The God Enterprise: Who Are The Shareholders?

Ubiquitous on the lips of many is the argument that the Church needs to pay tax to the State. This point they make because the Church appears to be making a killing from the citizenry. I beg to differ from this position.

My disagreement with the idea of the Church paying tax is not because it’s Unchristian. Far from that. In fact, Christ himself exhorts his followers to give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Again, the Church is in no position to exercise that prerogative of paying tax or not, in a secular society. As one of many religious groups, it will have to conform to paying such taxes if the state wills it, via legislation of course.

Nonetheless, my argument against the receipt of tax by the State from Churches simply stems from the fact that, the state, in its current form, has lost its moral authority to take any such monies. Taking monies from the church and pouring it into State coffers in the current circumstances will simply amount to robbing one thief to pay another. It will in no way make the lives of the tithe and offertory payer any better. If you think a kleptocratic State will get better with more revenue, simply think of Nigeria.

What is the difference between the profligate pastor who takes from the church and the corrupt civil servant who plunders the state coffers?

Until we are able to institute clear Systems of accountability and transparency in our State administrative structure, I don’t think any citizen deserves to pay a dime more in taxes. The State hasn’t shown itself faithful in the massive direct and indirect taxes it takes from the toil of the citizenry. What shows that ponying a little more from the offertory bowl and handing it over will make any change?

For a State which bleeds billions of dollars annually through Illicit Financial Flows and lacks the will to formalize a whopping 70% of potential tax revenue sources from the population, I don’t think they should be encouraged to be lapping off from the Churches, where they have not sown- by way of organizing the people towards revenue mobilization. Such attitudes will only encourage an opportunistic State which will fail at structuring the economy but quickly latch on any form of organized sector to milk it in a parasitic fashion.

While I disagree with funneling the voluntary donations of congregants to the State, I am in no way making the argument that such contributions are being better utilized by the church and its leaders.

It is common to find most churches make the argument that they help members and own institutions of education, health etc. which go to benefit the public. But increasingly, the Church is becoming synonymous with the sinful ostentation of its leaders; in stark contrast to the wretchedness of most members.

It is sad to observe how the church takes charitably from congregants, but turns around to channel such funds into commercial entities of education and health which requires fees with no semblance to charity.

It is very unfortunate to see our religious institutions of, mostly, education far outwitting the secular entities in the sphere of commercialization and profiteering; which at certain points borders on exploitation

While at it, I will not fail to credit the church for their dynamic ability to mobilize the masses. This is something most progressives have failed at doing. But it is important that the Church does not use this unique advantage to benefit a few at the expense of the many poor. Why should a committed church member, who commits his or her widows might to pay tithe and offertory without fail, be in the same dire straits of unemployment and lack of access to education like any other secular member of society? Where then lies the value in his selfless dedication of both his cash and toil to the church while he hath breath?

The church can have no moral justification for the increasing affluent lifestyles of their leaders and the construction of grand temples; while most members go to bed on empty stomachs. Yes, the salvation argument may be made that man shall not live by bread alone. But it’s also important for our churches to know that man cannot live without bread.

While the state has failed woefully in its duty toward the people, the church has done a great job at mobilizing the people in an amazing way; and could become that last anchor for engendering and engineering an all inclusive and equitable sense of community development in our nation, and the other impoverished states of Africa. But that will only be possible if we will see less and the last of grand synagogues and temples, flashy fleets and private jets; all owned by church leaders. And in their place, we come to see from the church more and more of credit support for peasants and petty traders, pervasive scholarships for wards of members, membership health insurance schemes, and and programs that ensure that no church member is left behind.

That will mean more to God I believe, than the current trend. Remember, when Christ took the offering of five loaves of bread and two fishes from the little boy and increased it to five thousand more, he didn’t keep the lion share to himself and the apostles. All were made to feast equally and freely and even kept the leftovers. The Church can emulate same with offertory and tithes.

I believe that is the only way the Church can redeem itself before heaven and earth . For Jesus did not see any value of salvation in giving to “God” But said, as you do it for your brethren, so have you done it unto me. It’s common to find many of us Christians bypass many needy family members and deprived neighbors and go on to splash millions in the offertory bowl under the pretext of giving to God. This is most unfortunate. The Church cannot continue to hinder its members from seeing God in their neighbor.

My mind.

Kate Tutu

Social Entrepreneur,Business Consultant, Editor of Feint & Margin, a young woman who's passionate about Africa's people and development.