Sebiticals Chapter 27: Of Giving, Tithing and Accountability 

​**One of the 3 Sebiticals not published in Sebitically Speaking.
Many years ago, I read a quote which I have been looking for in the past few months but can’t find. The writer of the quote stated that he hardly gave advise on relationships (marriage) and religion, because he didn’t want any persons to blame him (the writer) for their woes in this life or in the next.
I have generally followed that advice. I hardly write about direct religious advice and I can count only about two articles of mine which are dedicated to marriage. And this is out of over a hundred full articles I have written over the more than a decade of active writing.
Last week, actually on my birthday, 3 June 2015, Accra experienced one of the worst flooding I have seen in my life. This coincided with one of the worst fire incidents that nation has ever known as well, when a fuel station near Nkrumah Circle due to an explosion of a fuel tanker. Initial reports indicate that fuel from the tanker leaked and was carried on the surface of the flood waters to a nearby fire source. As of writing, about 150 people have been reported killed from that incident. Many of the dead were sheltering away from the rains when the fire started. A dear friend of mine had left the same fuel station just 5 minutes before the blast. The total death toll from the combined fire and flooding incidents is currently over 200. 
May the souls of the departed rest in peace. 
And may we who remain behind ensure that, together, we create the environment and nation that prevents such catastrophes from happening.
As we mourn, I believe that our faith should find expression in our response to the needs of the afflicted and poor around us, and in our giving to assuage their pains. Our faith should speak through acts of charity. For instance, the least we can do as Christian churches is to donate all offerings this month to relief efforts. We should do even more. Dip into our vaults and give succour to the afflicted. 
Do an act of kindness this month.
Which is why over the weekend after the flooding, I used my Facebook page to engage my readers and followers on the principle and act of tithing, giving and accountability in our churches and religious organisations.
I have always maintained an unorthodox approach to tithing and how I disburse my tithes.
I was taught about tithing in the Scripture Union. Which is an evangelistic organisation. I felt comfortable then to give my tithes to SU and still do. So my foundational appreciation of this duty is to give for the furtherance of Christian outreach. 
My understanding is that when money is brought into the house of God (read: christian evangelistic organisation), it is to be used for three purposes: maintaining the house, supporting the workers in the house and feeding the outside world for which the house and religion exists: the poor, the afflicted and the needy.
So I continue to tithe, which means I set aside a tenth of my income. And I give to chrisitian organisations and also give out to support outreaches. Outreaches here include to the poor, afflicted and needy. 
Which means even when I see a needy student who needs funds to finish school, that person falls within my scope. If I see a poor person in my society, that person falls within my scope. If there is a project to bring relief to a community, it falls within my scope. I don’t believe that my money needs to go through the conduit of an organisation for it to be blessed enough to express christian charity and love to a recipient.
Note that I haven’t mentioned ‘church’ so far. I see that as a subset of the total universe I have defined above (recall your mathematics and sets).
I find many of our churches forgetting that we exist to affect our world and not necessarily only by the noise we make through our loudspeakers. 
This month, use your funds directly to affect a poor, afflicted or needy person.
This proposal generated a lot of responses and varied views. In our discussion on tithes, a few people made a submission that I summarize as below:
“Giving of tithes is an instruction and must go to my church. My responsibility is to obey that. How the money is used is not something I should concern myself with. It is something only the pastor(s) is/are accountable to God for.”
I was, and am, still shocked. If accountability does not and cannot start from the church, then I am not sure how we can hold anyone accountable in this land.
Perhaps I have been ‘spoilt’ by my training and association with Joyful Way and Ridge Church.
Right from the beginning of my time in JWI, I was shocked with the detailed and tough questions asked at Annual General Meetings (AGM). We used to joke that if your first meeting as a JWI member was at an AGM, you would wonder if it was a christian organization, with the Executives questioned on their stewardship and accounts.
Audited accounts are circulated to everyone and lines of expenditure and income outlined are scrutinised. The Executives would give account for each year of stewardship.
The group has a constitution which governs it and which is followed, with regular reviews as and when. The Executive body reports to a Board.
Ridge Church has its board, has AGMs and accounts given each week on preceding week’s inflows.
Perhaps my expectations of accountability in our churches are utopian.
But, back to the point of giving this month to help those affected. 
Let me leave you with some more questions:
What did you do last weekend to help someone affected by the floods? 
When was the last time your church did an outreach or donation to the needy, poor and afflicted?
Does your church have a program to support such people? Even within the church?
Do an act of charity this month.
Think about various ways you can help. If a group of people could set up a hot-lunch spot today to share food with the communities affected by the floods. They need clothing, mattresses, water. A few people have set up fundraising activities; find one and support. You can lend a helping hand whether you are in Ghana or not.
You can also join efforts to clean up your community. 
Whatever you do, don’t be on the fence. 
We are one another’s keeper, and the shoes could be on your feet the next time.
Till I come your way again with another sebitical, I remain:
Sebitically yours, 


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