From the spiritual point of view, we know that it is God who has brought us into this world and he is the one that sustains us. We are created in his own image and likeness and are in the world to make manifest his glory. God has no hands, feet, legs, etc, but is willing to cooperate with ours to impact humanity. It is against this backdrop that when he took human form he selected people that he could use to impact humanity- the 12 apostles. He trained them and commissioned them to go into the whole world and continue with his apostolate. In Luke 9:1-3 “He called the 12 together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.”
When commissioning his followers, he said to them: “Take nothing for the journey…nor bread, nor money; and do not have a spare tunic” (Luke 9:3-4). This is not to say the apostle should be without the essentials of life as he says in Matthew 10:1-2 “if anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then in truth I tell you, he will most certainly not go without his reward.”
The implication of this is that communities that host missionaries are the ones that accommodate them and provide what is needed for the building of God’s kingdom on earth. This calls on each responsible member of the faith community to provide their percentage to God’s work. This is the 10 per cent demanded of one’s income.
The practice of alms giving/tithe goes back to the early Christian community. Most Christians who had no time to care for the needs of the communities deposited what they had under the custody of their pastors, who had the ample time to go and distribute such items to the needy in their areas of jurisdiction
The unfortunate thing happening to our church today is that many people are not interested in donating generously for the cause of God’s work. Our collection boxes are filled on Sunday Masses with N5 notes. A person can wake up and build a nice edifice on his plot of land within a month but it takes many years to complete a church building undertaken by a community. One of the most disobeyed instructions of Christ in our church today is the one found in Matthew 6:1, “Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you.”
Our churches are filled with people who want to be called upon to flaunt their wealth openly, but who will not dispose of their kobo when a needy person calls on them secretly for financial help.
A reason many would give why they don’t give much in the church is that the funds are misappropriated by the pastors, in essence, they are not used rightly. I cannot accept this excuse wholeheartedly as many men of God have used money given to the church to impact a lot of lives.
It is also true that some pastors may use the churches’ resources for their own self-enrichment–but this is not a new development in the church as the practice has been in existence since time immemorial. In Jeremiah 23:2, God reproaches some of the bad prophets with these words: “You have scattered my flock; you have driven them away and have not taken care of them.” Some pastors may be good at scattering the sheep of God, but as a church of God, we should not let the actions of few persons make us stop giving God what is His due for the good of humanity.
For my pastor colleagues, the scripture tells us that a worker deserves his wages, but we should not milk our people for our own personal enrichment. Once we have decided to serve the people of God, we have renounced or sacrificed ourselves for the public good and we should not be self-centred but we should use all that we have for the building of God’s kingdom. When an offering is made for a church project, we should use it for that purpose.
During my theology training at the Spiritan International School of Theology, Attakwu, Enugu, we had a professor, Fr Anthony Ekwunife, CSSp, who used to give good pieces of advice that could be of help to the clergy.
Ekwunife would admonish us not to steal what belongs to God, but to use it for the purpose it is given. He said when people bring offerings to God, they include their intentions, and some of them have many problems confronting them, so when we embezzle church funds, these people’s problems are transferred to us. He gave us an example of house boys that live with Reverend Fathers, who steal a lot from the priests, that they are always as wretched as church rats.
One lay faithful told me that it was extremely difficult for a white priest to die in his young age, but we Africans die too early. Could it be that God is annoyed with us as he was in the case of the prophets of Israel, whose actions scattered the faithful? Let us retrace our steps and serve God by using judiciously what is entrusted to us to advance his kingdom on earth. When we become rich at the expense of the sweat of the faithful their cries will reach God and He will not deal kindly with us because to he whom much is given, much is expected.
Fr Indyer, CSSp, is the principal of Holy Ghost College, Sankera, Benue State (email@example.com)