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A lot has been said in recent times about African churches and tithes. I am not here to re-litigate whether it is right for you to pay tithe or not. So I am not going to bore you with more Bible verses and chest-thumping, prosperity-preaching, lines. Paying tithe is like having sex. If you are kicking against having sex, chances are that you are not having it. If you are kicking against paying tithes, chances are that you are not paying. So let us leave the matter as it is: to each his own.
My primary mission is to explain how paying tithe works for those who believe. Oh, it works. It fulfills the promises your pastor made when he selectively quoted out of context the relevant Bible verses and cajoled and/or subtly and mildly threatened you, his congregant, to joyfully give 10% of your income before tax. Trust me, if it didn’t work, you will not be faithfully doing so year after year. Not even when the punishment for not paying tithe is eternal, unquenchable hell fire or the earth-shattering threat of your pastor not burying you when you die. Not being buried by your pastor is like hoping to go to heaven without visa. Only a burial officiated by a Bishop could nullify it. But some of you cannot afford that.
Paying tithe works for you. It works for all those who believe. And this is how it works:
For the purpose of this analysis, let us assume that you are an average Nigerian churchgoer. You make N50, 000 a month. If you pay 10% of your salary as tithe, that would be N5, 000 a month. In a year, you would have given N60, 000 to your church. In ten years, that would have been N600, 000 in tithes. In 16 years, you would have put in N1, 000,000 as tithe into your church coffers. Nice! You’ve really earned that coveted title of children of God.
So, if you made an average of N50,000 a month for the last 16 years and you have not paid N1,000,000 million in tithe, you have cheated God. And that, my friend, is a mortal sin.
If, on the other hand, you had taken the devil’s path and invested the N1,000,000 in solid stocks, bonds, treasury bills, or just left it in a savings account of a solid bank, it would have been a nice chunk of money to look forward to at retirement or to be used to pay for your children’s education or, in a worst case, be used for your relation’s funeral — pick any of your favorite relations. And that is very important too. Befitting funeral, I mean. You don’t want the dead to look down from the great beyond and be upset at the shoddy goodbye you gave him or her. It is the primary cause of generational curses.
So, N600, 000 in ten years is not a joke. It is not something that anyone throws out for nothing, especially a responsible fellow like you.
If you pay tithe with all your heart, in general, you will report increase in fortune. It usually comes in many folds, just as the pastor promised you. Here’s how they come.
1. By paying tithe, 10% of your income, you are immediately forced to adjust your budget to account for that withdrawal for onwards wiring to God’s account. The deficit forces a budget adjustment that makes you a better money manager than a non-tithe paying member of your church. That alone puts you at a better financial state than all those who do not pay tithe but do not budget.
2. By paying tithe with the belief that God will reward you in many folds, you will have placebo-induced positive financial outlook. Positive outlook makes you anticipate opportunities and good outcomes. You are open to seeing and taking advantage of these opportunities much more than non-tithe payers who are pessimistic and unenthusiastic about seizing opportunities.
3. By paying tithe you join the inner caucus of your church. This is the band of trusted members who care for each other and will share opportunities for progress or, as they call it, prosperity, with each other before going to the wider circle of those who do not pay tithe. (With the rare exception of when the inner circle extends the opportunity to non-tithe paying members with the hope that when they receive the blessing, they will begin to pay tithe.)
The above intended and unintended consequences of paying tithe means that, over time, you will receive blessings. You will see your fortune improve. You will buy new cars, get promoted, marry new wives, get better husbands, take your family on vacation to Dubai, get visa to relocate to Canada where you will join a new branch of your church and even get the ultimate calling to become a pastor in your own right. Trust me, none of these happen to those who do not pay tithe. More importantly, there is no path to being ordained a pastor if you do not pay tithe. It is like dreaming of being a Capone without partaking in what the Pyrates Confraternity members are known for. Please don’t ask me what.
There is a slight chance that you can faithfully pay tithe for 10 consecutive years, N600,000.00, without seeing a significant blessing in your life. By significant blessing I mean, not counting the fact that you traveled to your village and came back without dying in a road accident or from the fetish activities of your village people. Being sick and getting healed without dying does not count as significant blessing, even though it is one of those things that kill those who do not pay tithes.
Some very smart pastors are aware of these discrepancies in heaven’s reward system. It works like Buhari’s N5000 a month payment to poorest Nigerians. You hear that it is there but you don’t know anyone who gets it. The smart pastors are aware that every now and then, you take a look at your neighbor who do not pay tithe and you compare the progress in his or her life with yours. Your pastor knows that you noticed that your neighbor’s daughter married a rich man while yours married a civil servant. And it is not as if their daughter is that beautiful, well-endowed, well-behaved, or well-educated. Your non-tithe paying neighbor’s son even scored higher in JAMB than yours.
There is a very good reason why, every now and then, Apostle Johnson Suleman of the Omega Fire Ministries comes in front of his church with the cameras blazing and gives out money, cars and other gifts to his congregants. It is the same reason lottery and sweepstakes operators hand over the big cheques to winners in front of the camera — to give hope to those who are yet to be lucky.
Apostle Suleman could afford to give out money because if he could convince 30% of his 500,000 strong congregants to pay tithe, that would be 150,000 tithe paying members. (A pastor who cannot convince 25% of his church members to pay tithe should look for another career.) If every tithe paying member pays an average of N5, 000 a month, that would be N750,000,000 a month. High-end churches like Chris Oyakhilome’s Christ Embassy, Chris Okotie’s God Church International Ministries and others, with more educated and affluent members easily take home a couple of billions each month in tithes. Who needs to be a senator or governor at that rate when you can be a prophet or an apostle without winning election?
For those of you who may not have received the dividend of paying tithe, your pastor is authorized by God to dip his hands into the sacred tithe coffers and make some displays that will make you see that there is hope. That is after showing via his houses, cars, private jets, and other prosperity-illuminating lifestyle that proves that God is faithful to those who trust, obey and pay tithe. By your pastor calling for testimonies, or making Naira or cars or other gifts, including marriage matchmaking opportunities, rain on people you know, he strengthens your hope in the reward that comes from paying tithe.
Every testimony reaffirms that it could be you next time. It is the same slogan lottery operators around the world use to pitch their trade. And as the lottery says immediately after telling you that it could be you, “you cannot win if you do not play.”
It works. It works. It works.
It works for the management of Bet9ja. It also works for your General Overseer. It will work for you …if you believe.
Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo is the author of “This American Life Sef.”