What Would Jesus Ride to town today. A Donkey or a Range Rover Sport?
The trend in Nairobi involves driving a range rover sport. It is the sign of financial ‘arrival’. Although owning a Mercedes is considered posh, it is the idea of been seen coming out of a range rover sport that turn eyes. For the prosperity gospel preachers, this is a demonstration that the “gospel” preached is actual and rewarding. That having sought the Kingdom and its righteousness, all these things have been added unto them. The definition of all “these things” is minimized to fit into flashy suits and a range rover sport!
A young couple was complaining because they had no water in their Nairobi high rise. “Imagine living on the 3rd floor of a complex and there is no water!” They complained. Where do you go to complain about these kinds of violations? Would the person sitting behind the desk at the complain office even care? The fact is he or she may also have taken a bath using a karae in Kawangware! However, the same couple would be seen on Wednesday lunchtime at a service in a building on one of Nairobi streets. Their pastor is supported by their coins and lives in a neighborhood where only members enter. And the water is readily available for him and his family.
The Bible talks about tithing, but the reason and definition of tithe must be made clear. It is true that God does not share in the wealth given to the church. For God does not demand a share of the wealth for His own personal use. The principle of the fellowship of faith is devoid of God’s personal benefit. The Lord is not in need of anything. Therefore, when we argue that the congregation or the fellowship gives their tithe to God, it is not to be understood that this monies is wired into some bank in the Kingdom.
The purpose of tithe is for the benefit of man. The idea is that of NEED. This need arises from the fall where after the curse, NEED became an actuated consequence! “Cursed is the ground because of you.” (Gen. 3:16ff) That means all the providence that had originally been provided without cause needed cause to become! “In sweat you shall eat your food, until you return to dust. For from dust you came and to dust you shall return.” (Ibid.) Within this fact then, providence became scarce and demanded sweat. In this case then, those who are weak needed a helping hand.
Within the fellowship of faith, Paul ordered that deacons oversee the finances. Thus, we as members of a fellowship (church) give to God our tithes (church as representing the LORD), then those who are assigned oversight of the LORD’s sheep take this tithe and manage it on behalf of God. The expectation is that since those who give, give spiritually as their submission to the call by God, that which is received by the overseers belongs to the LORD. It is not personal.
The purpose of the offering or tithe is to use it as a means of advancing the purpose of the church: The Evangel (Good News). To this end, the pastor must receive a salary given his toil. The work of the ministry must also be run using this tithe and offering. The other money should be used to benefit those within the fellowship who cannot afford the necessities of life. These are widows, orphans and the disadvantaged. The congregation provides food, child’s education, health care, etc. The deacons are taxed with the responsibility of guaranteeing that this is done. It is therefore necessary that one person not manage each congregation. The tragedy today, and this is common in Kenya, is that a pastor and his wife manage churches. It is they who make all the decisions. The historical argument is that if you let the congregation act biblically and elect elders and deacons, they might conspire to remove the pastor. To guarantee tenure for the pastor, he starts his own church and employs his wife and children.
This however is not what the New Testament church was supposed to be. Pauline foundations, which are the true representation of Christ’s intention within fellowship, did not foresee personal fellowships. It called for a community of faith to come together. This community of faith grows and selects elders, deacons, and other servants. These manage the fellowship under the oversight of the pastor.
The idea of range rovers and Mercedes Benz for the pastor arises from individuals using the fellowship as their registered trademark devoid of Pauline theology. The question then is what would Christ do if He were a pastor of a Kenyan congregation? Would he buy one of those “blessings” or would he ride a matatu? Donkey anyone?
Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD) HTBluff Associates #HTBluff/Diaspora Messenger contributor