“You shall be rich, you shall have mansions, and you shall have fleets of cars, Range Rovers, Mercedes Benz, Maybachs. Your children will go to the most expensive schools, you shall be the head and not the tail, for when you give it shall be given unto you, good measure press down and running over, Can I hear an amen? Amen! You are for signs and wonders, no weapon fashioned against you by the spirit of poverty shall prosper, Receive your wealth!!! Anyone standing between you and that billion naira contract, may they perish for the Lord suffereth not the witches and wizards. He shall stand guard and save his chosen people from the grasp of poverty. Our God is a God of wealth, Jehovah Jireh, our provider!”
The quote above is of course entirely fictional but is symptomatic of the kind of messages that are going out of the pulpit in many churches in Nigeria. I figure since we are in the Easter period, it would do well to write a blogpost about this brand of prosperity based Christianity that is running rampant in our country. Before I write, I must emphasize that what is written is entirely my opinion and you are free to disagree with me.
I have to believe there is something wrong when week in and week out, the clergy are spewing messages basically worshipping the God of money at the detriment of the basic and fundamental tenets of Christianity. A typical message focuses mainly on what can be termed selfish prayer, praying for wealth, cars, clothes and power all for yourself. Sho? Whatever happened to preaching the gospel of Jesus, winning souls, living an exemplary life, whatever happened to helping the poor, feeding the hungry, taking care of the sick, orphans and widows, not coveting your neighbor’s private jet? These are all thrown away at the altar of money.
People have turned the house of God into a glorified casino, where the only message being preached is a message of “sowing seeds.” You fail to see the similarity? In casinos as in with most gambling you spend money to make money. So when a church emphasizes giving so much that you have people giving up their entire life savings for the hope of getting it back a thousand fold, doesn’t that sound like odds used in casinos? As in with casinos most of the time the house wins but occasionally there is a lucky jackpot winner, who in this case is the brother and sister who is out there sharing testimony how his/her 10,000 became 1 million. Before you get me wrong, I m not totally against sowing seeds, tithing and the lot. I feel there is simply more to Christianity than that.
In glorifying money and the pursuit of wealth, many clergy lead their congregations astray. Church becomes a competition, who looks best, who is wearing the fanciest clothes, who is driving the most expensive cars. The materialism apparent in these churches is abhorrent. I bet you if Jesus were living today, He would say, “why have you turned my father’s house into a den of thieves?” He would probably chase them all out of church with koboko like we used to see in the old Jesus of Nazareth movies. Lets think about it, Christians are supposed to be followers of Christ who emulate his life. So if these people preaching knew anything about Christ, they would know that he was from a humble background, lived a simple life. Probably never combed his hair and walked around from town to town with the same pair of sandals which must have seen shege. He even once told a rich man to give up all his belongings to the poor to follow him. He said it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Isn’t it obvious that Jesus wasn’t a fan of excessive wealth if it did little to help the poor and the needy? Help me ask them.
Apart from the constant preaching about money and wealth, many of the pastors themselves aren’t helping matters with the way they live. Many of the in vogue clergymen and women drive around in flashy cars, ride around in private jets, own massive shares in companies and have landed properties in choice areas of the country. These people are selling to their congregation a lifestyle that many cannot keep up with in our country. They are selling this lifestyle and not teaching their congregations about investing. This makes many people in the congregation adopt a fake lifestyle. Spending the last penny of their salary to look good in church, they live in a rented mansion, they drive in flashy cars that they haven’t finished paying for, the borrow money from left to right, to try and keep up appearances. They rather rent a mansion inside Abuja/ In VI, Ikoyi or Lekki even though they know the money they are spending on rent is enough to buy a house of their own in less glamorous zones. This fake lifestyle of chopping at fancy restaurants and so on results in little or no investment or saving and many of these people end up retiring with nothing to show for the millions of naira in cashflow that passed through them over the years just because they are trying to live the charmed life.
It doesn’t help that in many churches the people that seem to get recognition or any form of personalized attention from the preachers is the wealthy section of the congregation. When one of them is sick, the pastor himself will go to his/her house to pray for them. This is probably because he/she donates large sums to the church in question. Whatever happened to the widows might as mentioned in the bible? Do they simply gloss over that part of the bible? What does this do to psyche of the less wealthy members of the church? Of course it gives them an inferiority complex because in society they are treated like shit and in the house of God they are equally treated like shit. So what do they do? They try by hook or by crook to achieve that wealth that will get them recognition in church and society, so they too can come out and give one of those testimonies that will have people screaming hallelujah. For some people, this can drive them to be creative. For others, this will lead to corruption. People will collect bribes and steal funds all the name of getting their blessing. There are documented cases of people stealing money and giving it to church in this country. A church that is meant to bring comfort and solace to the poor and downtrodden has pushed these people to the brink.
I believe it would do us well as Christians if we toned down the materialism and focus more on the service of God and others. For indeed when asked what the greatest commandments were Jesus said, “Thou shall worship the lord thy God and him only shall you serve” also “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He didn’t say love only yourself and become rich so you can lord it over others.
What do you think? Is there really an excuse for the blatant glorification of wealth in the church today that it has become like a second god?