I found this interesting post on Setwatchman’s blog this morning, responding to an article about Nigerian pastors being rich as oil barons. This is relatively long but I think it is an important topic. Like setwatchman, I will not judge. I know that like almost every good thing, we all walk a tight rope. God’s blessings, in the absence of God, can become a curse very quickly. Good qualities can become evil very quickly, when God is no longer priority. Even humility can become pride. Confidence in God can become self confidence. Appreciation can degenerate into lust and covetousness. Possession of wealth can very easily grow into the love of money, the root of all evil.
But do we say that because we walk a tight rope and good things can become bad, we should not desire the good gifts? Most of the godly men in the old testament were super wealthy: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, David, Solomon and others. In 1Chr22:14-16 and 1Chr29:1-5, look at the wealth David prepared for the temple. At today’s gold and silver prices that is not in the tens of billions of dollars. That came from God, who owns it all. Let us even forget Solomon whose drinking cups were pure gold but Job, a man who “feared God and eschewed evil,” had excess. If Job was living in the 21st century, his transportation equipment could be equivalent to several jumbo and private jets. If God created and creates all the wealth, how can it be bad to have them?
I think what is bad is that there is poverty at all in a world where God’s creative power exists. Was Jesus poor? It would be faulty to call a man poor according to our standards of poverty if he could create at will, whatever was needed. Twice, it was recorded that he fed multitudes using just one person’s meal and He used money from a fish’s mouth to pay His taxes. If He could do that, it would probably not be difficult for Him to purchase a jet if He were physically here today. Having God’s creative power takes you beyond wealthy. Describing God as wealthy for instance would be limiting because wealth sounds static. Like Christ, a creator brings into being whatever is needed, so is beyond wealthy.
Moreover, even in the dreaded book of Revelation, scriptures record the angels saying “worthy is the lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom…” and many good things. The riches here are translated from a Greek word that translates into money and wealth. I believe everything in scriptures, including the second coming of Christ, holiness, fear of the Lord, love your neighbor as yourself and the “holy” things. I am not prepared to junk wealth because Christ obviously died to procure it, if the scriptures are true. I know some will debate this to hell.
Interestingly, musing about this one day, I said to my wife (I am very provocative), if being wealthy is bad, then adultery and fornication must be good. She laughed and said I should blog it, so here am I blogging it. The things of God do not fit into our conception of how things should be. We cannot take one and leave the other. A God who has a city whose grounds are millions of square miles of pure gold, a city that is 1500 miles high, could hardly be described as a lover of poverty. Referring to Christ coming to earth, scriptures say he became poor that we might be rich. Hey, if Christ who could just by speaking produce enough resources for thousands of people in a moment, is referred to as poor, then we do not know wealth. Maybe we have too much of a poverty mindset. Maybe God did not plan for there to be poverty.
I do not think riches are the problem. I think poverty is the problem. I think what we need is how to use God’s creative power to lift people en masse out of societal poverty. No where is that needed more than Nigeria. True creativity takes you beyond wealthy because like God, you can transform decadence into beauty, poverty into opulence in little time rather than through evolutionary processes.
Having said that, if I am surrounded by diseased individuals and I have found how to live above disease, should I be painted in a bad light for being healthy? Yes, I have a responsibility to share my knowledge with folk around me who are diseased but they have the responsibility to believe the good news that they can live above diseases like me and do what it takes to be disease-free. What am I to do if they do not believe? Share their diseases? I think not. Poverty is a disease every human has a responsibility to lift themselves out of and no one can do it for you.
This week, reading about Jesus in the gospels, I noticed that he said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” For the first time, I noticed that while He would heal the broken hearted and the bruised, He was not making the poor rich per se. He came to preach to them just as He came to preach deliverance to the captives and preach the acceptable year of the Lord, which also has to do with deliverance from poverty if we trace it from the old testament. Preaching imposes a responsibility of acceptance on the hearer and unless they accept, the status quo remains.
You cannot set captives free per se, you have to share the good news with them and that imposes the responsibility of faith on them to be free, because captivity is not physical but mental and spiritual. It is one thing to have the emancipation proclamation but quite another for the slaves to quit being slaves. You cannot really lift anyone out of poverty, they have to believe the gospel and the gospel is that this is the acceptable year of the Lord. The gospel is that there is deliverance available now and the poorest of the poor can become an employer of thousands helping others. I should not be crucified for believing the gospel and riding a jet while others are riding bicycles. This is also about allowing the giant within to emerge and rule his circumstances. I have a responsibility of releasing the giant within me. No one, not even God can do it for me.
Mrs Khoja, who runs Roshan, the biggest telecoms company and employer of labor in Afghanistan together with her husband, told a humbling story at a meeting I was at in Portland, Oregon in April. A young former Taliban man in his early 20s approached the company for distributorship a few years ago. He was poor and could not afford the down payment but being a humanitarian company, they had mercy and took a risk on him after he scraped together some money from family and friends. Today, still in his 20s, his turnover, in impoverished Afghanistan, is about 40 million dollars. Now, someone may say that is a one in a million occurrence. Precisely. One in a million people truly believe they do not have to be poor. One in a million people believe there is a giant within them. Why crucify those who believe even if they are surrounded by people living in penury.
We might say Pastors are wealthy because they have access to billions of dollars of people’s offerings but I refuse to believe that is necessarily the case. Why can’t a Pastor be wealthy like any other person simply because he believes the good news like any other person? Why should he or she be poor? What if he has access to the God who created the silver and the gold and the diamonds and that God can show him how to righteously and “holily” access wealth? Should he be painted in a bad light? After all, the Holy Holy Holy God is also the only person who created a city paved with gold, whose opulence we do not have the capacity to fathom.
I may be crucified for saying this but my firm conviction is that wealth is a choice, a matter of faith. Poverty is also a choice, a matter of faith. Everyone has a right to choose to live as wealthy or poor as they want. My choices as a child of God and follower of Christ should however be of service to God and humanity, just like Christ.
Setwatchman, these are my thoughts. Thanks for your post.