Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Those turning House of God to den of robbers

Visiting my mother in Festac on Sunday reminded me how big the problem of commercialisation of religion has become in Nigeria. For the entire duration of the trip, we encountered at every turn, various gatherings of people professing to be worshipping God in lock-up shops, tents, open fields and residential buildings. Most were equipped with loud speakers, blaring at dangerous decibels.

In Festac, we could hardly hear each other talk as two gatherings of people using residential flats converted to churches on either side attempted to drown each other with loud preaching and praise worship. They are all operating outside areas designated for religious activities by the government. Residents who are not happy with the development are reluctant to report the activities to Federal Housing Authority lest they are branded persecutors of the Gospel.

But why do they all turn up the volume of their public address systems so dangerously and then proceed to yell as though there was none? This happens even if it is a lock-up shop that accommodates no more than 10. The reason for this would be an interesting study subject for social behaviour scientists.

The unfortunate truth was revealed by a Nigerian cleric who openly lamented recently that the work of God had been infiltrated by charlatans. There is a fast growing tribe of men and women who see ministerial work as an avenue to personal riches and aggrandisement. And with no formal entry barrier, hundreds of such men and women, some with no scruples at all, are turning into ministerial work to lead the good life. They lay claim to a right to have astounding wealth on account of working for God, because, well, of course, God is not poor. They have no time for rural evangelism.

The missionaries of old left the comfort of their homes for rural environments without electricity, pipe borne water, boreholes, decent toilet, etc to win souls for Christ. But our modern day preachers are only called to evangelise urban, Blackberry and iPad-hugging souls. Everyone is hunting for souls that can sow a seed of a Hummer or Bentley into the life of a ‘Man of God’. Suddenly, the House of God is a place that poor people are blamed for their plight. They are made to believe they are poor because they have not learnt to sow very well. Many end up giving up the little they have to enable the Man of God to buy and fly a private jet. This cannot be the will of God.

This verse in the Holy Bible speaks to many ‘Men of God’ today. Mathew 21:13.  He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Certainly, there is a principle of sowing and reaping. But the ministers of God using this principle unscrupulously to take from the poor in order to lead a life of obscene wealth should listen to Jesus Christ rebuking them in Mathew 21:13.

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