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INVASION OF THE FUNKY PASTORS, PART 8

SubTopic Theme: CHURCH BUSINESS AT WAR WITH THE AFRICAN CULTURE

NOTE: This blog was only recently uploaded here because this is a new cite. However, it was first published on other platforms in 2016

This, is No Bullshitting,” by Harry Agina.

And, this is another Sunday, the 18th of September, 2016; and, it is time for my mini “Sunday-Sunday Medicine.” It is very important to note, especially on the MEDIA AGAINST INDISCIPLINE platform, that my religious posts are strictly from the perspective of Indiscipline In The Entire Society (including the church). It’s got less to do with spirituality, except, of course, when any matter on spirituality happens to tangle with the ugly word called INDISCIPLINE.

This, is the second in my mini-series on INDISCIPLINE & TITHE IN CONTEMPORARY CHRISTENDOM, in my INVASION OF THE FUNKY PASTORS series. The topic is THE PURPOSE OF TITHE, as I understand and believe God decreed it. Do remember—I do not claim to be a pastor or evangelist or prophet, or whatever name they go by these days; no sir, no way!!! According to the standard that I see in the bible, standards set by Jesus Christ, I believe that I am too un-pure to be a pastor or any of those!

I’ll give you one simple example; probably the silliest example. Let’s call it a comic relief, just so that you don’t take me too seriously on this particular paragraph—just this paragraph ooo!!! I’m dead serious about everything else in this treatise. Now, here we go—According to the Holy Bible, mere look at a woman is a sin, well, depending on who is interpreting the scripture, I must add. Now, I often wonder if Baba God truly does not want a man to admire the beautiful women that he so graciously put for us here on earth. Is Baba God really that much of a teaser? Like—listen my children, I have made so many beautiful things for you on this planet to “behold;” but don’t you ever dare to look at them, you hear?!!!!!! Nope, I don’t think so, people! How do I “behold” if I can’t even look? But, without even bothering to investigate to find out if it is really true, and since I’m a cautious kind of guy, I choose to accept for now that it is true. Hence, I tell myself—Self, it is difficult for you not to look at the beauties called women that the Almighty God put on earth. I try not to be a hypocrite; as a leader, I want to lead by example, as I insist any pastor to do if he or she claims to be representing Christ.

The point is—since I don’t want to be a hypocrite, I’m not about to get on the pulpit of my church as a pastor and read or discuss the passage in question, knowing that I just looked at some women myself. Therefore, citing just this one example, I know that I do not qualify to be a pastor. Please, don’t get me wrong; I do rank high in fidelity, and I DO KNOW HOW TO LOOK WITHOUT TOUCHING, but I refuse to pretend that I don’t look, period! Remember—IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT I LIKE THE WOMEN I LOOK AT MORE THAN MY OWN WOMAN, no sir! I simply like to see varieties of God’s beauty on earth, period! Trust me, EVERYBODY LOOKS; THEY JUST DON’T WANT TO ADMIT IT BECAUSE THEY ARE SCARED STIFF ABOUT WHAT THEIR SPOUSES WOULD DO OR SAY! As for me, well, rather than be a pretender. I prefer to explain to my spouse that looking does not translate to infidelity.

Having said all that, I do know that I don’t have to be a pastor before God can use me for any purpose that he so desires, such as deliver his people from the shackles of funky pastors. If you don’t believe me, then read up the story of Paul, or Saul (I often get them mixed up) in the bible. I do believe that I was actually instigated by God to write about funky pastors; I never even planned it, the idea just suddenly happened, and the message has been flowing ceaselessly ever since. And, this is something that is not making my living, mind you; just a professional hobby. You probably don’t believe that it is God-inspired, since I don’t carry a bible and call myself pastor. Nevertheless, my investigation on the matter of tithe was comprehensive, and, the backbone of that investigation was none other than my favorite Deuteronomy 14. We have gone through it in my previous piece, but, before I go into my analysis, let’s state it here once again for reference, thus:

DEUTERONOMY 14:22 [New International Version (NIV)]: “Every year be sure to save a tenth of the crops harvested from whatever you plant in your fields.” VERSE 23 (NIV): EAT THE TITHE of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always.

VERSES 24 TO 27 (NIV): “But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish, then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice. And DO NOT NEGLECT THE LEVITES LIVING IN YOUR TOWNS, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own.”

VERSES 28 & 29 (LATINO HERITAGE BIBLE): “At the end of every third year bring a tenth of that year’s crop, and store it in your cities. Foreigners, orphans, and widows who live in your cities may come to eat all they want. The Levites MAY ALSO COME because they have no land of their own as you have. Then the Lord your God will bless you in whatever work you do.”

The above passages clearly state God’s specific reasons for commanding His people to pay the two basic forms of tithe in the bible, and they justify my God-given common-sense argument, which I started even before I studied Deuteronomy 14. Now, let’s analyze the two categories of tithe as stated in the above citation:

1A) THE FIRST CATEGORY (FEASTING & MERRYMAKING ONCE EVERY YEAR): Deuteronomy 14 is very clear on God’s reason for the first tithe (the annual one). The English is very simple; easy to understand by anybody with basic English language, even as low as quality Primary School Certificate education. If your own Bible makes it any more complicated than what I have cited above, then I humbly suggest that you go get yourself an edition as simple as mine!

God evidently wanted the Israelites to take time out once every year TO RELAX, FEAST, AND HAVE FUN IN HIS PRESENCE. The Big Man obviously loves merriment and fun! Of course; He is Mr. Fun!!! He said, “Eat the tenth of your grain, new wine, and olive oil, and eat the first-born of your cattle, sheep, and goats…you and your family will eat and enjoy yourselves there in the presence of the Lord your God.” It does not say to give this to the Levites (or pastors in today’s terms).

Another point that I must emphasize here is that the bible does say that alcoholic drinks are very permissible in this feasting! Yes indeed; it says drink “wine” and “liquor” and be merry! This point is very important for my Christian brethren out there who have been made to believe that drinking alcoholic drinks is one gigantic sin, which makes them so judgmental of persons that drink beer or wine. The bible certainly does not condemn alcoholic drinks! What the bible does condemn is drinking excessively; but then so does it condemn eating excessively, and doing anything, whatsoever, excessively.

When I was growing up in Nigeria there was an annual tradition in the orthodox Anglican and Catholic Churches in Igbo land of Nigeria called “Harvest Sunday,” which was close to what I visualize as the environment of the feast event that God intended for His people in the first category of tithe described in Deuteronomy 14. This “Harvest-Sunday” event was held on the church premises. Christians brought their choicest farm produces and livestock to the church as thanksgiving sacrifice. I am aware that the offerings were supposed to be one-tenth of the giver’s harvest for the year because it actually said so in the songs that were sung during the thanksgiving procession. Neither I nor anybody else tried to measure the offerings to verify that they were actually ten percent; nor did I even know what the heck the ten percent hoopla was all about in the first place, but I am certain now that nobody actually gave anything remotely near ten percent of their harvest. And, importantly, nobody ever made any effort to pressure or brainwash the people to bring any more than they did; nobody insisted that it must be ten percent.

Although the offerings went to the church—which marked the deviation from the Deuteronomy commandment—feasting actually did happen as commanded in Deuteronomy, right there on the church premises. The feasting aspect of the Harvest-Sunday was called Bazaar. I can never forget the great feeling I had as a boy each time the Harvest-Sunday and Bazaar season approached. My anticipation for the feasting at the bazaar was simply out of this world! The churches within my town, and even the neighboring towns, coordinated the season to ensure that no two churches within close proximity had their Harvest-Sunday scheduled on the same day. They did this to ensure that members of every church would partake in the Harvest-Sunday and bazaar of all the churches in the town. So, whenever the season came around, it was feasting galore in the town every Sunday for several weeks.

The clear difference between the Deuteronomy stipulations in the annual tithe and the “Harvest-Sunday” and “Bazaar” of the orthodox churches when I was growing up in my native town was in the purpose of the tithe. Whereas Deuteronomy says that we are to eat the annual tithe, the orthodox churches had already modified it by those days to benefit the church rather than the tither, as commanded by God. But, at least, the priests did not try to brainwash the people to bring ten percent of their crops and livestock to them every month, as is the case with our contemporary Pentecostal pastors. The “Harvest Sunday” offerings were auctioned off in the “Bazaar,” and the proceeds went to the church. But, at least, there was FEASTING IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD.

So, you are probably asking how then did the feasting at the bazaars come to be if the church was the beneficiary of the offerings? Well, the truth is that the bazaar was actually a marketplace to sell the offerings. But live offerings were not the only things on sale; there were assorted cooked foods, and drinks, too. And there were games for youngsters and even adults to play; and so many other fun activities. Sure, everything was paid for by the partaker, including the feasting (the food), but the feasting and the entire atmosphere at the bazaar seems to me to be close to what Deuteronomy 14 (verses 22 to 27) talks about—all except that the tither in my town those days was not informed to eat his tithe; he still had to buy the food and drinks that he needed to do the feasting commanded by the bible.

Now, I would vehemently challenge anybody that tries to deceive me that that is not what the Almighty God wants his children to do with the first form of tithe, which is clearly stated in the command in Deuteronomy 14 (22-27)—go to His house and have a feast and be merry in His presence! I am really waiting for that person that would challenge my position here; I would love to see him or her try to define the key words of the command in Deuteronomy, such as “feast,” “eat your tithe,” and, “you and your family will eat and enjoy yourselves there in the presence of the Lord your God.” Mind you, these are not parables; they are simple English, so there is no issue of ambiguity, and no excuse that you or I need any spiritual guidance from any pastor or priest to interpret them!

As for the youngsters like me at the bazaar, it was all merriment all the way; after all we were not the ones paying the bill. Ours was to pester every adult on the premises with the native, traditional “Gbaalum Bazaar” lingo, which means, “Celebrate the Bazaar for me,” which in turn means, “give me some money to buy food and drink and play games.” An adult who did not respond positively was in for an all-day pestering until he/she gave in and gave us the money to buy the foods and drinks, and to play the games. We grabbed them by the hands, tugged their clothes, sometimes even cried to make the adults celebrate the bazaar for us. Mind you, there was no discrimination; we pestered strangers as well as family and friends. In other words, any adult going to a church bazaar had to be ready to part with money to appease the youngsters, without discrimination, too. Indeed, the appeasement was not really for just youngsters. Adults also made more privileged adults to celebrate the bazaar for them.

Come to think of it; it was probably the only thing that the Catholic and the Anglican churches actually ever agreed to do together as far as religion was concerned, as I was growing up in my village. Yes indeed; the Catholics actually went to the bazaars of the Anglican churches, and the Anglicans attended the bazaars of the Catholic churches, too! Due to the heavy feasting and merriment, every youngster in the village would tell you that the fun and feelings of the Harvest-Sunday and bazaar season were simply fantabulous!

Some of the orthodox churches still practice a very watered-down version of “Harvest-Sunday” and “Bazaar” in Igboland to this day. For instance, some have decreed that crops and livestock are now outdated as offering items. They want only money now—the tither has to sell his or her offering in the market, and then bring the money to the church on the “Harvest-Sunday.” Obviously, this means that there is no longer a need for the wonderful traditional bazaar. My anger is that it is so easy for the contemporary priests (or Christians generally) to change or delete some good Christian traditions based on their arbitrary views—some of which are nonsensical—yet they steadfastly hold unto traditions that are actually, truly outdated. When they deleted bazaar in my village and I heard about it, my spontaneous reaction was—“How could anybody even think of scrapping the bazaar tradition, let alone actually do it?” But they did, in the ignorant name of modernization!

Also, sections of the Igbo people of Southeastern Nigeria—including my home town Nnewi—have an annual bazaar-like, non-Christian festival that originated in the ancient times, called “Afia-olu (Afiolu),” which continues today in contemporary Igboland. It goes on for two or three days, maybe even four days, depending on the locality. Sadly, the tradition has been visited by “Mr. Modernization” and his co-traveler, “Mr. Modification,” which are often misused or overdone by humanity to destroy good traditions in the land. My people in Igbo land have watered down every good tradition in the land with acutely-ignorant and/or mischievous concept of modernization. But when I say that tithe should be modernized to reflect current realities, many who benefit from this emotional extortion of gullible Christians, brainwash their followers to say that I am blasphemous. This is pure selective modernization based solely on selfish reasons of personal gains!

Even more than the Christian “harvest” and bazaar, I see the traditional Afiolu to be closer to the prescription of the annual tithe commandment, because the farmers actually feast on their produces and livestock on the Afiaolu days, as commanded by God in the Christian bible. The difference is that the feasting does not happen in church; it happens simultaneously in individual homes and town squares, followed/accompanied by festivities with masquerades and other activities in town squares. The people do not actually feast on ten percent of their crops and livestock, mind you, but the festival is for them to feast and be merry, as they give thanks unto the Almighty God, their smaller gods and ancestors, for good harvest.

1B) THE SECOND TITHE:

(a) FEEDING THE NEEDY: According to Deuteronomy 14, the reason for the second form of tithe—the one paid into the “storehouse” every three years—was/is to have food to feed the less privileged members of society who were/are not able to feed themselves for the right reasons. I repeat, FOR THE RIGHT REASONS, because, remember, there are passages in the same bible that say that anybody who is able to work but does not work due to his or her own fault (laziness), does not deserve to eat! Tithe is meant to FEED THE UNDERPRIVILEGED in the society. The command is very clear on this. It says, “so that there will be food in my house.” And it mentions widows, orphans, foreigners, and then Levites, to be the beneficiaries. It does not say that the tithe is only for the Levites (or today’s pastors), and it does not say to use the tithe for anything else other than life-sustaining food. The command is specific about that! Some people say that the tithe is also helping today’s churches to run the church, build the church infrastructure, and things like that. This is not right; it is a clear deviation from God’s command! IT IS CLEAR DISOBEDIENCE OF GOD’S COMMAND!!!

So, who is now disobeying God’s command; the people who refuse to pay tithe to pastors that misuse it, or the misusing pastors who refuse to operate tithe exactly as God commands it? THERE ARE OTHER PROVISIONS IN THE BIBLE TO RAISE FUNDS FOR CHURCH BUILDINGS AND THOSE OTHER THINGS THAT THE CHURCH MAY WANT OR NEED TO DO; DEFINITELY NOT WITH THE TITHE. Indeed, the churches do embark on vehement drives for “building funds” anyway. And they seek other forms of offerings, including the popular “seed-sowing” that take care of the various needs in a church.

(b) FEEDING THE LEVITES: The Levites of old qualified for tithe for two reasons. The first one is that they devoted all their lives to the service of God and humanity—totally! So, it made sense that the Israelites, to whom the Levites devoted all their lives, shared their foods with the Levites. Also, the Levites qualified to benefit from this food in the storehouse (tithe) as the ‘needy/underprivileged’ of the society only because they had “no inheritance” or “land of their own” to grow food like everybody else. It was not that they were too lazy to acquire their own land to cultivate crops and animals. Rather, God did not allow them to own land and other property, so that they would devote their lives to God and humanity. Just like Jesus Christ, they acquired nothing, and owned nothing. Unlike today’s pastors, they did not ask for, nor were they offered material rewards for their spiritual services to mankind—they were just fed! In comparison, most of today’s pastors have various means of income, and some of them actually grab, and grab, until they possess every material possession to live flamboyant life of affluence. How then do we justify giving tithe—food in the storehouse—to them?

ILLUSTRATION

I want to illustrate my key point, in effort to drive it home to you: You have a pastor, who, by all indications is a millionaire, or even a billionaire. He probably possesses a private jet aircraft or more—which many Nigerian pastors now possess—and other luxuries of life. His income reads in tens or hundreds of millions of naira or dollars every month. If you are Nigerian living in Nigeria my case study, your own salary every month is just fifty thousand naira (under 150 dollars today) if you’re lucky to be above the national eighteen thousand naira “minimum wage” cadre. And, every month you count ten percent of your meager fifty thousand naira salary, which is five thousand naira (or 15 US dollars) and hand over to the man who is already a billionaire, whose income in the same month is one million US dollars. Now, with your 15-dollar tithe, he has one million and fifteen dollars ($1,000,015) for that month, and you are left with only 135 dollars, which does not even begin to scratch the surface of all your survival needs.

Remember that, according to the bible, tithe fed the Levites because they had no possessions. Now you are told to “feed” a billionaire out of your meager earnings! Does that really make any sense to you at all when you really, really give it a thought? Does your pastor have to live so ostentatiously with your money while you struggle to make ends meet? Did Christ live so ostentatiously? You and I know the answer to that one; that Christ did not live so ostentatiously. So, why do we always try to defend the obscenely ostentatious lifestyles of our pastors who are supposed to follow Christ’s footsteps in humility and modesty?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not necessarily arguing now against giving money to pastors; MY GROUSE IS WITH MISAPPROPRIATION OR MISAPPLICATION OF TITHE. If one wants to show appreciation to one’s pastor every day, please do so by all means; but call it something else. Don’t call it tithe. The bible says “eat” your annual tithe in God’s presence; it does not say to give it to your pastor—EAT it, period! There are so many forms of offering that you can give to your pastor everyday if you like, without disobeying the tithe commandment. We are talking about giving your meager earnings to “feed” a billionaire; for crying out—loud!

I ask this barrage of questions—why is it that today’s pastors do not talk about the tithe that we are supposed to eat ourselves? Why is it that I am nearly sixty, born into Christianity, and have always been a Christian; and yet, until early 2014 I had never heard of this tithe that we are supposed to EAT, anywhere in any church? Why is it that all I had ever heard was to give to the pastors or the church? These are some of the questions that I pose in this treatise. And I purposely repeat some of them so often because I see repetition to be necessary in order to jar the consciousness of so many gullible Nigerian Christians. Christians, including I, have been blind followers of the clergy for too long. We seem to forget that they are all mortals full of mistakes and mischief, some of whom are capable of countless iniquities—proven, too!

A lady once asked me a wise question regarding the second form of tithe (the one for every third year), saying—“What is the difference if you pay tithe every month to pastors, or if you pay it in bulk every three years?” That was after I showed her in the bible and convinced her that there are actually two kinds of tithe. “Ten percent is ten percent, whether prorated monthly, or paid in bulk every third year,” she insisted.

As I said, the question was wise because she was speaking on the mathematical sense of pro-rata. However, there was something that she did not consider—the command for the food in the storehouse does not say ten percent of all the three years. No, sir! It says “ten percent of every third year’s harvest” only. So, if you pay ten percent every month consistently, you are not following God’s command. You are paying for thirty-six months in aggregate, rather than the twelve months that God commanded. In essence, you are over-paying by twenty-four months! If you want to pay every month following the pro-rata mathematics, then you should pay one-third of ten percent per month, or ten percent of every four months’ income.

Besides, let’s look at the matter of disobedience to God’s word. Remember the scripture that says—OBEDIENCE IS BETTER THAN SACRIFICE! I have not seen the word ‘month’ mentioned anywhere in the bible passages in relation to tithe. The word of God says once every year in aggregate for one form of tithe, and once every third year in aggregate for the second form of tithe. Any deviation amounts to disobedience!

At the risk of being accused of ‘sounding like a broken record,’ I will summarize my position once again as follows:

  1. There are two basic types of tithe—One is annual, and it is TO BE EATEN BY THE TITHER and his or her family. The pastor may partake in the family feast. The second tithe is done once every three years in the third year, and only ten percent of the third year’s harvest is required, and not the harvests of all the three years.
  2. Contrary to the emphasis of today’s pastors, the Levites who the pastors imitate today were not the only beneficiaries of the second type of tithe. They are mentioned only as one of the beneficiaries—along with “widows, foreigners, and orphans” of the society. Indeed, they are not even said to be the custodians of the tithes in the first place. This is how it all should apply to today’s pastors; it is there in the bible in clear language! And, what I describe here is very similar to what the modern Moslems practice in their own form of tithe, which they call Zakat. They are much closer to the correct requirements of this commandment of God. Read on, and you will get to my detailed comparison of the Christian tithe and the Moslem Zakat in a few moments.
  3. Very Few pastors in Nigeria qualify to receive tithe because they do not live the lifestyle of the Levites. The Levites did not accumulate the tithe to become billionaires, as today’s pastors do. When the Levites ate they shared with the “widows, orphans, and foreigners,” nothing was accumulated and stored in banks to be billionaires like today’s pastors.

I have discussed the stipulations for the two basic forms of tithe as written in the bible; not written by Harry Agina, mind you! And, I insist that only few pastors in Nigeria or anywhere else may qualify to receive any form of tithe. This is topic for the next edition. To discuss this subject with me one must make reference to the Deuteronomy passage and answer all my questions. My object here is to bring public attention to these facts in the most simplistic forms, as I call attention to relevant passages in the bible, and present them in non-mischievous, unselfish, un-commercialized manner. Then I will let you, my reader to be the judge yourself, bearing in mind that anything that is not contained in the bible is falsehood by ignorant pastors, or mischievous (wayo) ones who I call funky pastors. My ultimate intent, once again, is to save some gullible Christians from the hooks of greedy funky pastors…No Bullshitting!!!

 

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