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27 October 2017

Tithing: how should we do it?

Tithing: how should we do it?

For some of us the issue of tithing can be challenging. Israel Olofinjana, a Baptist pastor in London, inspires us with examples of African Church's approach and looks at how financial gifts are seen as giving back to God all He has blessed us with.

'Offering time is blessing time!' is one of the strap lines used during the collection of offering and tithing in some African Churches. With Christian roots in African Pentecostalism, I see this statement as giving our offering as a time of worship to God.

We worship God with our money because it is through His abundance that we have been blessed. This is one of the reasons why the time of offering in an African Church is important and is well celebrated with expressive music, clapping of hands, dancing and joyous singing. In some African Churches the offering basket is put in front of everyone and each row dances around it dropping in their offering. To an observer this might appear strange, but to the participants it is being done before our great God and there is no shame.

What about 10 per cent?
Offering time and tithe is also celebrated in the belief that when we bless God's work with our money, He blesses us in return. However, the concept of God blessing people when they give money has been a source of confusion for many.

Some will say if you give 10 per cent of your income (tithe), God will bless you with hundredfold in return. The problem with this is that people could give with the expectation God will somehow provide them with a lot more back in monetary terms. While it is right that God blesses us when we give money, time, materials and our gifts we should not conclude about the specifics of what God will give us is based on what we offered.

By doing this we will be trying to turn God into some sort of magician who can multiply our money. Giving is not a magic formula to conjure God to bless us, it is part of our worship to God. 

Biblical blessings
God blessing His people is attested to in the Old Testament which is full of examples including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Job. In the New Testament, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea used their influence to ensure Jesus had a decent burial place (John 19:38-42). And the women who followed Jesus were women with money who supported his ministry materially (Luke 8:1-3). People with money also supported the work of the Church, with Barnabas as a clear example of this, in Acts 4:32-37.

Supporting ministry
Offering time and giving a tithe is also a blessing time because it is a way church work can be supported. African pastors are not ashamed to talk about money and its importance for supporting the work of ministry. In some areas of the UK Church, money is not something talked about in public but done privately and giving is not regularly encouraged. This difference accounts for why African churches often have the financial power to build big churches and support its ministry. Sadly, some British churches may struggle to sustain themselves. It should be noted however, that in many churches the tireless commitment to giving from the congregation means that they are able operate and minister to their communities. 

In my opinion, it is healthy to talk about money and although giving in an African church could sometimes be seen as over the top, churches and their mission work are supported by the congregation. Our tithes and offering are ways we participate in advancing God's kingdom here on earth and in doing so I believe He will bless us abundantly!

Israel Olofinjana is pastor of Woolwich Central Baptist Church in London. His book African Voices: Towards African British Theologies looks at the presence of African Christianity in Britain. Published by Langham Creative Projects and is out now. 

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