Greetings everybody. Wow! it’s been long. Any way, my article today seeks as usual, to say the hard truth, in the frankest manner, notwithstanding whose ox is gored. As you might be aware by now, I say it as it is. A flaw? I don’t know. A commentator once criticised my writings, albeit truthfully, when he said that I cannot ‘paint words.’ But I believe my inability to sugar-coat the truth has earned me the little status I’ve gained thus far. A little story behind this article: After writing this article, it was sent to two different places to be published. It was instantaneously rejected. From the subtle rejection that it was too long (when previous longer articles have been published), to the more outright rejection that it was too sensitive (where harsher and brazen articles have been published) and as such, it couldn’t be published.
Well, am not bothered though. For I know, no matter how long falsity reigns, the truth will one day conquer falsity and take its pride of place. The truth, no matter how twisted or trampled can only grow stronger with time. And as usual, it is you my ardent readers that this piece was written for. You remain the ones to say how well or bad my endeavours have been. Please read and drop your opinions-whether good or bad. Enjoy reading.
A popular Igbo adage goes thus: “aka aja aja n’ebute onu mmanu mmanu.” This proverb loosely translated into english will go thus: “dirt on the hands brings oil to the mouth.” The Igbo race of south-eastern Nigeria are world renowned for their hard working ethics. Whether it is the man at Alaba International, with his one-shopped, single-headquartered international group of companies limited plc, beckoning on you to come patronise his shop because he has exactly what you want (as if you were just entering the market from his house); or the skinny, heavily pregnant woman, struggling with the 6-month old baby on her back and the tray of boiled groundnuts on her head in the hot sun; or the wiry, lean barrow-pusher, with his taut and over-stretched muscles strong enough to lift a house, or even the barely five-year old girl hawking pure water in the rain, one indivisible thread binds them all. That is the Igbo enterprising spirit. They’ve over time come to appreciate the connection between the oily mouth and dirty hands. Dirt as was used in the proverb certainly cannot be far-fetched from dirt as a result of laborious work. For the ancestors of the Igbos were well-renowned in farming, trading, blacksmithing etc. It isn’t that some incipient ones don’t exist amongst the Igbos. But the Igbo race clearly understood the revered reward that comes with dignified labour, thus they are inspired to engage in all manner of meaningful employment. It runs in the blood; this Igbo ethos. However, a general mistake being peddled by non-Igbos is the fallacious reasoning that the Igbos are too money-minded. The non-Igbos create a sovereign world of fantasy, a patchwork of few statistics, rather as if they were to classify the whole Igbo race by generalising the whole from a minute occurrence. This writer will not seek to engage in the validity or otherwise of Igbos loving money or not, but will clearly seek to unequivocally portray that the one who seeks to eat, must be ready to work. And the major preoccupation of this piece will invariably be the current attitude of priests and pastors and their families living in affluence at the abject mercies of their church members.
If we are to righteously scrutinise the trending way Nigerian priests and pastors are living in majestic grandeur and kingly splendour, we will certainly be alarmed to find out that they truly don’t deserve such. St. Paul, the beloved, while setting an examplar of true priesthood was a tent-maker in any of the places he went to preach. Paul could easily have lived off from the means of his lodgers, but he worthily set examples of true priesthood. And so it was with Jesus’ apostles, majority of whom were fishermen, a major preoccupation of that time. It could have been very easy for Christ’s apostles to demand for anything-anything at all- that they ever wanted from people; after all, Christ was doing what was unheard of, so the people ought to pay for whatever miracles they received. But that wasn’t the case. Prophet Elisha understood this great concept of priesthood, that the God that has sent one to become a priest will certainly provide for such an individual, that is why he unhesitantly passed over to Gehazi Namaan’s leprosy, after the former went behind him to collect gifts from the latter. What am I saying? The unesteemed, ravenous and rapacious way in which pastors especially in Nigeria tend to acquire worldly possessions at the deep expense of members pockets, leaves much to be desired. They obviously have come to accept private jets as a normal everyday occurrence. If they are not thinking of buying a long convoy of the latest automobiles, they are negotiating the price of a choice mansion somewhere in US or Dubai. There’s certainly everything wrong with living in such affluence. One, the inducement of interests and the sense of duty are both concurrent in such scenarios where the pastor seeks such worldly acquisitions. If the pastor feels he must gain enjoyments for carrying out his heavenly duty, then the mortification and self-denial which such work requires will be a grievous and uphill task for him. Though he might only choose to submit through necessity. Such worldly acquisitions can only make many a pastor to lose his uprightness. Moreover, it is glaring that in today’s world, the road of duty is so plain that the man who seeks it with an upright heart cannot greatly err from it. Thus, pursuing with ardour the duty of priesthood requires the priest to perfectly resign his cares and worries in the hands of God who called him into such ministry.
The last time I inquired, God did not host priests and pastors in heaven with private jets and exotic cars on display for them to choose from. God has never at any point decided to randomly rain down jets and cars from heaven for priests-or even anybody- to pick up. Such acquisitions, as pastors tend to use are bought by the church members. The constitution of the Nigerian priesthood today is in anticipation of having a long line of cars and living in affluence. And the only advantage I am able to conceive from such principle is sadly that the church members are left like ships at sea without crew, to be tossed and carried about by winds and tides as they happen, while the priest is engaged in the pursuit of riches. Little wonder today, there is a general lukewarm attitude toward so-called ‘christianity’ and the church. Upon entering into a life of priesthood, there is an imputed accountancy which every priest takes upon, “to render a moral obligation to those he aspires to shepherd.” He ought to see to it that the sheep do not stray from their natural cause. I need hardly mention, that the Bible, which is the grundnorm of every priesthood, clearly forewarned the disastrous consequence of failing in that obligation, thus: “Who shall offend one of these ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea!”
Happiness and achievement in life can only result from hardwork and diligence. However, the baits with which Nigerian priesthood currently is furnished has made laziness the main priority of any priesthood. It has made priests to lose their personal ingenuity, and resort to milking their members dry. I won’t deny however, that there are genuine men of God. Perhaps, it is because many priests-and aspiring ones-know that religion is a deep-rooted thing amongst Nigerians that they sadly ride on the dumbfoundness of many Nigerians. The whites folks will ascribe logical reasoning to every pronouncement made by any priest. Each statement will be carefully weighed and measured to see if it truly emanated from God. From this remarkable disparity between the two mentioned climates, Nigerian priests then carefully developed a knack for skilfully and subtly weaving inescapable mazes around their members, such that even if such members are plainly dying from administrations of their priests, they wouldn’t dare question the antics and dogmas of such priests.
Priestly obligation and even common sense requires that the pastor manifestly be engaged in a venture and labour that will feed him and his family, not church offerings, or the proceeds from marketing his anointing. From whichever angle we look at it, we will always return to the same conclusion: namely, that the engagement of preaching the gospel and any other axiomatic act that follows it, i.e miracles, is a heavenly task which will only be rewarded by heaven as Christ himself had demonstrated while on earth. It will nevertheless be clear from what I have hoped to achieved by this write-up that I am not seeking to debase nor devalue any person occupying the office of a priest or pastor. Rather, I am only seeking to render movement and will to the general voice which derives its generality from common interest, and in which each member submits as a matter of expediency that,“every man who seeks to eat must be engaged in meaningful work- priest or no priest.”
In the final analysis, applying Paul’s advice to the Thessalonians in 2nd Thessalonians 3:6-12, and the Igbo enterprising lifestyle, the obvious facts will be thus: “I command every Nigerian in the name of Jesus Christ to keep away from pastors who are living a lazy life…Paul and his co-preachers didn’t accept anyone’s support without paying for such support; rather they toiled and worked hard, day and night so as not to be burdens to the people they were with…they did this not because they didn’t have the right to demand for support, but because they wanted to show good examples…” And so, he who refuses to work should not eat- priests and pastors inclusive.