WHILE LOOKING for inspiration to write this column, I stumbled across an insightful quote by a renowned Nigerian preacher, Paul Adeolu Adefarasin of House on the Rock Ministry.
“The preacher of billionaire can only be a billionaire because a monkey cannot give birth to a goat and a goat cannot follow a baboon,” he says.
The Church has exponentially grown ever since Jesus Christ established his ministry. It has also seen corresponding growth of many religious leaders who have grown obscene wealth.
They live in gated villas, drive luxury cars, their children go to the finest schools and generally their families live the life of opulence.
Even the Churches they preach in portray their love for lavishness: plush, carpeted seating and stage, state-of-the art instruments and use jumbo screens to deliver sermons to their congregations inside the church.
Though the pursuit of wealth is naturally a human trait, the big question is whether religious leaders of our time are following what the scriptures teach us about wealth to the letter or not.
Matthew 16:24-26 records Jesus instructing his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
In his letter to the Romans 12:5-8 St Paul states: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given [to] us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”
But how much are our prosperous pastors giving back, especially to the poor? One might argue that their gift is in preaching. But while delivering their sermons, how much time are they dedicating to us to be mindful of the plight of the needy?
On these questions, it’s worthy to consider how Jesus himself led his ministry, a template that Christians should follow because it embodies what Christianity should be all about.
Jesus was a poor man, born in a manger and who spent his life healing the sick and helping the poor.
His public ministry was holistic and he spent most of his time healing more than preaching. He stooped too low to raise up the so-called scum of the earth: the cripples, the lepers, the blind, the poor, the prostitutes.
These are the people that our preachers should focus on. Unfortunately, it’s very rare to see a wealthy pastor driving his Lexus to the cold streets where many beggars call home and pray with them, or being charitable enough by giving them something to eat. Instead they preserve their spiritual blessings to those who “plant the seeds abundantly, for they will also reap abundantly.”
That we have hard working church leaders who have gained their wealth honestly, instead of embezzling church funds, cannot be gainsaid. But as leaders, they should lead by example—by being charitable to the less fortunate, instead of “bleeding the leech to fatten the heifer.” It is only when a shepherd leads by example that followers will appreciate the plight of those in need.