Ugandan Lawyer and activist, Michael Aboneka, has said that “it is a shame that churches are more concerned about the income flow to their baskets and pockets rather than the things that matter in this country.”
In an article published by the Daily Monitor on Monday titled, ‘It is not mandatory for Christians to pay tithe’, Michael asserted that there is no scripture that makes it mandatory for tithe to be paid before a service is rendered, and noted that being a priest or a pastor is a calling to serve, not a professional service that needs remuneration.
The editorial piece, which has since sparked controversy among many within and beyond the faith community, follows reports in which the media made allegations that the Archbishop of the Kampala Catholic Archdiocese Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga proposed that the central government should start deducting 10 per cent tithe from monthly salaries of Catholic believers.
During a Sunday mass at Lubaga Cathedral Archbishop Lwanga revealed that many Catholics do not pay the tithe, which slows down church work.
“We lie to God that we pay church tithe off our monthly salaries. During a mass like this, when time to pay the tithe reaches, Catholics just pick whatever they get from their pockets and give in, but the tithe the Bible talks about means that you pay 10 per cent of your monthly salary,” Archbishop Lwanga stated.
He also gave an example of Germany where the government takes the responsibility of collecting the church’s monthly tithe from salaries and hands it to respective Catholic Church leaders.
“In Germany where I have recently been, if an employee is supposed to be getting Shs1 million, the government deducts Shs100,000 and he/she walks away with Shs900,000 and it is working very well.”
While it remains unclear whether Catholic believers will support the idea, the tithe homily by the Archbishop did not sit well with Mr Aboneka Michael, a member of the Rule of Law and Strategic Litigation Committee of the Uganda Law Society who recently took Watoto Church to the Constitutional Court claiming that he construes the Church rules on couples intending to weddings to be a violation of their fundamental human rights.
In response, Michael wrote an opinion piece in which he tries to address the elephant in the room.
Here is the piece as it was run in the Daily Monitor.
“As we kept debating the role of the church in the political and democratic processes of the country, we were reminded of the unresolved issue, which is the tithe.
It has been reported that the Archbishop of Kampala, Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, proposed that the central government should start deducting 10 per cent tithe from monthly salaries of Catholic believers because they are not tithing and, therefore, slowing down the church works.
With due respect, it is a shame that churches are more concerned about the income flow to their baskets and pockets rather than the things that matter in this country.
Where was the church when many youths perished in the Buganda riots, Kasese killings and the recent Togikwatako campaigns? Where is the church when girls are dropping out of school because they lack sanitary pads?
The true gospel is one where people’s lives are transformed economically, socially and spiritually. This means that the good news to the hungry is food, to the sick is medicine, to the orphan is support, and not sowing seed and tithing.
I have keenly followed the debate on the tithe and not surprisingly, those who should be answering our questions are either busy or shying away because it could be an issue of turning their tables!
I have taken time off together with a progressive man of God, whom I celebrate as the only pastor I know of in Uganda, who does not take tithe, to dig deep into the issue.
The big question is, is it mandatory to pay tithe? Must one pay tithe in order to go to heaven? What does Jesus teach about tithe? What does Paul and all other Apostles teach about tithe? To whom did they pay their tithe to?
I have been approached with scenarios where pastors or priests fail to pay the last tribute to the deceased Christians because they defaulted on tithe in their life time. Others have had their children denied baptism simply because their parents are tithe defaulters. Where do these religious leaders get this power from?
Which scripture makes it mandatory for tithe to be paid before a service is rendered, being a priest or a pastor or whatever name you call it, is a calling to serve, not a professional service that needs remuneration.
The first time we hear of anyone giving a tenth in the Bible was Abram (Before conversion to Abraham) in Genesis 14:17-24. When Abram came from war with the spoils he had taken from war, he met the King of Salem, Melchizedek, and Abram gave a tenth of the spoils of war to Melchizedek.
Why did Abram give 10 per cent and not 12 per cent or 20 per cent? That is because, Abram did not invent tithing. If it is mandatory for Christians to pay tithe, then circumcision too should be mandatory given that both practices emanate from the Old Testament (the law) and we are now living in the era of Grace (New Testament). Abraham circumcised and paid tithe as per the law and custom then (not because God demanded it). He lived in Mesopotamia and there they paid Mesopotamian tithe, it was also a royal tax.
How come the preachers only pick the tithe aspect and leave out the circumcision?
Under the Mosaic Law of Tithing, when God instituted tithing, it came as a law. The law of tithing with its description and prescription appears in the books of Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Tithing in the law is a bit complex and it was divided into different types that would equate to 23 1/3 percent annually – the Levitical tithe, the Festival tithe, and the Poor tithe. How come our preachers ignore all the other tithes and focus on an incorrect interpretation of the first religious tithe?
The first religious tithe, called the “Levitical tithe,” had two parts. Again, the whole first tithe was given to the Levites, who were only servants of the priests (Numbers 18:21-24; Neh. 10:37). The Levites, in turn, gave one tenth of the whole tithe to the priests (Numb. 18:25-28; Neh. 10:38) because the Levites were not allowed to own property or have inheritance. The goods donated from the other Israeli tribes were their source of sustenance.
They received from “all Israel” a tithe of food or livestock for support, and in turn would set aside a tenth portion of that tithe known as the tithe of tithes for the Aaronic priests. (In Hebrew it is called Terumat Hamaaser).
According to Deuteronomy 12 and 14, the second religious tithe, called the “feast tithe,” was eaten by worshipers in the streets of Jerusalem during the three yearly festivals (Deut. 12:1-19; 14:22-26).
And, according to Deuteronomy 14 and 26, a third tithe, called the “poor tithe,” was kept in the homes every third year to feed the poor. (Deut. 14:28, 29; 26:12,13).”
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