By Calixthus Okoruwa
One may be forgiven if he mistook Kolawole Oyeyemi’s recently published book, Wealth Without Theft, for an addition to that burgeoning genre of books that purport to teach you how to get rich; books with such titles as How to become a millionaire before age 30. After all, on its cover are bags evidently full to the brim with money denominated in leading global currencies – the US dollar, British Pound and Euro, together with rows of gold coins.
The book, however, as the author states up front, is not a compilation of some quick fix principles of attaining wealth. Rather, it is a battle cry of sorts for an ethical revolution primarily by Christians and by extension, all of our country. Its weapon in this regard, is the scriptures.
The bible is the beacon with which it sheds light on the thesis that God does not impoverish, but rather enriches without adding sorrow. Each chapter seeks to synergize the other, with the aid of selected biblical passages in support of that fundamental thesis.
Oyeyemi has harsh words for many in today’s church whose lives have become denominated by the belief that corruption is the only way to wealth. This is the reason such people lead dual lives: the pious one on Sundays and the vicious money-mongering one for the rest of the week.
The biblical injunction to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness upon which all other things will be added, he affirms, continues to hold true because God never ceases to keep a covenant. If you’re in right standing with God, therefore, you cannot lack.
God, he says, is delighted in and excited by our prosperity. He is happy when we are wealthy and unhappy when we are poor. If God is delighted by our prosperity, then He is obligated to create the environment for us to prosper.
Prosperity, however, is not just about accessing the means to make our lives more convenient. Prosperity also implies that in addition to the ability to live life more abundant is the means with which to contribute to propagating the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Whether it is in organizing crusades or buying media space for evangelism; organizing door-to-door evangelism or virtual evangelism via the Internet, spreading the gospel is financially-tasking and will benefit from an increasingly prosperous fold of believers. If our prosperity is pivotal to spreading the word of God and therefore fulfilling God’s purpose for humanity, God certainly cannot be against our prosperity.
God’s vision of the self-sufficient man with dominion over all other things came only after provision had been made by God during creation, for all of these things. The origin of man, he says, is literally, the origin of wealth. Man therefore cannot posses everything with which he has been bequeathed at creation and yet be poor.
Oyeyemi asserts that poverty only entered the equation with the fall of man (apparently after man disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden), upon which man was condemned to a life of toil. God however reconciled man to Himself through Abraham.
Referring again to the sanctity of God’s covenants, he adds that God struck a covenant with Abraham that manifested in Abraham’s wealth once he lived up to the covenant. The covenant, however, is not Abraham’s alone but for all of his offspring and remains accessible today by those who believe in Jesus Christ.
As God is too faithful to renege on His promises, even He is incapable of breaking His covenants. Oyeyemi supports this assertion with a text from the New Testament that affirms that though Christ was rich, he became poor for our sake so we may be rich. He adds that if Christ became poor that humanity may through his poverty become rich it would amount to ingratitude for anyone to choose not to be rich.
Despite the foregoing many in Christiandom have taken to the distorted biblical admonition, “money is the root of all evil”. Consequently, many have come to accept that aspiring to be wealthy while on earth is sinful, preferring to live “austere and beggarly lives”.
Many of such people leave the field of commerce and politics to non-Christians, and live with an “escapist mentality: Heaven is our home, we are just passing through.” Oyeyemi challenges this mindset, asserting that “in a life-bus already paid for by God,” we should not be passengers but indeed mount the driver’s seat.
He debunks the commonly used biblical phrase, “money is the root of all evil”, showing that it should correctly read “the love of money is the root of all evil.”
Only God gives the power to attain wealth. There are four dimensions to this power, namely the power of divine ideas, the power of divine favour, the power of giving and the power of the tongue, respectively, says Oyeyemi.
Ideas rule the world, he says. Today’s world leading brands, Apple, Microsoft, Pepsi and others, began as ideas. The founders (and many shareholders) of these corporations are today, very wealthy on account of the strength of the ideas they conceived.
Every redeemed child of God possesses the supernatural resourcefulness of Christ, because he has the mind of Christ. God, he says was apparently referring to the amazing supernatural potential of the redeemed man when he called him a god.
Such men are better primed for great ideas than those who have yet to discover the Almighty God. Christians, therefore, in possessing the illustrious mind of Christ, only need to access the power of ideas that lie within, to attain wealth. They need not be corrupt.
Every child of God, he says is a candidate for divine favour by one’s positive attitude towards the things that pertain to God. He examines the relationship between giving and receiving, explaining that a life of abundance is predicated on a good disposition to giving. Giving is like paying an insurance premium. It has the direct benefit of making the eventual harvest accessible to the giver even while it insures other aspects of the giver’s life.
Oyeyemi further delves into the different kinds of giving including why an offering may or not be acceptable to God. It is not the size of the offering that matters but the motive and the condition of one’s heart. We will always, have the poor among us, he reiterates the biblical assertion.
However, as these are also God’s children, we all have a responsibility towards them. Everyone, he exhorts, must be God’s hands to lift “someone from poverty, God’s ears to hear the cry of help from a helpless soul…God’s legs to lead men out of the dungeon of life into liberty.”
Given the prevalence of corruption in our country and the massive stumbling block it poses to economic development, no doubt redressing it will require a multi-faceted and multi-pronged approach.
While a combination of greater citizen vigilance, the increasing adoption of corporate governance principles in both the public and private sectors and the strengthening of Nigeria’s institutions among others, all have roles to play in redressing this singularly most important cause of Nigeria’s backwardness; so does a faith-based re-awakening of Nigerians to the imperative of a corruption-free country.
In the battle to free our country from the strangle-hold of corruption it would be great to have Christians lead the onslaught. Even though it hasn’t said so, this charge is implicit in the very welcome work of Oyeyemi.
The book is not without its shortcomings, however. For instance, in his critique of the attitudes of Christians, Oyeyemi says many are quick to assert that “we were healed by his stripes, yet we often willingly surrender ourselves as specimens in the hands of medical doctors.”
Is he implying that it is wrong or inexcusable for Christians to go to medical doctors when they are ill? There is also an occasional disposition by the author towards colloquial language. For instance, he talks about “deacons and deaconesses whose reputations on money matters suck.” Surely that is a description best suited for an American audience.
Most importantly, however, the book needs to address the core issue of availability in book shops. It is a worthy contribution to the task of rescuing Nigeria from the abyss in which corruption has left us and needs to be widely available.