Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gospel of Material prosperity is un Biblical

We do acknowledge the immense responsibilities that come with religious callings especially the way it detaches Church leaders from their family responsibilities. Giving tithes is a moral responsibility to every Christian as it portrays obedience to God. It is also a cardinal duty for followers to give in order to provide for the daily up-keep of Church leaders as a sign of love and service to the Church. On the other hand, its true, the Church needs funds in order to carry out its functions and all this must come from followers. However, Christians should not be coerced by their Church leaders to give in return for prayers, anointing, prophecy, material prosperity or healing. In fact, even in our hospitals, one is asked to clear the hospital bill during discharge but not on admission or in the treatment process. Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons and gave sight to the blind but not a single time did we see him ask for money before or after performing miracles. This must be the decorum for the Church that he established before he went to heaven. He did it for free expecting nothing in return and all the glory went to God. The appalling thing is that many religious leaders in Kenya have perfected the message of giving or planting a seed to their congregants and deviated from the divine calling of preaching the gospel according to the tenets of the Christian faith. Many Kenyan Christians and some Church leaders, they see this approach as materialistic, greed and a negation of the true Christian teaching on tithing or giving. That is why, the latest condemnations against money minded Pastors coming from Dr. David Awor’s National Repentance Ministry should be lauded. Church leaders with get-rich tendencies should know that material opulence is not an avenue to eternity. True Christians need spiritual, physical, emotional, psychological and social forms of richness in order to be complete as God’s people. The Bible reminds us that if we first seek the Kingdom of God and let it blossom in our lives, we shall get everything we require because God understands our needs. That is why I think it’s blasphemous, immoral and ungodly when the quest for material things is the pivot through which current church leaders are basing their sermons in the pulpit; a negation of the true teachings of the Christian faith. In the book of Mathew 5:43-46 Love, is the sum total of the Christian faith not Prosperity. Christians should strive to lead the life that Jesus Christ led based on humility, humbleness and human love. Anything outside this is spiritual hypocrisy. The best example of how many religious leaders mislead their followers is when they advised them to invest in financial pyramid schemes, which eventually was a scum that ripped-off hundreds of thousands of Kenyans their hard-earned cash. Ironically, the Pastors who used the pulpits to advise their followers didn’t use the same pulpit to apologize to them after being conned. In the Bible, when Jesus drove money lenders and changers from the Temple , he did so to get rid of unfair, ungodly and corrupt financial manoeuvres from the Church. We expected our religious leaders to borrow Jesus’ example instead of succumbing to deceit in a form of financial pyramid schemes. I was once a victim of money for prayers when I tip-toed into one of the Christian Ministries in Nairobi to attend lunchtime service. I queued with other congregants to be prayed for little did I know that all of them were holding envelopes stuffed with Kenyan shillings notes. During my turn to be prayed for, the renowned preacher who is also the head of that Ministry asked for my seed before he will pray for me. Since I didn’t have money, he turned down my prayer request! I was so ashamed before the whole Church which was filled to capacity. In a related visit to a different Ministry in Nairobi , I was surprised to see the congregation pledge money in order to be prayed for by a Prophet purportedly from Ghana . The Kenyan preacher who is also the head of the Ministry kept urging the congregants that they will only be ushered to the purported prophet if they planted a seed! Another surprising aspect in this Church was the way people gave their offerings by dropping money on the floor of the pulpit instead of passing out a basket. The motives behind these … those with coins are always put in jeopardy. This is purely a materialistic gospel masquerading as preaching. This is the reason why I personally concur with Dr. Awor’s preaching which is not only bold but also a protector to the Kenyan Christians who have fallen victim to the gospel of materialism perpetuated by unscrupulous clergy men and women whose motive is to achieve financially and not preaching the word of God. It must be understood that Material prosperity is not the only aspect that enhances the life of a Christian or a non Christian. That is why preachers whose message is centred on prosperity must remember that when Jesus was tempted, he boldly told the devil off on how man cannot live by bread alone and also by refusing the treasures of the world that the devil offered. Christians need to be nourished on aspects of repentance and forgiveness, righteousness, temperament, purity of soul, self control, kindness, love, humility, modesty and humbleness. These are virtues that reflect a Christ-like life. Saint Paul places love as the uppermost theological virtue besides hope and faith while Saint Thomas Aquinas, the 12th Century catholic scholar, defined prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude as cardinal virtues. He had abhorrence in gluttony and greed. This is the best approach to preaching the Word of God and MUST be emulated by those with divine calling. If we give or tithe to the Church, let us do it wisely and according to the Biblical tenets instead of listening to the voice of our Pastors whose motive is encouraging more giving in order to enrich their own lives even when many givers or tithers in their congregations are living in squalor. It not bad for Christians to be rich but according to God, they have to use the riches to bless others. In the New Testament, Paul asks fellow Christians to give for the sake of other believers who were materially poor. This didn’t imply that he wanted them to claim wealth for themselves. He wanted them to give to the need as an act of love and compassion. Giving is an issue of faith and partnership with God whether it’s for the Church or to an individual. Christians need to give to God out of a heart of gratitude and a spirit that recognizes that all we have is His. Let us not give expecting more in return; in God, there is no quid pro quo. The sum total of true Christian faith is love and humility and therefore, following carnal materials spoils the flavour of our relationship with God. Joseph Lister Nyaringo, Kisii Kenya
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