By Tochukwu Ezukanma
Frazzled by the power politics, financial dishonesty and lechery that pervade many of the one man owned Pentecostal churches I disengaged from my last church. I have since not been a member of any church; I visit any church of my choice every Sunday. This has taken me to both the older and orthodox, and nouveau and trendy (usually one man owned) Pentecostal churches. At the invitation of a lady friend, on this particular Sunday, I visited the Christ Dominion Church at Oregun Road, Ikeja Lagos. I was impressed by the array of worshippers resplendently attired in their Sunday-bests, and the choir’s rousing and inspiring symphony.
To the deafening silence of the sanctuary and the rapt attention of the congregants, the pastor preached. As usual in most one man owned Pentecostal churches, the preaching was not on the tenets of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but on prosperity. In total disregard for the biblical pre-conditions for the wealth and material well being of a believer, the preacher dwelt on wealth and its accoutrements: mansions, luxury cars, jet-planes, etc. He limned the splendor and glamour of wealth, and gushed on the benefits and importance of being wealthy. He elaborately illustrated the evils, deprivation and gloom of poverty. He said that Jesus became poor so that we can be rich. Believers must therefore dread poverty and strive to be rich.
According to him, the secret of prosperity is in giving – your money – to God, of course, through the pastors. The more you give to God, the more you prosper. God blessed Abraham exceedingly because he was ready to give all he had, his only son, Isaac, to God. So, if you give God all you have, your blessings and prosperity will be ineffable, just like those of Abraham. As an example, he talked about an American pastor that is indescribably wealthy to the point of buying jet-planes and sowing them as seeds in different churches. He is so wealthy, and keeps getting wealthier and wealthier because he keeps giving and giving to God.
Although the most routinely quoted verse on tithing in the Bible, Malachi 3:10 to 12, specifically stated, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, …and prove me now herewith …if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it; and I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes” and “all nations shall call you blessed…”; the preacher said that paying your tithe does not bring you God blessings. It only rebukes the devourer for you. It is after paying your tithes and offerings that you start the giving that will bring about the financial blessings of God. Although his preaching was diametrically contradictory to the teachings of the Bible, it still impressed his listeners to the point of periodically applauding him.
He said that the smirch of poverty is indelible that, even after death, and the poor believer goes to heaven, there will still be the lingering evidence of his earthly poverty on him. He made reference to the Bible story in Luke Chapter 16 of a rich man that “fared sumptuously everyday”, and the beggar, Lazarus that “laid at his (the rich man’s) gate, full of sores”. After death, Lazarus went to heaven and was in the bosom of Abraham, and the rich man was consigned to hellfire. From hell, the rich man cried out to Abraham, and asked him to send Lazarus “that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame”. The preacher said that despite his being in heaven, Lazarus earlier earthly poverty was still evident on him. And that was why the rich man in hell, could not ask Abraham, who was rich on earth, but Lazarus, to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue.
By then, I have heard enough of this deliberate, unabashed convolution of the Bible aimed at goading the gullible and timid into emptying their pockets into the offering boxes, as offerings, tithes, first fruits and seeds. It was time for me to go. I picked up my Bible and walked out of the church. Just before the gate, an usher accosted me, “Oga, why are you leaving so early”. I replied, “Yes, I have to leave because your pastor is lying. He is talking nonsense”. He screamed, “Wow! How can you say that a man of God is lying, talking nonsense? It is wrong. You cannot say that. Though shall not judge”. To which I retorted: but you just judged me by saying that my statement is wrong.
Prosperity Doctrine is falsehood. It distorts the Gospel of Jesus Christ by disregarding the central themes of Christianity and dwelling on sowing seed and getting rich. The object of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ was not to make us rich but to reconcile us unto God, and transform us into living a Christ-like life. The wealth of a Christian is contingent on being a true Christian, as stated in Matthew 6:33, “Seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” – which is the object of Christianity – “and all these things shall be added unto you”. So, according to the Bible, wealth does not come from sowing seeds, but by seeking the kingdom of God and all his righteousness. To ignore the motifs of Christianity, such as salvation, love for our neighbor, faith in God and being Christ-like and just talk prosperity is tendentious mendacity.
The aim of this purposeful falsehood is to line the pastors’ pockets, build their financial empires and maintain their awe-inspiring life style. It enables them to dwell in magnificent mansions, continually spruce-up their lavish wardrobes, maintain their fleet of luxury cars, buy private jets and indulge their other fancies – all – at the financial strangulation of their congregants. Just like the political elite, the religious elite are a major source of the problems for the Nigerian society. Both elite groups are obsessed with power and money. They both reinforce their powers and bolster their personal bank accounts by the intimidation and exploitation of the people. The only difference is in their methods: the political elite through their perversion of the political process, and the religious elite through their perversion of the Word of God.
That Nigeria, the home to the greatest concentration of the extremely poor in the world, is also the home of the wealthiest pastors in the world is a powerful testament to how successfully the pastors are swindling the masses with their distortion of the Word of God.
Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria. You can reach him via email: [email protected] or phone: 0803 529 2908.