MIND THE GAP

How many churches emphasize serving the poor and needy as much as the Bible itself does? As Deborah Yemi Omojola points out, living the theology of giving to the poor means tough choices about what’s really important.

    Giving to the poor is not a choice. Never has been. It has been and always will be a command of God.

Our churches in Nigeria today are full of different kinds of people - some are rich, some are poor, some are ignorant, some are knowledgeable, some are passive, some are go-go-go, and some are educated while some are not. Some are gainfully employed, while some are managing low income jobs just to keep body and soul together.

Most people today are desperately in need of help and support because of the dire situation of the country. A lot of people cannot afford to pay their house rent, many cannot afford to eat three square meals a day, let alone pay their children’s school fees or afford to pay off any other bills. On the other hand, there are people around us who have the money and resources to afford whatever they need and want; some even buy so much food that they finally end up throwing out a large portion of it which could have served as a lifesaver for the poor and hungry.

    God commands us to live simply so that others may simply live. He demands that churches should be ready to empty their bank accounts... .

This situation has led people to seek for help in their local churches or places of worship. But what is the stand of most churches in rendering assistance to her members? Some members get little help while some don’t get help at all. Some churches are busy building edifices and gigantic structures to meet up with the standard of the changing world. Worst still, there are pastors who are living in multimillion Naira homes, this is old news to most, while their members who are helping pay for them indirectly live in ramshackle structures and in unhealthy conditions. Many of such pastors and they churches they run remain inaccessible to the poor. There is too much abuse and misuse of church funds.

This has hindered the church from rendering assistance to her members in need. Take for instance the case of a father whose child is in dear need of surgery, he has no means of meeting up the medical bills of his child. He therefore decided to seek for help from the church, but because the church was doing the renovation and construction of her church building she was not able to meet the urgent need of the child. The father still decided to approach some brethren in the church whom he feels they can be of help to him. The response he got from most of them is that “We could have helped you but you see because of the church project it will be difficult for us to render any assistance, we have made pledges toward the church building and we have to redeem it, please next time we will see what we can do.”

Can we justify these reasons? What is more important? Is it the church building project or the dear life of that little child? It is high time that the church live up to her responsibilities towards her members. Jesus Christ made us to understand that helping those in need in is actually helping Him (Jesus) Matthew 25:35-40.

The church is not just to collect offerings and tithes from her members but also to help them in their times of needs. We are to build lives and not just edifices or modern worship centres. The church in the Acts of Apostles did not just collect offering, but they collected things and shared to all according to each person’s need.

Jesus said to go sell your possessions and give to the poor. Luke 12:33, “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it.” To put it very simply, this is an instruction for every Christian to adopt a lifestyle which counters to the affluence, wealth, greed, inequality, selfish accumulation, and hoarding up of earthly luxuries and treasures. Unfortunately this extravagant lifestyles exit in most parts of Nigeria, as well as the rest of the world today. Most of us feel like we have done such a generous and wonderful thing to give ₦50 to a hungry person or homeless person; but until you have given in a way that hurts your own plans for money or sold some of the possessions you own to help the needy, you haven’t really sacrificed for God. Churches need to start selling off their big buildings and possessions and buying ordinary means of transportation instead of luxury cars and jets which are mere status symbols.

God commands us to live simply so that others may simply live. He demands that churches should be ready to empty their bank accounts, sell off their earthly possessions and give up their luxuries so people have enough food for today, have improved access to healthcare, can send their children to school, and have sustainable means of earning a wage. A

Giving to the poor is not a choice. Never has been. It has been and always will be a command of God. Church, let us arise and make a difference!