by Femi Aribisala
The true believer no longer keeps God’s laws out of compulsion. But he or she says: “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). Instead of the Law of Moses, God has now given us “the law of liberty.”
Malachi 3:8-10 is one of the favourite scriptures used by pastors to cajole people to give in churches. It says those who withhold tithes and offerings are robbing God. It further maintains that they are cursed and that their resources are subject to the ravages of the devourer. Finally it is says the windows of heaven will be shut against them ensuring that they are denied of divine blessings. Thereby, Christians are frightened into giving large sums to churches.
Jesus says divorce was not God’s will: “From the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8). Moses only gave the law permitting divorce because of the hardness of the hearts of the Jews. The same thing applies to Malachi and the compulsion to give tithes and offerings. From the beginning, people of God were not compelled or threatened to give. Indeed, the insistence of pastors on tithes and offerings today is anachronistic. It is tantamount to putting Jesus’ new wine in old bottles.
The Law of Moses was given to the Jews because they did not know the right thing to do. But in spite of the law, the Jews were still not inclined to give because their hearts were hardened. Therefore, Malachi called them robbers of God; and he threatened them with curses, the devourer and the denial of blessings.
However, the application of Malachi’s invective to believers today is insulting. The believer is a law-keeper, but Paul says: “The law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless” (1 Timothy 1:9). Indeed, once a man makes it a law that you must pay tithes and give offerings, he has spoilt you for the gospel. He has already determined that you are a hard-hearted lawbreaker.
But in the believer in Christ is fulfilled the promise of God: “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).
The true believer no longer keeps God’s laws out of compulsion. But he or she says: “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). Instead of the Law of Moses, God has now given us “the law of liberty.” Accordingly, we no longer give because of “legal” requirements. The only acceptable basis for all action in Christ is love.
How can you get a believer in Christ to do the right thing? You don’t have to do anything at all because a true believer will naturally do the right thing. A true believer will do the right thing because it is in his nature to do so. He gives because it is in his nature to give. Nobody has to compel or threaten him. Nobody needs to manipulate or bewitch him. Doing the right thing is the fruit of his spirit.
When Samuel was explaining the dynamics of the kingdom of God to Saul, he told him that the Spirit of the Lord would come mightily upon him and he would start to prophecy like one of the prophets. When that happens, he told Saul to do whatever seemed best to him for God would guide him (1 Samuel 10:7). Saul would not need for any man to teach him what to do: he would do it naturally.
It is this dynamic that John was referring to when he wrote that believers have received the Holy Spirit and therefore no longer need anyone to teach us what is right: “But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, in your hearts, so that you don’t need anyone to teach you what is right. For he teaches you all things, and he is the Truth, and no liar; and so, just as he has said, you must live in Christ, never to depart from him” (1 John 2:27).
Free will giving
This was the case of Abraham. When Abraham gave a tithe (tenth) of all his spoils of war to Melchizedec, a priest of the Most High God, nobody told him to do so. He did it of his own free will. The pureness of Abraham’s heart naturally led to his godly decision to honour the Lord with his possessions and with the first-fruits of the increase in his resources.
God is a God of free will. Where the Spirit of God is there is liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17). Even in the Old Testament, God only welcomed offerings not given out of compulsion. Thus, he instructed Moses: “Take from among you an offering to the LORD. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the LORD: gold, silver, and bronze” (Exodus 35:5). “Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the LORD’S offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments” (Exodus 35:21).
In the construction and furnishing of the tabernacle, the people gave so willingly, they even gave too much: “The people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient for all the work to be done – indeed too much” (Exodus 36:5-7). That is the kind of giving that pleases the Lord; giving that derives from the abundance of the heart.
This principle of whole-hearted giving is amplified in the New Testament. Paul notes that: “If there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:12). However, many pastors ask their congregants to make pledges even according to what they don’t have. They tell them to “stretch their faith.”
Such manipulation is anathema to New Testament precepts where compulsive giving is now out of date: “Let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Should you give a tenth, a fifth, or half of your income? Decide for yourself between you and God. It is no business of your pastor.
Tithing because of Malachi is tantamount to giving out of necessity. But you no longer give because you are trying to avoid curses and the devourer. You give because you love to give. You give because you want to be like our heavenly Father. You give because you love God. This means you can decide to give this proportion of your income this month and another proportion next month. The decision is entirely up to you.
Moreover, if you choose not to give, God is not going to deny you his kingdom. He is not going to rain down curses on you. The devourer is not going to be let loose on you. The windows of heaven will not be shut against you. Let no one deceive you. A true believer cannot be cursed. You can only curse a believer who believes he can be cursed. Jesus says: “According to your faith will it be done to you (Matthew 9:29).
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.