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The poverty of riches: The Anglican voice – A word from Primate Nicholas Okoh Part 2


Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, Primate of all Nigeria (Anglican Communion)


“The Poverty of Riches,” is a paradox because, in the conventional parlance, one cannot be rich and at the same time be poor. However, we find this contradiction in the summary of the rebuke given to the Angel of the Church in Laodicea.

There is a way we see ourselves; there is a way other people see us; and there is yet a way God sees us. Each of these three perceptions of us has its peculiar interpretations of our conditions and us. But what matters most is what God thinks of us, not what we think of ourselves or what others think of us.

The Church in Laodicea said; “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.”” But God said: “You do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

What a contradiction indeed! In spite of their wealth, they are wretched and pitiful. Despite their physicians and medicaments for the eyes, they are blind; and in spite of their abundance of cloth, they are naked. Accordingly, the Lord calls on them to buy from Him what they lack.”

There is need for us as individual Christians, families, Church and nation to humbly allow God to open our eyes to see ourselves and our conditions the way God sees us. Otherwise, we may find ourselves basking in the euphoria of life, even at the brink of death.

The Concepts of Poverty and Riches

Poverty or riches is not only about money and material possessions. Against the general understanding of the society, one can be ‘rich’ but not in money; and one can also be ‘poor’ but yet financially rich. In other words, there is the possibility of ‘poverty’ in the life of those who are financially rich.

Individuals, families, Churches, societies and nations may be rich in money, goods, wealth and treasure but still be considered poor, if they are deficient in desirable elements that constitute true richness. One can, therefore, have money, goods, wealth and treasure but not be happy. This can account for the high suicide rate in countries that are ordinarily supposed to be self-sufficient.

It would be appropriate at this juncture to differentiate between true and false riches. If one considers himself rich, and yet is deficient in desirable elements that constitute true riches, he is considered poor in the sight of God, and his riches false. The Parable of the Rich Fool, in Luke 12:13-21 will help our understanding in this matter.

The man became rich because God blessed him, and his farm yielded such great harvest that he had no room for them. He had to build new store houses, open new bank accounts, bought properties everywhere to ensure stress free life of luxury and comfort in the years ahead, and possibly for his unborn generations.

Then he said to himself; “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” But God said to him: “This very night, your soul will be demanded from you; and all the things that you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with the one who continues to lay up and hoard possessions for himself, but is not rich towards God. The problem of wealth is that it can blind people to their need to depend on God, and their responsibility to care for the needs of the poor.”

To be truly rich, therefore, is to be rich towards God or in treasures of eternal value.

(Culled from the opening address to The Standing Committee of the Church Of Nigeria by His Grace, The Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh, MA, Fss, Mss, LLD, DD.; Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate Of All Nigeria and Chairman, Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) Primates’ Council)

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