“And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.” 2Peter 2:3
e live in an exciting time in history, a time when different parts of the world are at different levels of evolutionary development and are able to observe it in a way that has not been possible since the existence of the world. Through the internet, the world has become a truly global village and events in any place would only take seconds to reach all. This is indeed magic in the real sense of magic, which is why it is possible to compare two societies in a way that has never been possible. For some time, I have observed the way Nigerians practice Christianity and compared it with how Christianity is practiced in the countries that brought Christianity to Nigeria. The differences I have observed in conduct and attitude and what the people justify in the name of God is huge. One area where I have paid attention is the activities of the church and how it conducts its affairs.
In Britain for instance, the government pays charities additional 28% of any donation they receive from any tax payer. This means that if an individual donated one pound to a charity, the government will give the charity additional 28 pence. Since churches are registered Charities, they are able to claim back from government 28% of whatever donations they receive from tax payers who fill the gift aid form. All charities, including churches in Britain urge their members to give through gift aid as it is called. This is to enable the charities to continue to carry out the many voluntary works they do, which are vital to the life of the society. Even though Britain is a welfare state where the government is responsible for the people and ensures that people have shelter, are educated, have access to good health care services and fed, the charities still do a lot of work in helping people who are unable to survive within the system. They provided things like shelter for homeless people, and free food and other support for the very poor and marginalised. All these services are provided at no cost to the people who benefit from them because the organisations are charities. They find different ways of raising the money they need. This method of operating charities is the method sanctioned in the Bible.
One of the clearest statements in the Bible is the command Jesus gave to the twelve apostles when he sent them out. In Matthew Chapter 10 verse 8, Jesus said” Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and raise the dead, (which some people understand literarily) cast out devils: freely ye receive, freely give”. This is a statement by Jesus against the use of religion to exploit people. Jesus makes it very clear that the church is to render its service at no cost to those who benefit from them. The church should not Heal the sick (operate hospitals at a profit or operate its schools etc., as a business). In this statement Jesus could not make it clearer what the conduct and attitude of the church should be towards the resources men give freely to it in the name of God for the service to mankind. He said that the church should give freely what it receives freely. He never intended nor advised that the church should be run on business model but as a social enterprise that gives its services in a sustainable way and manner and not able to exclude those who need the services because they are unable to pay. The aim of church organisation should be sustainability through charity giving and not profit through smart business practices that excludes the poor. His simple instruction was, freely you receive and freely you must give. He never imagined that men would think of privatising the church of God and setting up organisations that enrich them through donations in the name of God.
Sadly in Nigeria, charities tend to function differently and churches have deviated from these instructions and have become one of the most exploitative organisations in the country. The result is the explosion of private enterprise religious organisations called ministries, set up solely for the economic benefit and welfare of the founders. This is not surprising considering that the search for God tend to have a direct relationship to deterioration in the society. Since the end of the civil war, the whole of Nigeria has gone downhill. There has been almost absence of genuine social and economic investments. What has happened is a sustained deterioration of existing infrastructures like Railways, airways, road, refineries roads, schools, universities hospitals etc. The Nigeria governments have been unable to improve anything they inherited form the colonial masters and it is a monumental failure of leadership. The only thing Nigeria has done is move the capital city from Lagos to Abuja, something, Myanmar, (Burma) has also accomplished in spite of economic sanctions. One of the results of this lack of true development has been the exponential growth is the emergence of private churches run by self-appointed men of God who are exploiting the gullible by the misuse of God’s words, and increasing polarisation of the countries along religious lines as politicians seek to exploit religion to gain the votes of the people. Nowhere is this evil prominent than in north Nigeria where there has been the introduction of Sharia laws and emergence of Boko Haram and south Nigeria, where there is epidemic of religious enterprises.
For several years, Nigerian religious entrepreneurs crafted a gospel of prosperity based on giving to God. First they hijacked the tithe as entitlement which they spent as they pleased, even though Jesus did not ask people to pay tithe to religious leaders but to give to God what belongs to God. These so called men and women of God, run their ministries registered as charities, as private companies, something that would have earned them jail terms in developed countries. They then became greedy and developed the doctrine of getting rich by giving to God. To a people who have been let down by the government who can only look to miracle for what good government and knowledge enable people in developed countries to achieve, this was music to their ignorant minds. The pastors appealed to the greed in the people in the same way casino owners entice people to believe that gambling is a rational way of getting rich and the people are seduced not knowing that the only people who truly get rich through gambling are the casino owners who do not need to play. They do not realised that the odds are stacked against them and that the gambling machine is designed in such a way that their loses are the gain of the casino owners. They are unaware that each time they lose the casino owner gains.
This is the doctrine the new generation Nigerian private enterprise religious entrepreneurs preach to the people. They tell the people that the best good is love, and that the best way to love God is to give their lives to God and that by giving to the church, even though it is a private business that they are giving to God. They tell the captives called believers that the more they give to God by giving to the church, the more God blesses them. With this lies, perverted exegesis, sophistries and lyricisms, they persuade the people to give their money to them, while thinking that they are giving to God and expecting that because of what they have given to the church, God will bless them. They alter the believer’s attribution system, making them to interpret as God’s blessings, normal events which happen to all and to believe that they have earned them by giving to the church. At this point the brain washing is complete and the believer is enslaved for life, barring a miracle of the Damascus road proportion.
What a sad, ignorant and unfortunate misconception of God and the way He relates to human beings. Nigeria is full of religious people who sincerely believe that by giving to the church and thinking that they are giving to God, that their giving being a good act; will earn them God’s favour, blessings and approval. Unfortunately it does not and has never been the way God blesses those who believe and trust in Him. The only person who ever gets blessed in Nigerian churches when people part with their money in churches is the pastor who spends the money. The giving of the believer are not really acts of righteousness, but a kind of transaction in which they are paying the price up front. This is because they give for selfish motives. The idea that the love and blessings of God can be bought by donations to churches is alien to the way of God.
The pastors in their greed have remade God in their image, and turned him into a man who blesses those who give him most. This is blasphemy. This is the saddest thing about what the greedy and power obsessed pastors has done to many honest Nigerians. They have destroyed true knowledge of God and turned the people into ignorant and greedy folks who wait to gain God’s blessings and favour by giving the little they have to the pastors in the name of God. They do not see that their attitude and actions make them look like self-righteous who wants to bribe God the way they bribe voters, police men and civil servants to get what they want. It would seem to me that modern day Nigerian pastors are hoodwinking the people to believe that they can bribe God by their giving. Unfortunately, all the money they give to God never leaves this world. They end up in the private accounts of the pastors who use them to afford luxurious lives, private jets, armoured cars, palaces; diamond rings, gold chains and a life style which only millionaires and drug dealers can afford.
Whatever, remains they use it to invest in schools, colleges universities and hospital where only those who can pay can afford. Yet they call them Christian schools and hospitals and I wonder whatever happened to freely ye give receive, freely give? As Jesus said,’ Ye shall know them by their fruit’. And He then asked, do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?
Nigerians ‘beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are raving wolves’. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit and an honest disciple who receives freely must give freely. It is time for Nigerian pastors to stop robbing the people in the name of God and learn to give freely what you receive freely in the name of God.