An Enquiry by Jonathan Ekene Ifeanyi
|Nigerian "pastors" who move by private jets.|
"Father" Mbaka, one of the richest men in eastern Nigeria,is among the thieves.
“The devil disorients individuals by making them think that because of their wealth and their successes, they are being blessed by God, when, at the same time, they are committing sin, cheating and lying, and are hurling themselves headlong into hell”, wrote Father Nicholas Gruner in The Fatima Crusader (Summer 2006, Issue 83, p. 3).
Today we hear “Christian Pastors” preaching a “gospel of prosperity”, that is, a kind of “gospel” which teaches that once anyone becomes a Christian, he or she will no longer suffer even in this world. In this “gospel”, Christ is widely believed to have come to this earth primarily to put an end to human suffering and usher in a new world of enjoyment. Under different guises, Nigerian fake pastors preach this sermon openly. Every Christian must be rich, they preach. Their favourite passage is Philippians 4:19, where St. Paul said, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus”—a passage where, of course, the Apostle was referring to the Philippians’ ‘immediate needs’, (just as Christ equally meant in Matthew 7:7 when He says, “Ask, and it shall be given to you...”). However, just because the word ‘‘riches’’ appears in this passage—which absolutely has nothing to do with worldly riches—the “Pentecostals” interpret this passage to mean that God will supply them with enormous wealth, with much money!
In fact, formerly it used to be only “Pentecostal Pastors”, but today even many “Catholic priests”—like one “Father” Ejike Mbaka in eastern Nigeria, and many others—have joined the race. So many of the lay “faithful” have also joined the race—having been corrupted by the modernist Vatican II Church which is simply going crazy with anything worldly! Today, following the Vatican II Revolution, the love of God has simply vanished from many hearts, and has been replaced with the love of selves. So many people, who still bear the Christian name, love themselves and their “possessions” above all things. This comes in different forms—many love their wives more than God, others their husbands and others even their beautiful cars and houses. For instance we certainly cannot count the number of Nigerian “Catholic” ladies, known very well to the present writer, who have abandoned their Catholic Faith for the sake of earthly marriages—and precisely even for the sake of marriages to non-Catholic lovers. And this they do in their desperate pursuit of the things of this world, ignoring completely Saint Paul’s admonition that in these last days even those who are married should in fact behave like the unmarried:
“This therefore I say, brethren; the time is short; it remaineth, that they also who have wives, be as if they had none...and they that use this world, as if they use it not: for the fashion of this world passeth away” (1 Cor. 7: 29, 31).
In his letter addressed to Vigilius in the fourth century A.D., St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, had written to the newly ordained Bishop urging him not to allow the faithful to enter upon marriages with unbelievers. (Cf. Ep. xix.). Citing the story of Samson and Delilah, the Bishop asks how it is possible to speak of marriage where there exists no community of belief—thereby expressing something of the protective spirit which, over the years, has become traditional in the Catholic Church. It was the love of selves, and worldly things rather than God, that led modern clergy to the abandonment of this practice, and today Catholic ladies are encouraged by bishops and priests to marry non-Catholics. Just as they quote the “gospel” to back up their desperate pursuit of worldly things, they equally use the same “gospel” to back up this evil practice, and many others.
Today there are innumerable number of “churches” in Nigeria, which can no longer be differentiated from the “Catholic Churches”. The central message of all these “churches” is that “Our God is a rich God, therefore we must all be rich; we must not suffer because we are children of God and children of God do not suffer.” Nigerian Catholic priests and bishops (who have simply become wolves) give Catholics the impression that these "churches" are indeed of God, hence today an average Nigerian Catholic simply don't know the difference between these false churches and the Catholic Church!
Is prosperity “gospel”, preached in these "Churches", biblical?
Is prosperity “gospel”, preached in these "Churches", biblical?
Here, my business is simply to provide an answer to this valid question.
First of all, the kind of Christianity founded by Jesus Christ and practised by His earliest followers, is quite different from what we see in today’s world. It was—essentially—a religion of suffering rather than enjoyment; however, not a hopeless kind of suffering, but a suffering in the mystical body of Christ with a great hope of eternal life. As St. Paul puts it, “If we have died with Him, we shall also rise with Him”. Jesus equally made this very clear as we see in several places in the Gospels. First of all, we see His response to those who wished to follow Him, in the Gospel according to St Mathew (8:19-22):
“Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go”. And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head”. Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father”. But Jesus said to him, Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead”.
Again, He makes us know that His true followers would be very few, who would follow the thorny road that leads to heaven, as we read (Matt.7:13-14):
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it”.
Here our Lord remarkably indicates to us that this way of suffering is what many will never accept, but only a very few—even as we witness in today’s world, in Nigeria.
Again, in the Gospel according to St Mark, we see the drama that took place when Jesus taught His disciples that the Son of Man must suffer many things, be rejected, and finally, be killed—immediately, Simon Peter, like modern “Christians”, took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, as we read (Mark 8: 31-38):
“And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men. When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels”.
The cross, which the Lord talks about in the above passage, is a symbol of suffering, a suffering which the Master Himself first endured. The way of this cross, He tells us, is the very way that leads to eternal life. In fact, from the biblical point of view, anyone who claims to have accepted the Christian Faith, while rejecting this cross, cannot be saved.
Thus when Peter rebuked Him for saying that He would suffer many things, Jesus did not waste time to call him Satan. Tragically, this Satanic attitude of rejecting the cross while claiming to be Christians, is what today rules millions of “Christians”, millions of Nigerian “Christians”!
In Nigeria, David Oyedepo, Matthew Ashimolowo, Ayo Oritsejafor, Chris Oyakhilome and Chris Okotie are perfect examples of “powerful pastors” who have been materially blessed and who can joyfully boast of these blessings. But St Paul contradicts them. ‘‘…God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’’, he writes, ‘‘by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world’’ (Gal.6:14). Again, ‘‘I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me’’ (Gal. 2:20).
Can there be any real fellowship between the man who makes these kinds of statements and the ‘‘pastors’’ just mentioned above?
Again, on paying of tithe, which today is being used by “Catholic” priests and Pentecostal “pastors” to rub the poor, Our Lord speaks, prophetically to the modern clergy (Luke 11: 42-44):
“But woe to you, Pharisees, because you tithe mint and rue and every herb; and pass over judgement, and the charity of God. Now these things you ought to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Woe to you, Pharisees, because you love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market place. Woe to you, because you are as sepulchres that appear not, and men that walk over are not aware.”
The Greek word “ἀποδεκατοῦτε” (apodekatoute) means ‘you take tithe from’, ‘you tithe’. The Pharisees, like today’s Catholic clergy, neglected to talk about judgment, and the true charity of God, but preached extensively about paying of tithes. The idea of using tithe to dupe the faithful was copied by the Catholic clergy from Pentecostal “pastors”—who promise their victims that after paying their tithes, their sufferings would be over and God would turn them into millionaires!
“Pentecostal Pastors” claim to be Christians, and shout the name of Christ everywhere, but, in reality, they are sworn enemies of the Christian Faith. Their Christianity is all about the enjoyment of the present world, and nothing can prevent them from this enjoyment. In fact, were Jesus to come back to this world to preach the message of the cross, these “Christians”, unlike the Jews, will not crucify Him just once, but indeed, a million times.
St Paul already spoke about them in the first century (Phil. 3: 17-20), as we read:
“Be ye followers of me, brethren, and observe them who walk so as you have our model. For many walk, of whom I have told you often (and now tell you weeping), that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction; whose God is their belly; and whose glory is in their shame; who mind earthly things. But our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ”.
In other words, true Christians must always look up to heaven, where “our conversation is…”, says St Paul. They must have nothing to do with the enemies of the cross of Christ, “whose end is destruction; whose God is their belly; and whose glory is in their shame…”
Nigerian “Pentecostal Pastors” do not look up to heaven. On the contrary, they are completely earthly-minded. For example, in the posters and sign boards they display about their “churches”, it is always all about them, their wives, and their wealth, not Jesus Christ! Of course, Christ’s words are simply prophetic, for we read again, in St Luke’s Gospel (Luke 14: 26-27):
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his father and his mother, and his wife, and his children, and his brother, and his sister, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who cannot carry his cross and follow Me, cannot be my disciple”.
Is Christ addressing these words to the Catholics who believe in a Christianity of suffering or the Protestants and false Catholics who believe in a Christianity of enjoyment?
In the entire New Testament, from the Gospel of St Mathew to the Revelation, there is no place where either Jesus or His Apostles promised riches to those who would accept the Christian faith. Even in the Old Testament, a man like Solomon, the richest man in Jerusalem, became rich only because he never prayed for that but for the gift of wisdom. It was Solomon’s faith—his asking for wisdom instead of wealth—that attracted God’s attention to him and made Him to bless him, just as Abraham’s faith attracted God’s immense blessings. Again, St Paul contradicts these lovers of money who now claim to have Abraham’s blessings. He writes (cf. Gal. 3: 7):
“Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘‘In you all the nations shall be blessed. So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham’’”.
The few rich people we see in the Old Testament—Solomon, Job, etc—were all men of faith. Solomon sought first the wisdom of God and God then decided to enrich him materially. But the same Solomon, at the end of it all, tells us that even his wealth was all vanity upon vanity. It was the same wisdom of God which never departed from him that led him to realize that. We now invite him to testify for himself:
“I said to myself, ‘‘Come now, I will make a taste of pleasure; enjoy yourself’’. But again, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, ‘‘It is mad’’, and of pleasure, ‘‘What use is it?’’ I searched with my mind how to cheer my body with wine—my mind still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, until I might see what was good for mortals to do under heaven during the few days of their life. I made great works; I built houses and planted vineyards for myself; I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees; I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house; I also had great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and of the provinces; I got singers, both men and women, and delights of the flesh, and many concubines”.
“So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem; also my wisdom remained with me. Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun”.
Thus, like Christ, Solomon, the richest man is Jerusalem, here tells us that it was “all vanity and a chasing after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun”.
The Gospels, as we have been demonstrating, are full of Christ’s admonitions to His followers about the deceitfulness of the riches of this world. In these Gospels, He teaches us that, what God wants from all human beings is not really to be successful, but to be faithful.
In the story of the rich young man, for instance, we read (Mark 18:18-25):
“Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, ‘Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ So Jesus said to him, “…You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery’, ‘Do not murder’, ‘Do not steal’, ‘Do not bear false witness’, ‘Honour your father and your mother’” And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth”. So when Jesus heard these things, He said to Him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me”. But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”.
Here we notice carefully that Jesus does not say that all rich people will go to hell, no. But He makes it clear that it will be very difficult for them to go to heaven. This is the core message of Christ in this passage—despite the false interpretations given to this passage by modern fake pastors. Of course there are many rich people who are more righteous than some poor people. But here Jesus is not talking about that. What Our Lord attacks, rather, is the main virus ‘‘rich’’ or ‘‘wealth’’—for there is actually something sinful even in the mere desire of it. If all Christians are meant to be rich, as Satanic preachers tell us today, why did Christ, the Master Himself, choose to be poor? Where on the face of this earth can we find a master who wallows in abject poverty while his servants wallow in wealth? Certainly, a typical “Pentecostal” will answer that Christ chose to be poor in order that we might be rich. Excellent! But if so, what about His early followers? Can we find a single man among them who, having accepted the Christian faith, did not embrace poverty for the sake of Christ?
In fact, we need not dwell so much on this topic. We see Christ’s teaching on how a Christian should live in this world in the Gospel according to St Matthew (6: 25; 31-34):
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? ...Therefore, do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble”.
The above teaching corresponds with what He taught us in the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread”, not “give us these days”! Some Protestants, certainly, cannot say the prayer this way. In their famous King James Version, this verse of the Bible is simply translated as “Give us day by day our daily bread”! (c.f. Luke 11: 3) The Greek passage of the same verse reads: “τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δίδου ἡμῖν τὸ καθ' ἡμέραν.” The word “τὸ καθ' ἡμέραν” means “this day”, not “day by day”! In the Latin translation what we have is “Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie.” Here again the word “hodie” simply means “this day”, or “today”, not “day by day”! Who inspired Protestants to change the word of God from “today” or “this day” to “day by day”? How can Our Lord, who asks us not to worry about tomorrow, recommend such a prayer?
Christ, in the Gospel according to St Mark quoted above, said to the rich young man, ‘‘Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me”. Did He say that merely because the man loved his wealth more than the things of God, as modern preachers now interpret it? As we pointed out above, what our Lord attacked was only the virus ‘rich’ or ‘wealth’, the very root of all evils, not the individual rich people. Now, Christ counters these prosperity preachers by repeating (and in fact, emphasizing more on) the same statement in the following passage in the Gospel according to St Matthew (6: 19-21):
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.
Again, (in verse 24), He says,
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon”.
The word ‘‘Mammon’’ is from the Greek word Μαμωνᾷς (‘’Mamona’’), which in the New Testament is begun with the Greek small letter mu, ‘‘μ’’ (‘‘μαμωνᾷ’’). ‘‘Mamona’’ in the New Testament is a personification of wealth and greed as a false god, used in opposition to the Almighty God (cf. Luke 16:13). In some Bible versions it is translated as simply ‘‘money’’, but that is not exactly accurate. Originally, Mamona or Mammon is the name of the Syrian god of riches who is also the god of the underworld. The Latin counterpart is Pluto, god of the dead, the husband of Proserpine. The Latin counterpart of the Greek Hades, Pluto—in Roman mythology—assisted his two brothers, Jupiter and Neptune, in overthrowing their father, Saturn. In dividing the world among them, Jupiter chose the earth and the heavens as his realm, Neptune became the ruler of the sea, and Pluto received as his kingdom the lower world, in which he ruled over the shades of the dead. Believed to be the bestower of the blessings hidden in the earth, such as mineral wealth and crops, Pluto was also known as Dis or Orcus, the giver of wealth.
The word ‘‘riches’’ or ‘‘wealth’’ in Greek means πλοῦτος (Plutus). From plutus (πλοῦτος) came the English word ‘‘plutocrat’’—a person who is powerful because of his wealth, and ‘‘plutocracy’’—government by the richest people of a country, or a country governed by the richest people in it.
From πλοῦτος (plutus) came the Greek god Πλούτος (Plutus), who is a personification of wealth. The Greek counterpart of the Syrian Μαμωνᾷς(‘‘Mammon’’), Plutus (Πλούτος) was the name of Hades, derived, as stated above, from πλοῦτος meaning ‘’wealth’’, ‘‘riches’’, because corn, the wealth of early times, was sent from beneath the earth as the gift of the god. In the earliest times, various polytheistic gods had their various functions. Plutus (Πλούτος) or Mammon (Μαμωνᾷς), was simply the name of the god responsible for making people rich. Hence when Christ says, ‘‘οὐ δύνασθε θεῷ δουλεύειν καὶ μαμωνᾷ’’ (‘‘You cannot serve God and Mammon’’), He means that we cannot serve the true, living God, who is mainly after our righteousness and salvation, and the pagan, Satanic god, who promises riches as a way of enticing men and holding them captive. Since the word also means ‘wealth’, ‘riches’, we can also translate the passage as simply ‘‘You cannot serve God and wealth’’. The Greek passage reads:
“οὐδεὶς δύναται δυσὶ κυρίοις δουλεύειν: ἢ γὰρ τὸν ἕνα μισήσει καὶ τὸν ἕτερον ἀγαπήσει, ἢ ἑνὸς ἀνθέξεται καὶ τοῦ ἑτέρου καταφρονήσει: οὐ δύνασθε θεῷ δουλεύειν καὶ μαμωνᾷ’’.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon”. (ibid. verse 24)
Jesus’ teaching can be summarized in His following words, written in St. John’s Gospel (Jn. 12: 25): “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
The early Christians, many of whom are saints today, hated their lives in this world, and hence passed through sufferings. After the ascension of Christ into heaven, they did not selfishly assume that the Lord had done it all for them; and that all that remained was for them to enjoy themselves, or that “It is finished” meant suffering was all over. On the contrary, they remained faithful enough to remember His words, “A disciple is not above his teacher. If they persecute Me, they will also persecute you” (Matt. 10:24). Hence Stephen was brutally stoned to death by the Jews for preaching and practising the Christian faith; Simon Peter, the first Pope, was brutally crucified; St Paul was beheaded—and so on. Apart from these earliest followers of Christ, down the centuries, there are countless cases of faithful men and women—all Catholics—who simply sacrificed their lives for the sake of Christ’s Gospel. Also, we have countless number of cases of rich men and women who abandoned their wealth and chose poverty, all for the sake of Christ’s Gospel—something simply unthinkable even to the “holiest” Christians in today’s world. Contrary to the Protestant error that Christ has suffered in order for us to be rich, our Lord Jesus Christ expects us to imitate Him in all things—His life of holiness, His zeal in doing good, His rejection of worldly riches, His choosing of poverty, and, in fact, even His martyrdom for the salvation of His brethren!
Indeed, what some call “the gospel of prosperity” is simply not in the Bible and people who preach that are purely serving their master, the devil. From the Gospel according to St Matthew to the Revelation, nothing like that truly exists. In fact, rather than blessing the rich people of His time, as modern false teachers do, Our Lord spent a great deal of time and energy denouncing them. We end this topic with one of such—blessings and woes addressed by Christ Himself to the rich and the poor (Luke 6: 20-26):
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets”.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, has addressed, in his book God or Nothing, the very misguided, heavily politicised and ideological efforts of many Catholic international aid agencies as well as government and other agencies that tend to emphasise elimination of the poor through contraception and destroying family cultures.