By Itoro Emefik
Nigerians are excessively religious. They relish religious rituals and love to display the insignia of faith in a most conspicuous manner. This is particularly true for adherents of Christianity. It is not uncommon to see insignia of faith such as “Angels on Guard”, “Touch Not My Anointed”, among other boldly emblazoned on the windscreen of automobile driven by some of it’s most ardent devotees.
There is nothing really wrong with such overt expressions of one’s conviction.
But one will readily observe that since the emergence of prosperity gospel as a distinctive approach to the proclamation of the Christian massage, the insignia have equally been modified to reflect the new emphasis. Now, the yearnings for material prosperity are given expression in stickers such as “My Year Of Financial Breakthrough”, “My Year of supper Abundance”, “Givers Never Lack”. These stickers adorn not only automobiles, but also the personal effects of prosperity preaching church members. One could easily see them on their bags, mirror, refrigerators, water faucets, table fans, computers and other properties.
The other day I ventured into a Christian bookstore. My attention was immediately drawn to one of the Bible for sale. It was the title that captivated me. Guess what? Prosperity Bible, I had wanted to leaf through pages, but unfortunately it was sealed. It immediately occurred to me as I reflected somewhat more on the title: why not poverty Bible? You can be sure nobody will buy it. Every one of us wants a slice or a big chunk of prosperity. And I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong with that. Indeed, if you read through the Bible, it will soon dawn on that God is not against prosperity. God seems to be telling his people all along that he will bless them. If this was not God’s plan why did he promise them the land of Canaan which he said flows with milk and honey (exod.3:8,13:5). It appears God never really had the opportunity to carry out his plan until the time of King Solomon. His reign has been described as the golden era: the Jewish nation prospered beyond expectations. Solomon wealth was proverbial: he most probably was richer than Bill Gate and Warren Buffet put together. And how did he get his riches? God apparently made it possible.
Thus it may be difficult to fault the prosperity preacher on the ground that God is not interested in prospering his people. The angle of critical observers is not against the preaching or of prosperity per say, but the tactics adopted by prosperity preachers. They tell their followers to “sow seed” of prosperity by giving lavishly. But who does the reaping? While many of the prosperity gospel preachers wallow in affluence, the average member scrounges for a living. The leader gives the impression that material prosperity is a predicate of giving, regardless of the motives. Quoting selected passages in the Bible member are made to believe that God is more interested in the gift than the giver.
Despite the energy and the zeal put into the preaching of prosperity gospel in Nigeria, there seem to be little or nothing to show for it. Many adherents are still suffocating under the huge burden of prosperity; they only live on hope which is fast diminishing. What is evidence is a disconnect between the preaching of prosperity and the material well-being of the people. It cannot be so if prosperity is divorced from morality. The Bible is clear on this: true prosperity is the product of righteousness (Matt. 6:33). This fact had earlier been enshrined in the Hebrew Bible by King Solomon. He said “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach “(prov.4:34)
Prosperity preachers would actually be doing a de -service to the nation if they continue to preach a material prosperity without equally preaching righteousness or right doing. This includes extolling the virtues of integrity, hard work, honesty, resilience and deferred gratification. It is religious quackery, fuelled by fanatism that makes people to believe that they can reap were they have not sown. Individuals or nation do not get rich that way.
Perhaps the question that may be agitating the minds of some is: why are none Christian nation like Japan and China prosperous? It is true that these nations do not make any pretence of being Christian nations. So what? But do we realise that these so called none Christian nations bear more fruit of righteousness than Nigeria? Have we taken time to look at the corruption index? How does it compare with that of Nigeria, despite the fact of our religiosity?
Let no one be fooled. We reap what we have sown. It will not do to use religion as a veneer for our despicable acts. We may actually be given a bad name to the religion we profess when we continue to preach cupidity under the guise of prosperity.