by Ofordile Tony-Okeke
“Archbishop dey enjoy, Pope self dey enjoy, Imam self dey enjoy, My brother wetin you say?” – Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
The above are words from the song of an African Legendary musician whose music continues to inspire me and sound anew whenever it is played. In writing this piece, I take inspiration from it and would ask that you “non-Winner” please listen to me as a Winner and you “Winners” listen to me with open mind.
Bishop David O. Oyedepo, affectionately called “Papa” by members of his church congregation is a man I cannot help but admire. Born to a Muslim father, he was able to answer God’s mandate at the relatively youthful age of 27, when he founded the Liberation Faith Hour Ministries, which later metamorphosed to Living Faith Church. Through his teachings (which centre on prosperity and faith) the Bishop has not only been able to bring many lives to God, but has also helped people propel themselves into success.
He describes his own teaching on prosperity as “covenant software for programming yourself into victories and triumphs”. He believes that people have the power to be free from poverty. To the Bishop, there are no limits to how prosperous you can be with faith in God. According to his write-up in the Vanguard Newspaper of December 4th 2011, the Word of God is the richest oilfield and goldmine and that is where his church has been mining from for the 30-odd years of its existence. In his words, “It is loaded with treasures—treasures for your pleasure, treasures for your comfort, etc.”
TREASURES FOR YOUR PLEASURE AND COMFORT? My Dictionary tells me that living in comfort means living a pleasant way of life in which you have everything you need. It also tells me that ‘pleasure’ has to do with worldly or frivolous enjoyment. This gets me asking so many questions. Should one seek the treasure of everything she/he needs? How distinct is the line between need and greed? Are we as Christians meant to focus more on our physical or spiritual needs? Let us take a look at the Bible and what it says about riches: “The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up,” (1 Samuel 2:7).
They are no doubt that many of us like Bishop Oyedepo are blessed with prosperity. No matter how much or how little, however, it is important to use our wealth wisely, and keep Christian principles in mind. The principles of humility in knowing that we are called to be fishers of men and not fishers of pleasurable wealth. This is especially important when we have more than others. The Bible points out that part of the blessing of having money is to use it to help others and further the Kingdom of God: “If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother,” (Deuteronomy 15:7). “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away,” (Matthew 5:42).
Listed last year as the richest Pastor in Nigeria worth over $150 million by Forbes, and as the head of a church with a presence in about 400 cities worldwide, many people—like me—definitely see no crime in Papa acquiring a private jet for his missionary work. When the number climbs to four private jets and then extends to setting up of an airline however, there is cause for alarm as it portrays an unsavoury regard for pleasure and comfort, a departure from core Christian principles.
The Roman Catholic Pope oversees over a billion Catholic faithful worldwide and also makes travels round the world. It may interest you to know that he has no private jet for his travels. And before you say the Catholic Church has no money let me inform you that she is worth billions of dollars. During the Pope’s travel, he always departs Rome on Italian airline Alitalia, and an airline from the country he is visiting usually brings him home.
He should also borrow an example from Bill Gate who lives a humble life and has pledged 95% of his $61 billion net worth to charity. He owns only one private jet, an 8-seater Bombardier BD-700.
With about 70% of Nigerians living in poverty, Bishop Oyedepo would do well to invest financially in the poor in his church and country. I am aware of what an arm of the Living Faith Ministry, World Mission Agency (WMA) is doing as it provides welfare and other health and humanitarian services to the needy in the society. I am also aware it administers partial scholarships for education to church members but what I am saying is that more is required to be done. The act of giving should never be enough. We should give as if all things depend on giving. Bishop David Oyedepo should give, give and give until it hurts him. That way he will be doing a sacrifice like Jesus Christ, his mentor, did.
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