14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”[c]
John 2:14-16 NIV
The typical African
Three lone survivors were stuck on an island after their plane crashed. An African, a Chinese man and a Brit. They had no way of communicating to the outside world and all they had was their wit. The African man prayed day and night for a miraculous rescue, the Chinese man wrote prayer verses, packaged them well with the materials at his disposal, sold them to the African man in exchange for whatever piece of technology he had. The Brit swore at the weather and blamed the government for not preventing the crash. Needless to say, the Chinese, putting together technology eventually reached out for rescue.
To illustrate the psyche of the African further, let me continue with a description of the relationship between desire and results. The road to results and success is a journey. For the purpose of this write-up, it begins with a clear picture of our desired destination fuelled by purposeful action and ends with the desired results. Agreed, it is more complex than that however, the longest process in the equation is the process of purposeful action.
You see, when you want to get fruits, you plant a seed. But you just don’t plant a seed and go to sleep, you nurture your seed, watering it and taking out weed until it becomes a tree and bears fruit.
This is where the typical African struggles. For some reason, he believes he is exempt from this process. He is therefore mesmerised by promises of instant results for little or no effort. Whoever or whatever means that provides this shortcut; religion, bribery, fraud, a clergyman, robbery, magic gets his devotion – even worshipped as his god.
As an African in the diaspora I have had a few experiences with the locals which puts the African psyche in perspective. One of such was when I was taking driving lessons to become a qualified driver. Yes, you are required to pass a theoretical and practical driving test before you hit the road driving. The results are safer roads with little or no traffic accidents. The other day, there was a news report of a car hitting a child. It rarely occurred and when it did it made the news. In contrast, I remember years ago travelling on a bus overnight in my home country in Africa. I have never seen so much prayers made for safety. Back to the point I was making, the driving instructor, who was a local, told me that he had lost count of the number of people of African origin who tried to take much less than the recommended number of lessons before sitting for their actual tests. We just like to ‘wing’ it.
We just don’t like the process. We want to eat the fruit, but we don’t want to tend the seed. Therefore crusades, prayer nights and promises of ‘breakthrough’, ‘prosperity’, ‘favour’, ‘miracles’ and ultimatums to the expiry of hardship taglines resonates so well with us.
The typical African Christian
Having understood the psychology of the typical Africa, let us look at the typical African Christian. He is most likely born into a Christian family. He is introduced at a young age to Church and all its beliefs and doctrines but never really understands the rudiments of the religion. He is taught that the purest and quickest way to success is the Christian religion and in comes the prosperity doctrine. He is introduced to the doctrine of prosperity where it is God’s will for him to prosper. But to enter into this Kingdom of prosperity, he must sow seeds, not work smarter or harder, but sow financial seeds, into the coffers of his Church. The source of this seed is not material to the act. He is taught that if he ‘sows’ financially, he will reap success, health, good fortune, favour and breakthrough. He does not have to do anything at all, just sow. His idea of Christianity becomes transactional; to get what I want I must pay for it. He does not realise that Christ has paid the ultimate price for all that he is chasing and his only duty now is to seek after God’s kingdom. He does not understand grace.
He detests all other shortcuts to success but indulges in them every now and again when his ‘faith’ fails to give him the results he is after. Soon he begins to confuse faith with magic. He forgets about the scripture that says, ‘faith without works is useless’. Sooner or later he is disappointed, he has attended many night vigils, sowed many seeds but the results are not forthcoming he realises he has been conned as the mist of religion dissipates. This religion is not working, this ‘god’ is not alive. Some, most even, attribute this inconsistency to something else and their devotion is stronger (see cognitive dissonance theory) – I have not used all my faith, I have not sown enough.
He goes after the gift and not the giver.
Having no semblance of a healthy relationship with the giver of all good gifts, his relationship is parasitic. He will pray, all night and day, for success but he will not work. The ‘wolves-in-sheep’ clothing have exploited this trait, merchandising water, holy oil, t-shirts, handkerchiefs etc. He cannot see that he is a white-washed version of the African traditionalist. He will pay a handsome fee for a prophet’s vision or a pastor’s prayer but he will not pray himself. He does not understand that he has as much access to the throne of God as the pastor or prophet. Not unlike Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8), he is willing to pay for quick and easy power and miracles and the prayer houses are making the most of this business opportunity.
His religion is not about charity, he is not in Christianity for the good of others but for himself. It is a transaction; my money, my devotion, my time in exchange for my prosperity, my protection, good fortune, good luck, breakthrough, deliverance and social security. He has not understood the wisdom behind Matthew 6:33. He is not taught that the only requirement to be a beneficiary of Abraham’s blessings is faith. He is not taught how to access these blessings by faith and works, he is always the first and loudest to shout “I receive it”. My friend, go and work.
He is a ‘Christian’ but is not Christlike in his lifestyle.
Sunday after Sunday, there are queues of testifiers telling people about the ‘miracles’ of promotion, favour, good fortune they have received as a result of the seeds they sowed. It is a closed loop, starting with them and ending with them. He does not realise that even non-Christians get promoted and get choice jobs without seating for interviews. It is not seed sowing that made way for them. It is a principle of diligence that even the Bible takes note of; “Do you see people who work skilfully? They will work for kings and not for lowly people”.
The rise of ‘Pastorpreneurship’
In a country like Nigeria, the streets are littered with ‘churches’ and prayer houses. There is religious symbolism everywhere you turn. Megaphones, loud-speakers blaring constituting noise pollution. ‘Pastorpreneurs’ springing out church branches daily. Their pews must be filled, their bank accounts and pockets too. How do they bring them in, they offer breakthrough, special water, oils, blessed regalia and all sorts.
In 2 Peter 2:3, Peter wrote of fake men of God saying “In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money but God condemned them long ago, and their destruction will not be delayed.”
Sowing and giving is not the singular and only formula for success and prosperity. Neither is prayer. First world countries are prosperous not because their people spend more time in religious places than in factories. Prayers are not answered because we ask amiss (James 1). Any prayer that does not lead you to act is mere wishing and akin to magic.
One biblical principle worth highlighting is the principle of ‘bi-obligation’. This is the principle behind faith and works, religion with love, spiritual gifts with love, tithing and giving to the less privileged, righteousness and holiness, grace and holiness. The list goes on. One simply cannot be complete without the other.
- Worship or Magic
My first foray into giving was at a very young age. Having a very logical mind even at the age of 10, giving was about putting in X and getting back X+Y. I gave and tallied the return on investment meticulously. This was a magical way of multiplying whatever monies I was gifted.
After all, I was taught ‘give and it shall be giving back to you…’. I did not understand that Jesus gave everything and became poor so that I will be rich or the Corinthian Christians who gave to Paul and his work so much that they became poor. I could not accept that if I truly gave there was a risk of not getting a financial return. But the exploiters will not tell you this. They will rather prey on your greed – the conman is being conned.
Giving is an act of worship. I recognise that all I have, has been given to me by the Giver of all good gifts. Worship, therefore, is an act of reverence that involves placing on an altar something that costs you something before God. Abraham worshipped God by placing Isaac on the altar not expecting a reward back but in faith and obedience. He brought his spoils of war to God in thanksgiving for victory and protection (Genesis 14). Giving is an act carried out by a mature Christian. It is a thing of the heart done out of personal conviction and revelation. It is not to be coerced (See 2 Corinthians 9).
God, I believe, is most interested in our heart. Our relationship with him and our neighbours. In the New testament of the Bible, there is a description of God’s expectation of giving and it is this – when you are at the altar about to give and you remember someone you have wronged you are to hold off on your giving till you have settled scores with that person. This plainly means that He values more highly our relationships with fellow men than our money. Without the right heart, the act of giving can be abused.
- Faith vs Law
Legalistic (Old testament) giving was meant to keep the system going (Deuteronomy 14). A part of new testament giving is still required to keep the system going for example some genuine clergy men do the work full time.
Quoting Malachi 3 has done more harm than good to the body of Christ. Threatening people with curses only appeals to the emotions and the traditional nature of Africans. It is plain wrong and patronising. People begin to give out of fear and not love for God or their brothers. Whatever happened to ‘perfect love casts out all fear’?
It becomes compulsive giving. Tallies are kept and people who are not seen to be giving are guilt-tripped and guilt ridden. They begin to attribute misfortune to their not giving or withholding what is God’s. “Tithe given to God is a blessing and when it is withheld it is accursed.”
What happened to Grace? Does it all not belong to God? Romans 6:14
We give because we love (John 3:16). We do not give because it is mandated or we expect something in return. If your giving is legalistic, i.e., because it is mandated, please make sure you adhere to the other over 600 laws in the old testament and while you are religiously paying 10% make sure you observe all the other numerous forms of tithing.
A Revolution is coming
This prolonged and over-flogged debate has very little to do with tithing. It is the birth of a revolution. Religion and our leaders have not given people the results they want and deserve.
There is a sieving process going on, a cleaning process even. The real stuff is being separated from the chaff. For too long, the Church has been used as a market place but in these last days Christ is cleaning up his Church. He has brought out the whips. Both buyers and sellers will be met with His judgement.
What do I do?
- Go back to the foundations. Whatever side you are on the argument be convinced for yourself.
- Be teachable. Open yourself up to correction, leading and teaching by the Holy Spirit.
- The Last days are at hand. Sit up.
- 1 Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”