The Sunday Mail
RENOWNED Nigerian preacher Bishop Mike Okonkwo torched a fierce debate on December 17, 2017 when he shared a sermon in his mega-church titled ‘Tithe is not compulsory’.
In the sermon, Bishop Okonkwo emphasised that Christians benefit from God because of grace and not out of works.
He explained that the Old Testament was bound by the law but the New Testament under Jesus Christ is a new dispensation ruled by grace.
Bishop Okonkwo, who has over 40 years in ministry, taught that God does not do things conditionally as He acts out of His mercy and grace.
Under the New Testament dispensation, it’s the blood of Jesus which covers sins because Jesus is responsible for healing, blessing and protecting saints.
“There was a curse before (Jesus) Christ if you don’t pay tithe but now, don’t be afraid. If you preach the truth, it’s the truth that set people free. Don’t be intimidated because people also asked me that question at some point. I was told that this thing you are teaching will make people not to pay tithes; I said I won’t listen to what they say, I will preach what the Bible says.
“Some people may say the gospel of grace has overstretched but I am not teaching anyone to backslide. People shouldn’t misunderstand and say we want to make them sin.”
He said there are blessings in tithes.
“God has given too much grace, how much can you pay for that? Show people the goodness of God and people will pay more than 10 percent. Pastors stop frightening people, if you don’t pay tithes, your pocket will be dry. There’s nothing like that. Don’t make people do things out of fear. Stick with the truth and it’s the truth which will set you free; it’s not about money but Him, when you see Him, everything else loses value,” said Bishop Okonkwo.
Christian author Dr Brilliant Pongo concurred with Bishop Okonkwo, saying church leaders have no right to threaten their followers with curses if they do not pay tithes.
He said, “While some churches are busy threatening those who do not tithe with curses of all sorts, I believe that is spiritual abuse. The church or church leaders have no right to force or compel anyone to pay tithe.
“Often, this question has been asked by well-meaning Christians who are plagued by the torrents of appeal from churches for funds. Thrown into these appeals, it is the standard request to pay tithes and offerings but is it compulsory? Let me explain that there is a distinct difference between giving to God and giving to “the church”. Giving to God is a scriptural concept (Mathew 22:21). Suffice to say God does not force you to do anything. God will never force His will on anyone. Not even tithing!”
“Then there is giving to “the church”. This, I would argue is where the problem is, the church makes things compulsory. The church complicates and conflates the two – giving to God and giving to the church.
Giving to the church could just be an emotional response to a well-orchestrated man-made appeal which is out of God’s Will and God’s Word. I would argue that churches, not God, are making tithing compulsory. It is important to study God’s Word so that we are able to discern whether funds being solicited in a particular church are based on sound New Testament Scriptural principles.
“What does the Old Testament say about tithing? Abraham gave a tenth of his spoils of war to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20), and Hebrews appeals to this account to support the superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood over Levi’s (Hebrews 7:4–10). There is much to be understood on this topic of tithe some would argue believers are no longer under the Mosaic covenant (Romans. 6:14–15; 7:5–6; Galatians 3:15–4:7; 2 Corinthians. 3:4–18). Therefore there is no requirement for tithe.”
However, other preachers believe tithes and offerings are not negotiable before the Lord.
Righteousness Revival Ministries leader Apostle Tawanda Chikeya said tithes are ordinances which could not be changed.
He said, “In the Bible the two words — ordinances and statutes are used interchangeably as they carry the same meaning. Ordinances or statutes are not negotiable and they don’t change throughout all generations.
“Ordinances or statutes must be observed in their appointed times or seasons and depending on what you do for a living e.g. when you get paid or when you harvest or when you do any business and you get profit, you must tithe the 10 percent and also offer at your own decision.”
Apostle Chikeya said ordinances are compulsory in line with Deuteronomy 14; Deuteronomy 26; Malachi 3, and benefits the tither.
He quoted Leviticus 18:4-5 KJV, which says, “Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord.”
Religious affairs scholar Pastor Mutandwa Ndoro said tithing is an act of homage to show that God is the supreme ruler.
He said the Bible has two pre-Mosaic examples of tithing in Genesis 14:17-24 and Genesis 28:20-24, which was not compulsory.
“Hebrews 7:1-10 points that tithing is not from the law. There was no law that commanded Abraham to give a tithe to Melchizedek. Tithes are an act of homage.