This was written by blog reader Chrisyinks in reaction to my post All That Matters Is Here and Now. Read. Enjoy. Comment.
Christianity is many things to many people (as it should be), thus it is oftentimes interpreted in varying perspectives. Still, it has one of its clear authorities as The Bible – God’s word, which would be the reference point of this article. In the subsequent paragraphs, I’d address a few concerns on your aforementioned post to the best of my knowledge and understanding. I understand that the foremost concern on the post is if posterity (eternity: heaven/hell) has lost its priority in churches today, and being consequently replaced by prosperity sermons vis-a-vis the amount of time churches take to preach on a particular subject.
I start with two quotes (paraphrased);
‘Don’t be so heaven focused that you are earthly irrelevant’
‘The journey is the destination’
The prize of every faithful Christian is a home in heaven upon the end of earth, and it is only fair for any Christian to seek this prize. This is effectively buttressed in the book of Revelations which by the way, I reckon is The Bible’s most dreadful book. I opine Christianity is more than the prize of having a stay in heaven, it includes how we live here on earth and therefore, if the Church nowadays places an increased importance on this non-ethereal concern, it is justified to do so. To make an analogy, an Athlete’s foremost concern is the race – producing the best performance in the 9 or 10 seconds of a 100 metres race. The medals (gold, silver, bronze) serve as motivation and are a natural consequence of producing the best performance in the race. Wouldn’t it be much wiser to focus on making those seconds count? Wouldn’t it be much wiser for a Christian to focus on making our lives here on earth count?
If Heaven as a home for anyone is a consequence of running the Christian race right – the Christian race on earth, wouldn’t it be much smarter to be focused on understanding what prosperity on earth (financial, marital, academic, physical et al) entails without discounting heaven readiness? Aptly put by one of the commenters:
‘….our lives should not be lived with consciousness of heaven or hell, our lives should be lived with the consciousness of God – Iyanuouluwa Balogun’
God desires that man/woman should prosper, as His first command after man’s creation dovetailed on that fact: ‘…be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion …. (Gen. 1:28-30)’. I believe the main issue is howthe church with its spiritual tenets interfaces with money (an earthly concern) without being corrupted by it. Although a delicate issue, it is one that shouldn’t be shirked.
Furthermore, the sufficient condition to qualify for heaven is to accept God as Lord and Savior, what happens for one who takes this decision and still has decades to live as a Christian. Don’t forget that this decision connotes war between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of hell over such person’s life and in war there must be a victor and the vanquished or more germane to this issue one of the contenders must ‘prosper’. I’d categorically state that I am not saying the full essence of being a Christian is financial prosperity but that financial prosperity is a provision in Christianity.
The church like many entities has similarities with businesses and one of these similarities include keeping customers happy. It would be foolish of any entity to trivialize the pressing needs of one’s clients. Aptly put by a maxim (paraphrased):
‘People do not care how much you know till they know how much you care’
Jesus Himself wasn’t excluded in accommodating the needs of his audience (Matt. 11:28, Mark 6:36-37), several otherinstances in the Bible also alludes to such accommodation. God is different things to different people. The Old Testament shows us several examples of people who had a divine encounter with God and that encounter served as a reassurance of their trust in God. Some carved out the places of such encounters and called God names like Jehovah El-Shaddai, Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Ralpha and many more.
Those moments served as a strong fortress through life and its trials assuring them that God is ‘I AM THAT I AM’. In contemporary times, people would see God as He that gave my business that contract when I was least qualified, He that gave me that desired job when I was least expected to be chosen (financial prosperity); He that gave me that spouse that is perfect for me, He that blessed my home with children when medicine said I was done for (marital prosperity); He that saw me through school and blessed my academics when teachers and lecturers thought I was dimwit (academic prosperity) etc. Abraham Maslow tells us that the primary needs of man include food, shelter, clothing – all dependent on the availability of money. Man also tends to be motivated by his needs. It’d be a herculean task for a church-head to educate anyone on the presence of another need – need for Jesus Christ, without showing concern for the existing primary needs especially when such church-head claims Jesus Christ is the source of all things.
The reality of living in Nigeria is that the society is driven by money. There are no social welfare and little volunteering efforts from people without a promise of remuneration. The church in Nigeria cannot be an exception and for it to grow and achieve its mission, it needs money – tithes, offerings, willful donations etc. Giving for the giver has little to do with the amount but more to do with the heart (Mark 12:41-44).
I’d admit that the church could do a lot better with some aspects of its system especially with how it handles money concerns, but I don’t think the majority of the church has lost its focus. As a Christian, the Bible admonishes us that at the end of time, a number of false preachers would rise, hence we should be cautious of churches whose sole purpose is to make one rich rather than discover the riches of the Gospel. Granted, as some of us might have been, I also have been led astray with some church-heads and their sweet promises of financial breakthroughpreying on our hard-earned monies, but I would be unwise to affirm that God doesn’t bless His own materially. I believe if we took active, constructive roles, we would be able to chastiseerrant Church-heads. It’d be indeed hasty if we neglected our respective churches because of mistakes or misdemeanor when we can rise up and be the instruments to execute such correction. Truth is that our Church-heads (Pastors, Priests etc) are human and hence, prone to err and when they do err, due to our religious society, it takes the grandstand. It’d be anti-Christian for us to join in casting stones when we can extend hands – hands of love.
To get a bit personal, I worship at Daystar Christian Centre which is more likely to be termed unorthodox or Pentecostal but more importantly it is non-denominational, and yes we preach financial management, prosperity, wealth creation not just causethey are earthly concerns but for the fact that these issues are biblical and have a place in God’s plans (Luke 19:13 Luke 19:11-27). I make a point here that we do not just utter desirable statements that the audience want to hear, we go further to talk about viable business opportunities, how to conduct a business the Christian way and other relevant issues, for we know God isn’t in the business of raining manna or money, He blesses what one’s hands finds doing. To answer your questions, I can’t remember when heaven/hell was the subject of a Sunday sermon but I know this – it is a church that epitomizes Christ and His teachings in all ramifications. In my opinion, it is not a perfect church but it is one that Grace, Love, Faith, Baptism, Holy Spiritand other Christian tenets form its foundation. It pleases me to see my church get involved in ‘worldly/secular’ activities such as raising money for social causes, preaching on finances and money and other ‘less than spiritual activities’.
The honest truth is that these activities are not anti-Christianity, and if the Church can’t spearhead the society to show people how they should live other relevant aspects of their lives, which other institution is qualified to do so especially for an institution that claims that the essence of our lives is from God (Acts 17:28). It is our duties as Christians to search out the scriptures and test whether what is being preached is ‘Christainese’ or not. It’d be a failure on our part as Christians to hurriedly conclude that the entirety of the Church has erred for if we say so it means that Christ has failed and I can boldly say Christ isn’t in the business of failing.
I believe in Heaven and all my bible says, do I find myself brooding about Heaven/Hell – a little, I’m more concerned about living right before God and I know a consequence of right living or righteousness before God is Heaven. Qualifying for heaven arises upon death, excluding suicide, none of us know when our lives would end (either by death or Christ’s second coming), and hence I find it a bit tiresome brooding over something I have little control over.
I’d agree in many ways we are saying similar things, but I’d differ that repeated teachings on money does not have its place on the pulpit. I’d only caution that as Christian, we should be weary of whether our respective churches are money centered or Christ centered.