC. “Is it your money?” seemed to be the standard refrain of defense. No intelligent, biblical response was offered, which went to prove what I have always suspected – most Charismatics don’t know much Bible. Of the ones I have ever engaged in any meaningful biblical discourse, over 85 percent are Biblical illiterates. Which isn’t surprising since most are under the quite laughable impression that only New Testament books of the Bible matter, never mind that 59-percent of the Bible is Old Testament. No wonder they were found fumbling in responding to the unfortunate ridiculing of the Greater Works donations memo.
The issue of Christian giving is clearest in the Old Testament. It is confirmed by Christ and the Apostles in the New, of course, but its Divine origins, purposes and continuing necessity is grounded in Old Testament Theology – just like the issue of God’s holy Sabbath. But having satanically declared the Law of God to be null and void, and falsely branding God’s Sabbath no more as the memorial of Christ but as an outdated culture of the Jews that have no bearing in modern-day Christianity, most Charismatics are at their wits’ end when it comes to biblically defending tithing. And it’s not difficult to see why. You cannot bastardize the Sabbath, the prohibition against eating pork, shrimps and cockroaches, and the prohibition against alcohol use, and then turn around to defend Old Testament-originating tithing simply because you find that’s the only sure way to fill church treasury.
Tithes & Offerings
A certain Femi Aribisala, in this article reproduced by Ghana’s Daily Graphic, makes some biblically erroneous points on tithing and offering. In it he opines that (1) the only time Jesus referred to tithing, He pointed out it “was not a weighty matter of the law”, (2) that Abraham and Jacob paid tithe only once, (3) that the Biblical tithe has no application to Christians, (4) that tithing was only applicable to Jews and to Israel and concluded (5) that every pastor who collected tithes was nothing but “a thief and a robber.”
Before I respond to this writer, let me move straight into the Source of Tithing – the Word of God.
“And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord.” “And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.” Leviticus 27:30, 32.
This is the first written law we know about tithing, but it is faulty biblical logic that leads Christians to believing that tithing originated with only the Hebrews. Abraham (who was no Jew) paid his tithes to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20) and Jacob (another non-Jew) promised to pay his tithes at Bethel (Genesis 28:22). Jacob’s promise is, perhaps, even more instructive: “Of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto Thee.” Emphasis mine. Jacob’s declaration and his expression is not indicative of a deal he’s making with God, like Aribisala would have us believe. Rather, it is an assurance that He will do for all his possessions what is rightful by God to so do; that he will honour God in an already existing understanding. This understanding was only simply reaffirmed as “one of the divinely ordained statutes upon obedience to which their prosperity depended.” – E. G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 525.
“The system of tithes and offerings was intended to impress the minds of men with a great truth – that God is the source of every blessing to His creatures, and that to Him man’s gratitude is due for the good gifts of His providence.” – Ibid., p. 525.
For the Biblical Christian, there’s no question to the truth that God gives life to all things (Acts 17:25), is the true owner of all things (Psalm 50:10), including all our money (Haggai 2:8), and it is God who gives men power to get wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). It is therefore no cruelty on the Lord’s part that, as an acknowledgment that all things came from Him, a portion of His bounty be returned to Him in gifts and offerings to sustain His worship. This is not only biblical, it is just and right.
As to Aribisala’s misguided argument that tithing has no basis in the New Testament, this is what Jesus actually said of the matter in Matthew 23:23: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” Emphasis mine.
How anyone interprets the above scripture to mean an end to tithing beats my jungle mind. Not to leave the other undone does not mean an end to tithing. Christ marveled about how the Jews could do so well in tithing and yet lose sight of what was most important. Christ was not, by pointing out what was most important, annulling tithing. To jump to that conclusion is a fatal biblical error, because the verse doesn’t even say what non-Christians would have us believe it does.
The Jewish Economy
While we are on the subject of what applied to Jews and what did not (I have a hard time believing that there are Christians who get confused over this matter), “the contributions required of the Hebrews for religious and charitable purposes amounted to fully one fourth of their income. So heavy a tax upon the resources of the people might be expected to reduce them to poverty; but, on the contrary, the faithful observance of these regulations was one of the conditions of their prosperity. On condition of their obedience God made them this promise: “I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field. . . . And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:11. – Ibid., p.527
Many scholars agree that few economies came close to the Jewish economy in bible times, and in contemporary economies, 11.6 percent of the world’s billionaires are Jews. Forbes further acknowledges that 48 percent of all America’s billionaires are Jewish. Clearly, the Jews practiced the principles of an economy where parting with a quarter of one’s earnings someway, somehow, ensured that one came up on top, and not at the bottom, of the economic independence ladder. This can’t be explained by half-baked human logic. It is God that gives wealth, and the more a person is inclined to honour His worship in the faithful giving of tithes and offerings, the more blessed the person becomes.
Wise King Solomon declares, “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.” Proverbs 11:24. And the same lesson is taught in the New Testament by the apostle Paul: “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” “God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:6, 8.
These are the quotations I expected from my Charismatic cousins. This was an opportunity to raise the banner of Christ high on tithing and the will of God. But, as usual devoid of deep, analytical bible knowledge, and ever pandering to the popular sayings and meaningless quotes of Charismatic leaders, they were found lacking in defense of an article of Christian faith and practice that could have shut non-Christians up once and for all better than saying, “Is it your money?” What kind of answer too is that?
The ICGC Debacle
Having said all the above, let there also be no doubt that there is something inherently wrong – abysmally unbiblical – with what ICGC did in order to raise money from Greater Works 2017. The Greater Works donation memo is too close to the Catholic sale of indulgences that Protestants and our John Huss, Martin Luther, John Calvin and William Miller forebears fought and railed against in the Dark Ages when apostate Roman Catholicism held sway over money-making doctrines that could only have been hatched in hell itself.
As my favourite Christian author puts it, “The work of the gospel, as it widens, requires greater provision to sustain it than was called for anciently; and this makes the law of tithes and offerings of even more urgent necessity now than under the Hebrew economy. If His people were liberally to sustain His cause by their voluntary gifts, instead of resorting to unchristian and unhallowed methods to fill the treasury, God would be honored, and many more souls would be won to Christ.
“The plan of Moses to raise means for the building of the tabernacle was highly successful. No urging was necessary. Nor did he employ any of the devices to which churches in our day so often resort. He made no grand feast. He did not invite the people to scenes of gaiety, dancing, and general amusement; neither did he institute lotteries, nor anything of this profane order, to obtain means to erect the tabernacle for God. The Lord directed Moses to invite the children of Israel to bring their offerings. He was to accept gifts from everyone that gave willingly, from his heart. And the offerings came in so great abundance that Moses bade the people cease bringing, for they had supplied more than could be used.” Ibid. p. 529.
And this is what earned ICGC the ridicule of this country. The sale of blessings to the highest bidder. And that is exactly what that memo was. Donations in exchange for time-lined blessings. Not even the donors in the building of the Tabernacle were promised as much as the ridiculous promises in the ICGC memo. The blessings of God from tithing and offering are the results that accrue from the offerings of grateful, willing, voluntary hearts who do it more because they love the Lord than for any real desire to be richer than Bezos. To promise a miracle in 24 hours of a $240 donation is not only presumptuous, it is pagan and unchristian.
The prophet Elijah was one of a few prophets through whom God made 24-hour guarantees. The widow at Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-16) was told to first make a meal for Elijah before making one for herself. As she, by faith, trusted that God knew what He was doing and carried out the prophet’s instructions, her faith – based on belief on God and His word – was rewarded. The reward was and is never exactly promised until faith is exercised. But the demand on her was commensurate with her means. She was not asked for anything beyond what was at that moment within her means to provide. That ICGC memo is far in excess of the minimum wage of Ghana, and in dollars! What widow of Korle Gonno, Mamprobi or Sakaman can afford to sow a $70 seed of perfection?
One big question to ponder over the GW17 Memo is this: how many souls are proven to be won by the event?
Putting it all together, there’s no biblical condemnations whatsoever of tithing and offering, and Prince Amoabeng and Aribisala are no credible authorities on the matter. God is. And He enjoins us all to pay our tithes. This jungle boy pays his tithes, and so should you, if you know what is good for you.
In the same vein, GW17’s donation memo is unbiblical, and presumptuous, as is charismaticism itself, but what do I know? I am a mere jungle boy with a mouth.