By Femi Aribisala
Bishop David Oyedepo says poverty is not of God. He insists a child of God has no business being poor and declares: “There’s a proven covenant cure for poverty.” If this were true and proven, all the world’s poor would have become rich Christians by now.
Let us juxtapose the bishop’s enticing words with the word of God and see whose report should be believed. Jesus says: “You will always have the poor among you.” (John 12:8). Moses says: “The poor will never cease from the land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11). So where does that leave Bishop Oyedepo’s “proven covenant cure for poverty?” It is a pie in the sky.
A few years ago, Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo organised a crusade in Port Harcourt, Nigeria captioned “The Coming Wealth Transfer.” The import of this crusade was to bring to the notice of Nigerians that God was getting ready to transfer the riches of non-Christians to Christians.
You need to ask people like Pastor Matthew how long this wealth transfer will take to come. Ask him why it has not yet taken place in the 2000 years since Jesus came. Ask him if this wealth transfer is likely to take place in your lifetime; otherwise of what interest is it to you? Be cynical when he asks you to make a down-payment for this wealth transfer now, in order to get the one that is coming in the by-and-by.
In the churches, truth has fallen in the pews and falsehood has become the established doctrine.
It is important to get clarity on such issues because some years earlier, officials of the Charity Commission in England detected another wealth transfer in Pastor Matthew’s Kingsway church. That transfer was not from God to the congregation: it was from the congregation to Pastor Matthew.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds of church funds had been dubiously transferred overseas from Kingsway. A 120,000 pounds birthday party was given for Pastor Matthew at the expense of the church, out of which 80,000 was used to buy him a Mercedes Benz. It was also reported that Pastor Matthew used the church’s visa card to buy a timeshare apartment in Florida. In contravention of British charity law, church payments were made to his private companies which were operated from church premises.
As a result of these irregularities, Kingsway was placed in the hands of receivers, new trustee managers were appointed and Pastor Matthew was asked to repay 200,000 pounds to the church. The upshot of this was that he relocated temporarily to Nigeria, where he started preaching messages of “Sweat-less Wealth,” “101 Answers to Money Problems,” and “Twenty-Four Hour Miracles.”
Witches and wizards
Some pastors declare that they have the anointing to make people rich. This makes them no different from “babalawos.” Jesus says believers should be as wise as serpents. (Matthew 10:16). Therefore, Christians need to determine exactly where this poverty-eradicating anointing comes from because all our springs must come from the Lord. (Psalm 87:7).
There is no biblical record of Jesus ever making any man financially rich. On the contrary, he sought to make the rich young ruler poor by requiring him to sell all he has and give the proceeds to the poor as a precondition for discipleship. (Matthew 19:21). He then tells all Christians to do likewise. (Luke 12:33). Jesus even refused to assist a man in obtaining his rightful share of his family inheritance; telling him instead: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15).
When Pastor Wale Adefarasin became the Lagos State President of the PFN (Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria), he declared grandiloquently that his primary goal would be the eradication of poverty in Lagos State. You may well ask how he proposed to do that. This turned out to be nothing more than the usual vain platitude of pastors. The proverb goes: “Physician, heal yourself.” (Luke 4:23). To date, Wale Adefarasin has yet to eradicate poverty in his church, Guiding Light Assembly; how much more in Lagos State.
The preaching of the gospel is not intended to eradicate poverty. Indeed, the gospel acknowledges the existence of the poor and confers spiritual blessings on them. (Luke 6:20). Simultaneously, it proclaims woe on the rich. (Luke 6:24-25). Jesus even warns that it will be virtually impossible for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:24). If so, why are pastors presenting the antithesis of the counsel of God as our exalted objective in the service of Christ?
Televangelist Kenneth Copeland insists that: “You can draw on heaven like a magnet. We don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to get God’s blessings. Now’s when we need them.” However, in sharp contrast to this preoccupation with earthly riches in the churches of today, Jesus counsels that we should not lay up treasures for ourselves on earth. (Matthew 6:19). He says we should go into the world and make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:19). He does not say we should go into the world and make successful businessmen of all nations.
It is in the nature of this world whose prince is Satan to promote poverty. In the kingdoms of men, a few strategically-placed individuals monopolise a preponderance of the resources ensuring, for instance, that the rap-artist sometimes makes far more money than the heart-surgeon. Jesus does not prescribe a reform of this unjust world system through the gospel. But he offers a different kingdom not of this world where spiritual conscientiousness and industriousness will be handsomely rewarded. (Matthew 25:14-30).
Pastors of divination
A pastor friend told me a lady in his church asked him to pray for her so she would get a job. When she finally got one, he discovered on questioning her that she only earned 15,000 naira a month. He appealed to me for understanding: “What is she going to do with such a small amount? How much can she possibly give to the church out of that?” So he set the church’s prayer-squad back to work to pray for a bigger salary for her in Jesus’ name. Clearly, his interest in her financial well-being was not unconnected with the amount he expected to be able to extort from her as contribution to his church.
Lola Afolabi was indignant. She asked: “If a man asks his pastor to pray for the success of his business, will he not pray?” Lola’s annoyance comes from the fact that in the churches, truth has fallen in the pews and falsehood has become the established doctrine. We should not presume that our success is always the will of God. Solomon says: “The prosperity of fools shall destroy them.” (Proverbs 1:32). Peter’s prayer for Jesus’ success turned out to be devil-inspired. (Matthew 16:22-23).
Therefore, Agur utters in Proverbs a peculiar but far more insightful prayer than those of pastors pretending to have the anointing to make people rich: “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:8-9).