Theological perspectives on tithing in the Old Testament and their implications for believing communities in Africa
This dissertation addresses the topic, “Theological perspectives on Tithing in the Old Testament and their implications for believing communities in Africa.” At the height of “prosperity” and “word of faith” theologies, material resources became a central issue in the contemporary Church in Africa. Opponents query the biblical basis, point to abuses such as the lifestyles of pastors, and allege the commercialization of the gospel. Dispensationalists query the case for tithing in the New Testament, and the degree of reliance on the Old Testament where the situation might be different from ours. The impact has been to provide more resources for the Church and forestall the economic dependency on the West. So the research seeks to answer the questions about the theological basis for the adoption of the tithe system as a means of mobilizing local resources in support of the Church’s programmes, among others. And the thesis of the research is that a rigorous study and theological interpretation of the different examples of tithing in the Old Testament can motivate a more reflective theological-ethical understanding of the practice of tithing amongst believing communities in Africa. In order to achieve this, chapter two presented a survey of tithing in the Ancient Near East and Old Testament. It was shown that the concept of tithing was not peculiar to Ancient Israel; it was also found in other Ancient Eastern cultures like Ancient Egypt, Old and New Babylonia, Assyria, and Ugarit. Whereas the tithe system in the Old Testament was always theologically motivated, it was not always the case in other examples from the Ancient Near East. Chapters three and four studied the theological perspectives of tithing in Numbers and Deuteronomy. Numbers presented the tithe as the wages for the cult personnel, while Deuteronomy expanded the beneficiaries to include, the Levites, the foreigners, the orphans and the widows. The Israelites were to tithe as a means of expressing worship to the LORD and obedience to the laws. Both books presented the tithe as a theological obligation on the worshipper. Chapter five was an empirical survey of tithing in the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria. The study revealed an overwhelming support for the adoption and continuation of the tithe system in the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria. Furthermore, it showed that the PCN needed to do more in helping it’s members have a holistic understanding of the theological motivation for tithing. The “worship of God” was presented as the theological cornerstone of tithing, and the “blessings of God”, as the reward of obedience. Finally, the implications and relevance of tithing for the Church in Africa was evaluated in chapter six. It was shown that by tithing, the Church in Africa would be demonstrating its gratitude for God’s prized redemptive activity in the world, its joyful participation in God’s own undying concern for the poor and destitute; that while tithing should not be pursued as a mere institutionalized legalism, it remains a sound biblical benchmark for Christian stewardship.