The hoopla generated by On Air Personality, Ifedayo Olarinde popularly called Daddy Freeze, a radio host and presenter who was born in Osun State to a Nigerian father and a Romanian mother, Smaranda Olarinde have attracted responses mostly from Pentecostal pastors.
Saturday Vanguard, during the week, extended the frontiers to invoke a frontline pastor of the Methodist Church Nigeria. A media/management consultant, Reverend Oladapo Daramola is the Director of Media and Public Relations of Methodist Church of Nigeria (MCN). In this interview, Reverend Daramola cannot understand the basis for the debate in the first place, stating that the Word of God is not subject to any human interpretation.
Where do you fall in on the ongoing debate over tithe?
For me, I stand on the side of the Bible. The Holy Bible is very clear. For all those who have taken sides on this issue, are they Bible believers or they are those who don’t believe in the scriptures in terms of the contents, the direction and what the scriptures is all about. But if we believe in the content of the scriptures, we cannot run away from certain things. Many of us sometimes will want to accept the gift and not the giver. We want to accept God in whatever form, in the form of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. For me, the issue of tithe is very clear. The Bible is very clear about tithe. You cannot now at some point begin to say some aspects of the scriptures are meant for the Levites, or the Jews or the Israelites. So what is meant for all of us? Why did we believe in it in the first place? Why do we believe in the promises of the scriptures but we don’t want to believe in the injunctions of the Bible? Why do we believe that you can go out there and give in terms of giving to people when He said ‘when I was naked, you gave me cloth, when I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me water’. We believe in those concepts, so at what point are we running away from tithes?
Tithes in many portions of the scriptures, whether you look at Nehemiah or you look at the story of Melchizedek and Abraham himself, or you want to look at injunctions in Malachi where God was saying; ‘you are robbing me’. Of course, we know he was addressing the Israelites, but we believe that by extension we are children of God, we are the Gentiles, those “who are not Israelites but who are covered by the grace and by the death of Christ on Calvary where we said He has flung open the gate that all may come in”.
Who are the all? He’s talking about you and I, those who believe in Jesus, who believed in the birth of Jesus, who believed in the death of Jesus, who believed in the resurrection of Jesus.
So at what point now do we now want to begin to demarcate or say this aspect of the Bible is for these people and this aspect of the Bible is for those people. And it’s because people don’t want to take on responsibilities. If tithe is a responsibility, it’s something that people have been practicing over the years and people who are practicing the concept of tithes have constantly seen the result but I think the problem is that people are beginning to get a little more worried.
Is the Old Testament different from the New Testament?
It is not. Even Jesus Himself said “I have come not to erase the laws but to fulfill the law” and in many ways, He fulfilled the law. He practiced everything they did including payment of tax to Caesar. And there were too many places where Jesus quoted the Old Testament. He did not quote the Old Testament out of context even when “He said Eli, Eli Lama Sabachthani”, that is from the book of Psalms. So Jesus on many fronts quoted the Old Testament.
He read the book Isaiah and it was quoted, all the practices including circumcision, dedication, He did not take away any of these things. He didn’t condemn the Pharisees and the Sadducees because they were practicing customs and tradition because He Himself practiced customs and tradition. What He was condemning was that they became so religious that they left undone, the things they ought to be doing such as caring for the people, and focused so much on religiosity. That was what He was against.
God was saying this, so that there will be food in the store house. So everybody was ministering in the synagogue, people were still paying their tithes, even the Pharisees and the Sadducees referred to it when they said “we pay our tithes, we pray every day”. At no point did Jesus preach against the laws or the statutes, rather He was saying let us fulfill the law of Moses but it must have human face.
The argument is that tithe is for the Levites who were ministering in the synagogue, who were not doing anything, who were not working and earning a living. Is that the position?
That is the position, if you come to the Orthodox Church, there is accountability. There is responsibility to what the specifics are meant for and I think that’s where the issue is. Ministers don’t work in the real sense. There’s what we call the non-stipendinary in the Anglican Church or in our own place what we call tent making ministers.
They don’t draw salaries. But for the full timers, they draw salaries and benefits from the Church because they are devoted to the church from morning till night. They don’t have other things they do primarily. Secondly, their medicare is on the Church. Thirdly, where they live, the accommodation and welfare is meant to be upon the church because they are serving just as when people were serving in the temple. So you walk into a church, you say you want to see a priest, who is supposed to counsel you and the priest is there.
So, that’s the way it is in many churches till date. No doubt you have some pastors who have some other skills on the side and they are able to do some things to sustain themselves if the salaries are not enough but the bottom line is that just like the Levites, there are ministers who are on full time in churches. Who is supposed to take care of them? Is it only from the offerings in the church when the church has a current expenditure? The church itself has expenditures. They are going to pay light bills, land use charge, service vehicles, there are a lot of things churches use offerings for. I think people need to take a very dispassionate look at what exactly is going on.
I think part of the problem is that people don’t have access to church accounts. Every Orthodox Church has audited published accounts. You can walk into any Methodist church and say you want to see the audited account of the church, they are bound to give it to you because in our constitution, you are supposed to have what we call the Church General meeting annually and you are meant to present your books, what came in, in the year under different classifications, be it tithe, offering, donation, Sunday collections. I know many Anglican churches too do it.
But if you talk about some of these Pentecostal churches where many of them are under one man management, it’s possible you may not be able to see what’s going on. That is why some of us have said you don’t need to register churches under the Corporate Affairs Commission. I’ve advocated over the years that we should have what we call the Nigerian Charities Commission, NCC. In England and some other countries where this operates, you find out that they are the controlling agencies for charities, churches are meant to be classified under charities and if they are classified under charities, they are the ones who will look into the books of the churches.
The CAC is meant for businesses, the church is not a business, it is a non-profit organization where every penny that comes in, everybody knows what it’s meant for. So, that is where I think people should be accountable. You should be able to say the amount you received and what you have done with it. Okay, what triggered this debate? It was because people began to see the extravagant lifestyles of some pastors, you go to golf clubs and you find these pastors there.
They are spending money, playing golf and some argue that there are some people who are suffering, some don’t even have jobs, they come to these churches, squeeze themselves to pay tithes or offerings but these things are not accounted for while the pastor is living an extravagant lifestyle. It’s understandable but I think the narrative should be accountability rather than saying that tithe is not biblical. That is an heresy, it is a fallacy, it is something that we should discontinue.
But you know this debate essentially is among Christians
That is why I am saying if you find a Christian who has a thorough background as to what his or her faith is all about, there is no basis for challenging tithes. Moses handed over the Ten Commandments to the same Israelites, why don’t you now say the Ten Commandments are not for me but for the Israelites? But you believe in what the Ten Commandments say, you believe in the prophecies in Deuteronomy 28, when the pastor is declaring it in church, you say amen. Was it to you? Those are the things you need to ask yourselves. At what point is the Bible now meant for a Christian or a Nigerian? If you believe in everything that the Bible says in the Old Testament that becomes a positive prophecy for you and you want to embrace those ones but you now say tithe is not for you then there is a confusion.
I don’t know if you have read Dr. Femi Aribisala who is a pastor. He believed that the pastors who are collecting tithes today are thieves because it is not for them to collect tithes.
People are quoting things out of context. I think another issue is because he says the tithes are meant for the Levites and so pastors today stand and collect everything that comes in and they say because the Bible says it’s for the Levites so it’s for them. I think there are two issues here now: one is for somebody to bring his tithes unto God and the money goes into the church account and the church disburses the money for the purpose that it is meant for and to ensure that there is food in the store house. What is food?
To ensure that the church is functioning properly, that the household of faith is functioning well and that the church is doing what it’s supposed to do which is charity. Now it’s different from tithes coming in and I sitting on the tithes saying it’s for the Levites so it belongs to me, so even if it’s two million that comes in for tithes, it’s for me. No! That is not the idea of the Orthodox Church about tithe. When tithes come into the church, the Orthodox Church uses it for the purpose of keeping the church.
There’s no separate account for tithes, what we just record is the amount we got under tithes but the money goes into where offering and donations go into. The management of the tithe is that it is not for the pastor to do what he wants to do with it, no. In the Orthodox Church what we do is that when you bring in your tithe, it goes into the central purse of the church but the amount is recorded. It all goes into one account and that account is what we use to run the church including salaries both for ministerial and non-ministerial like vehicle fueling.
You don’t need to call them thieves, you can describe it as misappropriation. But why do we worry about this when the Bible said at a certain time, we are going to have a lot of fake pastors, people who will perform miracles in Jesus name, in His name they will perform wonders but at the end of the day they will miss heaven. Why are we then drinking panadol for God’s headache? Every pastor who thinks he has found a means of enjoying free money is going to be accountable at some point, if not to the people at least to God who they claim they are doing whatever they are doing in His name. So why are we worried? God himself has told us about these people.
Let’s be factual, this whole narrative will not change or stop people from paying tithes. It is a belief that you cannot take away from people. If there’s anything most difficult to take away from people it’s their belief. People who believe in Jesus, it’s difficult to take it away from them. Don’t forget it is experiential. If it is difficult to take away beer from people, how much more faith. Faith is much more addictive than any addiction you have in the world. That’s why people can die for faith, not because they are gullible, but because it’s a belief.