Rev Ladi Thompson is the founder and General Overseer of Living Waters Unlimited. He is also the coordinator of Macedonia Initiative a body committed to providing aids to victims of religious crisis in the North. In this interview he gives a fresh perspective on the controversy over tithe and offering. Below are excerpts:
There has been so much hue and cry about tithe, offering and first fruit in the Church. And it seems the controversy won’t just go away. How will you look at the issue?
I think we should look at the issues with the spiritual lens not with the carnal mind. And we should not try to follow the bandwagon. There is always a spirit behind every question and agitation. When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night he made a statement but Jesus answered the questions in his heart.
Many questions on tithes and offerings is not the question in the heart of people. The real question in the heart of people when they hear tithe and offering is the money question. When you bring up the issue they say they are after our money or it’s all about money. For such people, you can’t answer their question because Jesus says we can’t serve God and mammon. A lot of people worship money. A man who loves money cannot love God. There is a danger in exposing a believer to money without proper instruction.
Now, you will think that it is the rich man who loves money most. But if you find out carefully you will discover that the poor people are those who love money most and that is why their poverty stays. If you love money you have to choose between God and money. The point I am making is that we have to first address the heart issue before even talking about tithe, offering and first fruit. You will recall that the Bible says a fool says in his heart there is no God. So the issues of the heart has to be tackled first.
In essence you think the controversy is a symptom of a deeper problem of the heart?
Of course. A lot of people get into this tithe controversy are those who love money. A philosopher was able to prove that people argue from a conclusion they have already reached in their heart. He was able to point out that the carnal man is not rational. In his decision making he is emotional. People make up their mind and conclude on an issue because of an emotional attachment. People buy things sometimes not because of the utility value but because of some extraneous consideration which bother on emotion.
For babes in Christ we have to be careful because money is very dangerous. If you don’t teach people about the deceitfulness of riches you can’t understand the tithe and first fruit issue. When Jesus said it’s easier for a Carmel to pass through the eyes of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God it sounded odd. But it’s all related to obsession over money. People have cheated, killed and done all sorts of things to get money.
So what are you saying in essence?
For the mature believer issues of tithe offering and first fruit should be no issue because they are not weightier matter as put by Jesus in Matt 23v23. The mature believer recognizes spiritual conclusions but the young believer who should be taught the discipline of tithe and offering is not getting the proper teaching and therefor misses the point and gets frustrated because he is not getting an expected result from it.
Nobody likes discipline. In Nigeria the pay structure is not enough. If the believer does not understand that the tithe and offering are what God designed to protect him, bless him and he is given the impression that the tithe is to enrich some people and make some people unduly wealthy then he would not be able to get the benefits that come from paying tithe and first fruit.
Is it the tithe that gives benefits or God is the one who blesses?
God is the one who blesses but the tithe and offerings are sacrifices and instruments used to procure the blessings. They are acts of worship. They are outward expression of love. When Bible says it’s more blessed to give than to receive the Bible knows that giving is the road to being blessed. A person who understands that will be looking for the opportunity to give. But because people have been taught that tithes, offering and first fruit are seeds they plant in expectation of harvest they begin to behave like farmers who have been taught that they would sow a seed and receive something in return. And that is why there is so much confusion in the church today. I raised the alarm about 20 years ago when people began to equate what we give as tithe and offering to a seed. That is the root of the controversy we have now. And I said it then that this teaching would boomerang. And that is what the church is facing today.
Equating all these forms of giving to seeds was okay in a rogue economy because people are corrupt and get money from corrupt means. So both the receiver and giver of tither are enmeshed in a quagmire. So there are no consequences of their action as it were. But people have to understand that in presenting our gifts to God we are not doing it with a farmer mentality who sows and reaps. The law of sowing and reaping is different from the law of sacrifice. Sowing and reaping is limited to the earth while sacrifice carries eternal consequence. We have to learn how to give our offerings. It is amazing that not all churches that Paul planted understood giving. And he made that assertion when he was addressing the Philipians and told them that they are the only people who discussed the issue of giving with him. In Phil 4v15 he stated that no church communicated with him about giving.
Is giving sacrifice about giving money?
Again you are asking question in the heart of many believers. The first thing that comes to mind when sacrifice is mentioned is that they are after our money. They want our money. But when you see tithe, first fruit from the point of view of sacrifice you will not think money first. The Bible tells us about the Philippians that they gave themselves first. After giving themselves then the material thing follows. It’s not the other way round. The implication is that the giver must be in right standing and the receiver too. If anybody understands the principles of giving as enunciated in 2 Cor 8v4 that person will not argue over these forms of giving
Those who understand sacrifice technology know that our body is a living sacrifice. But then we know that we have free will. The rich young ruler came to Jesus and the Lord told him what to do and he said he had been doing them. But Jesus said “there was still one thing, go sell what you have and give to the poor”. Soon Jesus realized there is a shrine in his heart. He would reject Jesus if his money is involved.
People who have addiction for the kingdom don’t give 10 percent they give 100 percent. There was a man in the US who gave 90 percent of his income and was still one of the richest fellow in that country. The New Testament places a higher demand on the believer but there is a higher grace supplied to carry out those demands. Under the Old Testament to commit adultery was to sleep with a woman physically. But in the New Covenant, just lusting over a woman; you have committed adultery already. The New Testament is not friendly to the flesh. It’s an aberration to commit fornication for instance and continue to take communion. The demands of the New Testament can only be met if you engage the Holy Spirit and you activate the mind of Christ. It’s really not your effort that gets you to that point but you surrendering to his will.
What we are experiencing in the church today is carnality. There are many pastors who are making sacrifices and salting the country today who are not known. Unfortunately we keep talking about those buying jets which are negligible few in our midst. There is an abuse no doubt. There are spiritual principles guarding the sacrifice. You can’t escape the consequence. Both the person who gives the sacrifice wrongly and the person who receives it wrongly are all in the same boat.
In the New Testament the disciples gave all. They brought what they had to the apostles’ feet and distribution was made among all the saints nobody lacked anything. Why are we not just following that?
Again we have to be careful. It’s the Holy Spirit that governs distribution. Many believers have problem with allowing the Holy Spirit to lead them to where they should place their sacrifice. Those who receive it are also not in tune with the Holy Spirit to know where the resources should go. The instructions of the Holy Spirit are not logical. If for instance God wants to destroy a community and he gives you the option to choose between a woman who runs a beer parlour and a preacher who will you recommend to be protected. You most likely will recommend the preacher. But the Holy Spirit does not work that way. It is not logical to allow Solomon the son of a woman who was not legally married to ascend the throne of David while there were other legitimate children older than him. Since God’s thought are not our thought and his ways are not our ways we may have problem understanding the way resources are distributed.
What is the position you’re taking in this regard?
My position is that if at the door of accepting Jesus we believe incredible things why is it difficult to believe God for things that are mundane like giving. We believe a virgin could give birth to a child. Many don’t have problem accepting Jesus but when they enter the fold they become unbelieving believers. I think the real question should be how do we prevent abuse?
But before then how do we know the spirit of God is leading a man of God when it comes to the receipt and distribution of resources?
We are back to the issue of how do we prevent abuse. I once took a friend to a place and the Lord opened my eyes to see a fallen angel in front of the house. Years later I had to go to the same house. As I got the house I made the same statement that a fallen angel was around the house and I was told the Mormon Church had just moved to Nigeria and their leader was living in that house. We should appreciate that the gathering of the people of God is not a gathering of jesters. It is not a gathering of unbelieving believers. It’s a gathering of people who come for fellowship. Who come to be equipped and empowered. We are not of the world.
My orientation is that kingdom of God is more important to me than anything else. I was going to church to be equipped and go out to make impact.
Like I said our problem began when we started calling tithe and offering seeds. The flaw in this teachings is the imagery of a farmer which is contrary to soul prosperity that the Bible talked about. The Bible says our prosperity is tied to our soul prosperity. Over 20 years ago I said it was wrong to call what we give as seed. They are not seeds. They are sacrifices. I was in church one day and in attempt to prove a point a pastor said it took Jesus hours to cast out devils. I got home turned on the light and the Lord spoke to me that his words is like light. He then told me anybody who says Jesus was wrestling with demons is a joker. Our faith is tied to Holy Spirit who dwells in both the congregation and the priests. The minister who is ministering must be ministering by the Holy Spirit and the hearers must also be hearing by the Holy Spirit. If we observe these spiritual protocols we won’t be arguing over matters Jesus says are not weightier matters.
But we are not experiencing that?
Yes because carnality has taken over the church. A pastor was suggesting to me that we can bring comedian to church. I said no. If we are talking of raising the dead, healing the sick and saving souls we can’t afford to bring in entertainers. In the first place there is no dull moment with Jesus. I have personally enjoyed ministry and I still enjoy ministry. At the risk of repeating myself, if we raise believers who are filled with the spirit of God we won’t wasting precious time discussing tithe and offering which are not weightier matter.
From what I have observed, the Nigeria church is like the Galatians Church. Apostle Paul planted the Galatian Church and he later discovered that the people have been exposed to some other gospel. He was marveled that they were so soon moved away from the gospel of Jesus. That is a weightier matter. If the church functions in its apostolic authority do you think anybody can cheat God? I believe anybody who is arguing about tithe, offering and first fruit is being distracted.
Some don’t tithe. They give more than tithe. Is it about the 10 percent?
What I try to do is to study the scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to work through me. If I go to a fellowship group and I begin to hear things that will not feed me I would walk out. I used to listen to a pastor and it got to a point that I was not being fed though people applauded him. I had read the stories of all kinds of Church leaders in the past so I went to church to be fed because I had been inspired by the life of these men; but I discovered that I was like a person who goes to a canteen and comes out still hungry. I used to feel bad before because I must have changed churches close to seven times but I understand better later. So the issues we are confronting is far greater than the issue of tithe and offering.
What then would you consider a seed, what would you consider a sacrifice?
God is a spirit. You can’t harvest in the realm of spirit. Seed is out of the picture of giving. Our relationship with God from the foundation of the world to the end of age is predicated on sacrifice. The only place we can meet with God is the altar. And when we talk about altar we are talking about sacrifice. It is God who put the potential of a seed in the sacrifice. If I know there is a seed in the orange I don’t need to call on God for the seed to reproduce itself. The seed will reproduce itself whether we like it or not. But a lot of things are involved in the sacrifice. God is not impressed by our religious sentiment. Nigeria’s case has become so bad that the average so called believer if we are not careful has not tasted the original faith.
Read also: Mammon and today’shttps://churchtimesnigeria.net/mammon-and-todays-church/
Some churches have taken the giving issue to the extent of collecting money for the redemption of first born. How will you react to this?
That is mammon. By collecting money for redemption you have despised the spirit of grace. It is criminal to ask people to pay money for redemption of first born. It was done once in the Old Testament. But Peter made us to realize that we are not redeemed by corruptible thing but by the precious blood of the lamb. The moment we add money to the blood we have devalued it. Heb 10v29. You collected money for salvation? That is a no go zone. A genuine person in Christ will soon find out that the corruption in Nigeria is so entrenched that to live honest you won’t get anywhere but then for the believer there are spiritual ways he can prosper without compromise and this include sacrificial offerings like tithe and first fruit. The mastery of these things come by proper study. It can’t be understood by the carnal man. A tithe payer shows that his love for God goes beyond money.
A tithe payer? Must it be tithe?
Call it tithe fright thrith, smrith. What I know is that money is so dangerous in the sense that if you hold it to yourself and you tell God to mind his business you may not last as a person. But I think the starting point for any believer is to tithe as a form of financial discipline and also to learn the process of giving. From there such believer can do more.
Where do we give it to?
I used to attend a church in Lagos I was paying a lot of money as my tithe and I was doing it anonymously because I did not want attention. Those close to me who knew me were abusing me and saying my money is being used for the wrong purpose. But I made them understand that my tithe was not for the receiver but to God. Paul made the Philippians to know that he had learnt to abound and abase but that he does not just collect gifts but that he had to cross check with God before accepting them. We are asking all these questions because we are in the Galatian Church. If it is a church that Jesus designed all these questions are not necessary. If you are connected to the kingdom of God you will cause panic in the camp of the enemy.
I was coming from Cotonou one day and the immigration officers were asking for bribe. They tripled the usual amount we were paying. I told them we were ministers. They said but pastors also collect tithe. The brother I went with was arguing with them. I told him not to worry. I went to the car and brought money and wanted to give them. As I placed the money up to deliver to their hands I told them this was the last money they would ever collect. As I made that pronouncement, his hands disappeared from under my hand, all the security people disappeared. They threw our passports at us. The church with power cannot be toyed with. There were days when believers were sacking civil servants but today mammon has taken over the pulpit. The people complaining and the people arguing don’t have kingdom mind. Do we think David was a fool? Four men risked their lives to get water for him. He could not drink the water he had to pour it on the ground for God.
The New Testament giving is clear
We can’t follow that strictly because God does not fail to lead us. Knowledge is crucial. We need to keep asking for his leading. There are scriptures that reveal to us some basic principles. Hebrews 5 for instance gives us an insight into the issue of tithe. We must know that money is already covenanted. Naturally money avoids the believer because it’s of this world. The world system does not want any believer to have money. Part of what can frustrate a believer is to keep money out of his reach because the devil knows he will use the money for what it is meant for to depopulate the kingdom of hell. If you find out when pay you tithe to God and it brought so much favour nobody would teach you not to pay it. Mechizedek did not beg Abram for tithe. Abram recognized something. He recognized that the lesser is blessed of the greater. He whose genealogies have nothing to do with Abram collected tithe from Abram. A priest of God whose order is named after that of Jesus collected tithe. In the realm of the spirit it was being reckoned.
If you give a tithe which is a sacrifice, it is not compulsory that God must accept a sacrifice. Money is so dangerous that if God does not protect you from it, you will end up in hell. There must be a conduit for worshipping God with money until money starts leaving your hand you will never know when you are serving mammon.
There was a time I asked our members to bring shoes that we wanted to give people who had no shoes. Somebody brought this wonderful shoes; good quality shoes, the best quality you can think of. The person who brought the shoes pleaded with me to ensure that the person who gets the shoes knows the value of the shoes. I turned to him and said the moment you give a sacrifice you should forget how it is used. I told him because of what he said God will make sure we give it to an okada rider who will misuse it. We needed to be dead to the sacrifice. Whenever you’re the one directing the tithe then you are have gotten your reward already.