Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves.
He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”
Matthew 21:12, 13 (The Bible NLT)
The thesis of my argument today is not entirely new, it is a spin on the above quote that was borne out of an argument I had with a follower of mine on twitter a few days ago, about how much the Church is culpable for the endemic crime and corruption that has ensured that fifty five years after independence, Nigeria is yet to get out of first gear in terms of development. The aforementioned follower’s argument was that no Church actively encourages their followers to be criminal or corrupt, but my own contention was that for so long the church has been tactically passive on an issue it should be “actively” fighting and condemning.
It would be the height of facetiousness to suggest as defenders of the church are wont to do that the church has a minimal impact on the lives of Nigerians/Africans. The church is now much more than a spiritual entity, it has become a socioeconomic and sociopolitical force. In fact the influence of the Nigerian Church is spreading even beyond Nigeria, if the pictures of British Prime Minister David Cameron, kneeling in front of the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor E. A. Adeboye for example are anything to go by. These days Nigerian Christians are far likelier to trust their spiritual leaders than their political leaders. This is the reason why political leaders at every level regardless of their own faiths must identify with a pastor or general overseer in order to curry the favor of said Shepherd’s followers. I do not need to give examples, anybody who has followed Nigerian politics for any length of time knows what I am talking about. It is against this background that I bring forward the argument that the Church must begin to use that influence more “actively” if it wants to fulfill the original mission God created it for.
The key word here is actively I will explain why I feel it is key, let us do some examination of the opening quote of this piece. Jesus did not drive those people out because they were selling drugs or guns or alcohol or porn DVDs. Those people were selling animals that would make worship at the temple easier for worshipers. The people selling things could have even been paying rent to the temple authorities, they might have even have done a few projects to beautify the temple. It is possible that one or two Pharisees may have preached against the practice. But Jesus took the active option, he drove them out, because they were “turning my father’s house into a den of thieves”. Like Jesus the church must realize that merely condemning crime and corruption on their lecterns and pulpits is not enough. It must start taking steps by working with law enforcement and other relevant agencies to arrest and prosecute criminals and corrupt people.
Church defenders often give the excuse that a lot of the products of stealing and corruption which come to the church come anonymously and there is little or nothing Shepherds can do about it. I am not that old, but I have served in church long enough to know that any shepherd by whatever name who gives this excuse is a pathetic and pathological liar who is not fit to lead a dog with a leash . Even if we give the shepherds and their defenders the benefit of the doubt, that the Shepherd’s hands are often tied by by anonymity, I would like to ask this question, if it were death threats or threats of bombs, that were coming anonymously in the mail, would the Shepherd give the excuse of anonymity for not doing anything about it?
Again let me reiterate that I am not accusing any Christian Leader of aiding and abetting criminals, but if you continue to tell people that God will bless the work of their hands when you know that the works of their hands is robbing workers of their sweat and taking what is meant for Nigeria’s posterity, you can’t expect the “touch not my anointed” get out of jail free card to shut everybody up all the time. It is not a matter of blasphemy, what Jesus Christ said in Matthew 19:24 applies to the millionaire/ billionaire Archbishop/Bishop/ pastor/G.O as much as it applies to the billionaire businessman. No matter how you look at it, a multimillion dollar private jet is bound to cause a fair amount of grumbling and finger pointing in a nation where workers are being owed months of salaries. If it looks like people are becoming blasphemous and godless, it is because they can’t find God where they most expect him to be. I actually wonder if any pastor ever realizes the irony of blessing someone who brings his tithes from what he earns from denying thousands of his fellow church members the ability to pay theirs
I admit that it will not be easy, because it will be wrong of the church to turn anyone back or judge anyone, but harsh measures will have to be taken at some point. The time for mollycoddling is over, The church will have to make a whip out of cords and string up offenders as a loud warning to others. It will be hard but it is not impossible, it is against this kind of malaise, that devout priests like Martin Luther stood, it was what the likes of Wycliffe, Tyndale and Huss stood for, where should the shepherds who are claiming to want to bring religion to a godless world, keep silent or give half hearted condemnation because they don’t want to offend the rich members of their congregation? If Jesus, meek and gentle as he was, knew the time to ditch the niceties and take stuff personal, what excuse do we then have?