Jide inherited a generator from his late “guardian.” He used it for business purposes by renting it out to people who needed it on special occasions. It so happened that the generator in his church was stolen. The pastor insisted that church-members should not be told about the theft; otherwise, they might conclude that God was not in the church. He asked Jide if the church could use his generator in the meantime.
Jide was agreeable to this: some of his best customers were churches. But one week, two weeks, three weeks, one month, after the church took his generator, Jide was not paid a dime. Two months, three months, four months afterwards; still no payment for the use of the generator. Finally, Jide summoned up courage to confront the pastor. If they would not pay him for the use of his generator, at least they should give it back to him.
The pastor was very offended. He preached a fiery sermon in which he told the people in no uncertain terms that their destinies were tied to his church. “Don’t you know,” he asked menacingly, “we have the power to withhold your blessings?” The royal “we” referred to the pastor himself. Then he button-holed Jide after the service and went for the jugular: “Don’t you think you should give the church your generator?” he demanded.
Jide was troubled and could not answer. He came to me to seek counsel as to what he should do. I immediately pointed out to him that a robbery was in progress. I said to him: “Jide, forget about having any discussion with your pastor. Hire a van and go and remove your generator from the church.”
In biblical days, Shechem was a “city of refuge” as well as a city of levites and priests. The cities of refuge were established to provide hiding-places for the guiltless refugee on the run for his life from a stubborn pursuer. But the priests banded together as a gang of robbers, and they waylaid the hapless on the way to Shechem.
In effect, those appointed to teach the people the truth of God that they might live were the very ones who endangered their lives. Thus, Hosea observes that: “It used to be robbers who mugged pedestrians. Now it’s a gang of priests assaulting worshippers.” (Hosea 6:9).
Today, pastors are no longer preoccupied with the rehabilitation of thieves. They are now single-minded in swindling members of their congregation.
Do you know it is recorded in the bible that Jesus once sat down, as if in a cinema, and watched a robbery taking place in broad daylight? This robbery took place in the favourite den of robbers; the church. But you might not even be aware of the incident because pastors have done their level-best to distract Christians from realising exactly what was going on.
Jesus was engaged in one of his favourite discourses; the hypocrisy, greed and covetousness of the religious elite. He says: “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” (Mark 12:38-40).
He then illustrated this by going to the treasury where he observed the rich putting in a lot of money in the offering-box. He also noticed a widow who came and dropped in just two pennies. Jesus pointed out that the poor widow gave much more than the rich because while they gave out of their abundance, she gave out of her poverty. Indeed, he noted, the two pennies she gave were everything she had. (Mark 12:41-44).
Pastors, who Jesus refers to as thieves and robbers (John 10:8), use this scripture to rob people all the more; thereby confirming they will receive greater condemnation. They hold up this poor widow as an example to be emulated and tell their poor church-members to give all they have. Sometimes, they even tell them to empty their pockets into the offering-basket, promising them a big windfall from God if they do so.
However, Jesus’ position is the exact opposite of this deception. The point he makes is that the widow was robbed. What could she have been told to make her give all her livelihood to the church? How is she supposed to live thereafter? Pastors who bewitch poor church-goers into doing this don’t care what happens to them. Moreover, they can always blame it on their lack of faith when their false promises on God’s behalf fail to materialise.
Jesus’ demonstration shows the church system is immoral and downright wicked. One of the primary purposes for the collection of offerings should be to provide for the widows rather than taking the little they have in the name of God. Jesus was so disgusted with this practice that he prophesied that the temple, where this robbery took place, would soon be destroyed. He said: “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2).
This prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70, when the Roman army completely destroyed the Jerusalem temple. Even so shall God destroy every church that men have built and used to deceive and to extort money from the poor.
Under the Mosaic Law, tithes were only collectible from those with land and livestock and not from widows and the poor. But today, the poor are the prey of money-grubbing pastors and televangelists. I once gave a big Sony television to my most industrious employee. But in no time whatsoever, it ended up in her pastor’s house. Don’t ask me how it got there.
Listen carefully; if you are poor, don’t give any offerings. God will not hold it against you. If you are broke, don’t give any offerings. God knows you don’t have money to give. If you are in debt, don’t increase your indebtedness by investing in a “sacrificial offering” in hope of reaping a fantastic harvest. Offerings are not investments or lottery tickets; no matter what mercenary pastors preach. They are given: “according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.” (2 Corinthians 8:12).
What would make a poor widow give everything she has to a church? It can only be as a result of some form of manipulation. Many Christians don’t realise they have been bewitched by their pastors. The rich man can empty his pocket at the instance of a silver-tongued pastor and then jump into his Jeep after the service and drive home. But the poor woman who follows suit risks having to walk all the way back home.
The message, therefore, becomes clear. Armed-robbers extort money from innocent victims by putting guns to their heads. Pastors rob widows of their houses by filling their heads with enticing words. The methods may be different but the objectives are the same. Both the armed-robber and the conniving pastor are working for the same master, and it is not Jesus Christ.
Vanguard News Nigeria