Affluence: Where Clerics Must Draw The Line
• ‘They Can Live A Comfortable Life, But They Should Not Live In Obscene Affluence While Majority Of Their Church Members Suffer’
He neither subscribed to Islam nor Christianity. But decades ago, the prophetic insights of late Afro Juju maestro, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, spawned the lyrics: “Pastor’s house na ‘im dey fine pass, my people dem dey stay for poor surroundings.” He echoed the disturbing disparity between well-fed ‘men of God’ and their ‘hunger-bitten’ congregations, equally suggesting that some priests may surreptitiously have fixed their eyes on the accumulation of lucre. Are some religious leaders doing God’s work or merely making merchandise of their followers? Just when does affluence climb over the low walls of moderation? And where do the Holy Books stand on wealth and poverty? As usual, CHRIS IREKAMBA gets the clerics preaching.
‘Church Leaders Should Not
Accumulate Material Wealth, But Live A Detached Life’
(Rt. Rev. Msgr. John Asuquo Aniagwu,
Vicar-General of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos/Parish Priest, St. Leo’s Catholic Church, Ikeja, Lagos)
IN my church, we don’t go for material possession. We are supposed to be detached from them. We only use the minimum essentials: the house that we live in and one or two vehicles that we use for our work. We don’t accumulate wealth; we don’t have big bank accounts. What we have, that’s what we use for our upkeep. You know, of course, that as Catholic priests, we don’t marry and we have no families to maintain. And so, what we have is enough for us to carry out our work. We don’t really believe in acquiring the entire Lagos. I cannot tell you about other people. I am not in a position to judge others or tell you how they should behave. I can only tell you what obtains in my own church. We don’t go about accumulating material possessions. We don’t even earn a salary, to start with. We get allowances, which are enough for us to meet our personal needs.
As I have told you, we don’t have families or dependents. The church provides all that we need including accommodation and the rest. We do not gather any material things for ourselves, even though we have father, mother, sisters and brothers. You may take care of them with your allowance. But when you get to the point where you cannot help, you tell them, ‘sorry, I cannot go beyond this.’ Certainly, you will not use church’s money to take care of your parents, brothers and sisters. They should take care of themselves. And if you have got elderly parents that are well to do, you help them with your allowance, as much as you can. If it is not enough, then you can ask the church to help you look after them.
We don’t earn salaries; we only get a monthly allowance. And that is why we don’t pay taxes because we don’t have salaries. If there are church leaders who have a craze for material acquisition, of course, it will impact negatively on their followers. Some of them will complain and murmur about your lifestyle. What I am saying is if 80 per cent of your people are poor and you, as leader, is living in obscene affluence with houses, a fleet of cars, perhaps, even a private jet or two, then people are likely to react. If someone has such wealth, he should use the money to improve the lot of the poor in the church. The money should be spread around, so that the 80 per cent who are desperately poor can enjoy better living conditions. Even our Pope does not own a private jet and whenever he is going anywhere, he picks a plane from a commercial airline. If the head of our church worldwide does not live in affluence then we locally cannot live in affluence. What other people do is their own business; it doesn’t concern me. I’m not the judge, let God be the judge.
I will suggest that if such a situation exists where a particular church leader has a lot of money then that money should not belong to the pastor. Rather, it should be used for the growth and wellbeing of everybody in the church, so that the really poor members of the church are lifted out of poverty. One of the things we do in the church is help the poor and the less privileged of the society. So, church leaders should not accumulate material wealth for themselves; they should live a detached life. They can live a comfortable life, but they should not live in obscene affluence while majority of their church members suffer.
‘Living In Opulence Shows Where The Heart Is’
(Dr. Francis Akin-John,
Church Growth Expert)
OUR Lord Jesus emphatically said: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through or steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6 19-21). Every Christian that accepts Jesus as Saviour and Lord must live by the dictates of this command. It is not an advice but a command by our Lord. Yes, God can bless us with material things. Actually, as we live for Him, work at our vocations, pray and invest, God will surely bless the works of our hands. We are to enjoy the blessings that God has deemed fit for us. However, our hearts are not to mix up with the treasure of this life.
Men and servants of the Lord are to live moderate lives. The blessings of God upon our lives and ministries are not for extravagant, ostentatious and opulent living. Our wealth should to be used in expanding his kingdom, preaching of the true gospel, funding and helping missionaries to reach people, groups and the downtrodden of society. Although we may contest it with fine arguments, yet the testimonies of the Bible remain that people of God are to emulate Christ, live simply and do a lot of good works that will promote the love and caring nature of God. I’m very sure that if Christ were physically here in today’s Nigeria, He would take sides with the poor, live simply and use majority of His material wealth to help as many as possible.
Living like the nouveau riche of this world brings a bad image to the followers of Christ, demonstrates that we are only for the world and that we are very foolish. Only the foolish lay their treasure on earth and forget about eternity. It also hurts the heart of the watching public and turns many into get-rich-quick ventures because they want to be like our so-called great men and women of God.
Living in opulence simply shows where our heart is and demonstrates clearly that we are not different from the ungodly around us who spend all their lives searching for wealth, keeping it for themselves and dying, leaving it behind for those who will misuse them.
Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in 1Timothy 6:17-19 about the use of wealth by Christians and servants of the Lord. Rich or wealthy Christians must not trust in money but in God who blesses us with everything. We must give liberally and support as many good and worthy causes as much as possible. By so doing, we lay our treasures in heaven, not on earth. That is the Biblical injunction that every minister and Christian must live by, irrespective of our personal prejudices.
‘Inordinate Desires Is Anathema
(Abdullahi Shuaib, Executive Director/CEO Zakat and Sadaqat Foundation,
Lagos Island/ Executive Secretary,
Nigeria-Arab Association [NAASS)
IN the name of God, the most beneficent, the most merciful. Going by the text of the Quran chapter 103 verses 1-2, “By the time, lo! Man is in a state of loss…” This is an indication that a time will come when mankind will be driven by an inordinate desire to acquire material things through lawful or unlawful means. To curb this unholy situation, religious leaders, as models, have a fundamental role to play in instilling moral values in their people.
As a religious leader, one is in a better position to know that acquiring some material things of life in moderation as a means of fulfilling one’s primary purpose of creation (i.e. to serve and worship God) is a religious duty. But to have obsession for amassing material things in order to satisfy one’s inordinate desires is anathema to the Islamic faith. God says in chapter 55 verses 26-27 that “All that is on earth will perish and only the Person of your Lord, full of Majesty and Splendour, will endure.” So, nothing short of moderation in the acquisition of material things is expected from religious leaders in order to set a practical example for their people.
First, let us examine the three key words in this question: Quran, living, and affluence. The Quran is the divine scripture of the Muslims. Living is a state of being alive. And affluence means to be wealthy and have a good standard of living. Going by these explanations, to my mind, living in affluence is not a sin or crime because the Quran encourages the faithful to explore the bounties of God created for the benefit of humanity. Chapter 28 verse 77 of the Quran commands thus: “Seek by means of the wealth that Allah has granted you the abode of the hereafter, but forget not your share in this world and do good as Allah has been good to you and do not strive to create mischief in the land, for Allah loves not those who create mischief.” This encouragement to seek a good standard of living is further accentuated in chapter two verse 201 of the Quran urging the faithful to pray fervently thus: “Our Lord, grant us what is good in this world and what is good in the world to come, and protect us from the chastisement of the fire.”
Islam emphasises equilibrium and moderation in standard of living. Evidence from Quran chapter 2 verse 43 states: “And it is thus that We appointed you to be a just and balanced community, so that you might be witnesses to all mankind and the Messenger might be a witness to you.” For those whose ultimate desire is to pursue materialism at all costs, not minding whether their religious leaders are moderate in their lifestyle or otherwise, surely it will make them to be obsessed with wealth acquisition and deepen their desires of vanity upon vanity. But where most religious leaders are on top of the situation by setting the right example for their followers in terms of their moderation in their lifestyle, it will certainly have positive impact on the mentality and disposition of their followers.
‘What Is Affluence To One Might Not Be To Another’
(Pastor Ezekiel Joel, General Overseer, Full Salvation Believers’ Assembly Int’l, Nnewi, Anambra State)
LET me begin by observing the fact that we are close to the end time, which, as predicted in the Bible, will be characterised by self-centeredness and utter disregard for the narrow way or bearing of the cross. It is a pity that many believers and preachers today are not living with eternity in view. Many are only concerned with now and here.
Ideally, believers and men of God who are possessed with a heavenly-minded mentality will take to heart the admonition of the scripture, which says “…Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesses…But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you”(Luke 12:15,31). If a person comes into God’s kingdom, not because he wants to be saved and prepare for Heaven, or a minister enters into the ministry not because he wants to serve or follow in the footsteps of Christ, the pursuit of material things and the crave for fame will overwhelm such. They will not find living the crucified life appealing or possible.
I think the term ‘affluence’ is not the problem. What is considered affluence for one person may not be the same for another. It is not ethical to judge a person as living in affluence if he acquired it by legitimate means and hard work. The purpose the resources of a man of God are meant to serve, due to his multitasking and several commitments in ministry, may require him to have and keep what a jealous person could consider as needless opulence. Therefore, if the requirements of ministry duties and the grace of God upon a particular man of God give him access to such resources as are necessary, care should be taken not to label him as living in opulence.
By the way, followers in every church, just as the men of God, are required to follow the perfect example of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Matt. 11:29; Heb.12:1-3; 1Pet.2:21). My take is, anyone who has been blessed by God should be allowed to enjoy such resources, as long as he does so with godly moderation and Christ-like consideration. Let us all be conscious of Romans 14:4-12. Every believer and all men of God will give account to God, at the end.
‘Eternal Life Not About Academic Qualifications Or Worldly Acquisitions’
(Rev. Nelson Iluno, Diocese of Enugu)
WE live in a world where everyone is rated based on the level of earthly possessions. Many Christians have gone astray from the true gospel, due to crave for mundane things. No wonder the Holy Bible said: “The love of money is the root of all evil.” It is a sin to crave for worldly possession at the expense of eternal life and heavenly values. Carnality or the desire to be like the world has led many Christians into putting hands in unholy things, fraternising with the get-rich-quick syndrome.
There is no doubt that there is increase in show of affluence and acquisition of material possessions, particularly among religious leaders, not minding the ravaging poverty in our society today. It is worthy of note that material possession in itself is not bad, if it is acquired in a genuine way. It is a Biblical fact that God is great and rich in all ramifications. Indeed, the God of abundance blesses His people with material and spiritual possessions. True prosperity resides in God. He blesses and prospers the diligent labours of His children. He has promised to bless the fruit of our labours. Affluence is an abundant flow or supply of material wealth or possessions. Poverty is a quality or state of being poor or indigent.
The attitudes of some religious leaders towards acquisition of material possession are not encouraging at all. It is very disheartening and shameful that religious leaders, whose primary responsibility is to prepare people for eternity, are very busy pursuing worldly pleasures and beauty. Many ministers of God have been influenced negatively. They have forgotten that life is such a temporary thing and that no one would leave this earth with his or her material possession. If you have wisdom, power, beauty or you have attained greatness in this world, but you do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, it is all vanity. Eternal life is not about how many academic qualifications you have bagged, neither is it about worldly acquisitions (Ecclesiastics 2:17; 9:9).
Having wealth and material things will not give you spiritual satisfaction. Having a fat bank account, a fleet of latest cars, and attaining high position or office, without fear of God, is vain. A wrong perspective of the Christian teaching has negatively influenced people towards things that are eternally irrelevant. No wonder the reaction of Jesus Christ in the gospel: “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).
Religious leaders should not measure or evaluate their success and progress in ministry by their earthly possessions. There are ministers who are in the church purely for monetary consideration and are continuously milking their members dry. It is very unfortunate that many religious activities going on in the church today are financially motivated. Today, what we see among servants of God is competition. They compete among themselves, and equally compete with wealthy men and women in our society. It is sacrilegious and very discouraging when men of God are seen competing with rich politicians and business moguls in the society. Competition, in a way, is not a healthy lifestyle, how much more when a religious leader is involved.
For Christ’s sake, men of God are called to preach holiness, humility, contentment, honesty, gentleness, peace and love (Romans 14:15-20). They should desire, above all else, to exhibit the characteristics of the kingdom. The lifestyle of every religious leader should be a model of the Christian gospel. The influences of religious leaders on their followers are enormous. It is very glaring today to see church members toeing the path of their pastors. It is very true that some followers mimic the way their pastors talk and preach; while others are influenced by the way their pastors dress. Take note: it is very possible a minister can lead a member to sin. Many people have come to believe that the amount of earthly possession you accumulate determines the level of your commitment to the things of the Lord. The wrong perspective and attitude towards affluence makes the rich look down on poor colleagues. They lie, cheat and fight to accumulate more wealth in order to remain relevant in the community, not minding the depth of their spiritual poverty.
‘We Should Follow Those Who Are Rich In Good Works Not Worldly Goods’
(Rev. Yomi Kasali, Senior Pastor, Foundation of Truth Assembly, FOTA, Lagos)
THE attitude of men of God concerning acquisition of material things should be very ephemeral. But the reverse is what we see today. Jesus dealt with this matter so very well when he rebuked a ‘follower’ of His when he requested the Master’s adjudicatory intervention in an inheritance matter: ‘…Take heed and beware of covetousness, for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of things which he possesses’ (Luke 12: 15).
Men of God should be examples of good conduct and they should abhor whatever is adjudged bad conduct by society. I boldly can claim that our society abhors covetousness and so should the Church and her leaders. Going by the definition of affluence, there is nothing against living in riches, wealth and opulence in the Bible. However, the emphasis of Scriptures has been influencing people morally with personal conduct and character rather than using wealth to substantiate divine support of your person. One can be rich in worldly goods and not in good works (1 Tim 6:17-18). We should follow those who are rich in good works, not worldly goods. God expects us to be moderate (Phillip 4:5) in all things or better still modest. So, I strongly support modesty than extravagance.
Impact is relative in nature because it depends on the kind of followers we are talking about. There are so many kinds of followers today, as against those that professed the Faith in the 80s. Church leaders have systematically produced earthly-centric sets of believers in the last 20/30 years that are so oblivious to heavenly matters and aren’t heavenly focused. The decoy has been making heaven consciousness an escapist ideology, which may be right for some but still doesn’t make it wrong to desire heaven as a home someday in the future. I often say Christianity without eternity in view is vanity, and I stand by my statement.
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