A generous lady, stricken in her heart by the weight of her sins which Jesus wrote off, broke an alabaster jar of an expensive ointment and poured it all at the head and feet of Jesus, oiling and wiping out the dirt with her lush hair. Hey! What’s going on?
The Pharisees who knew the cost of such ointment raised a hubbub. Why waste so much money on a prophet—if Jesus was truly one! Didn’t Jesus know the value of such ointment, that it could employ over a dozen graduates for a year? Was Jesus not aware of the unemployment situation in Israel, the roaring poverty ravaging the land with many of the poor going hungry?
What kind of insensitivity is this—for a man who claimed to be the son of God? If this wayward woman had so much money, why not direct it to the temple where proper religious leaders would know what to do with such a large sum of money? Even Jesus’ close disciples were clearly aghast and grumbled aloud. Judas, the treasurer, not one to condone waste if he had nothing to do with it, pulled Jesus aside for remonstrations.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied, unmoved by their hypocrisy. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want…She poured the perfume on my body before hand to prepare for my burial.” Well, it will appear that these days, there are still so many Pharisees and Judases around the town.
The hullabaloo over the gift of private jet to the President of Christian Council of Nigeria, CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor on his 70th birthday attests to that. Well, what do you expect? Oritsejafor is both the President of CAN and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, two powerful umbrella groups that encompass political and religious leadership of probably over 70 million Christians in Nigeria.
In a manner of speaking, Oritsejafor, like him or hate him—notwithstanding—is leading more flock even if vicariously, than so many African heads of states. On pure logistic terms, his activities are not any less hectic than that of even the busiest head of corporation anywhere in the world or the more busy state governors in Nigeria. The last I checked, nobody went on strike or called for a revolution when many of the state governors we hired with our tax payers money, started acquiring private jets to move around. In fact, even the governor of relatively obscure Taraba State acquired a private jet and a helicopter not so much because his state is in acute need of such luxury, but perhaps more as training toys to sharpen his flying skills!
Unfortunately, such an expensive executive indulgence not only turned tragic but nearly fatal to his life and that of four others. Now, that state is picking the expensive medical bills of the accident victims lying critically ill in hospital in Germany. Yes, somebody might well argue, might such money spent on expensive air misadventure not have been used to upgrade hospital facilities in Taraba State, home of one of Africa’s richest men, General Theophilus Danjuma, according to the latest Forbes list of the world’s richest persons?
The print, electronic and online media are awash with furious attacks on church leaders that acquired private jets. Who are they? Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church who built his church from less than a thousand membership to many millions of membership with thousands of branches in Nigeria and many countries of the world. Adeboye’s church had also invested heavily not only in building a new city out of the jungle, they also own their primary, secondary and private university, the Redeemers University, open to all Nigerians.
Next is Bishop David Oyedepo, the apostle of faith gospel and General Overseer of Winners Chapel. Not only has he built what is described as the largest church auditorium in the world, his two private universities, Covenant University and Landmark University are usually rated as number one among private universities by the National University Commission.
There is Pastor Sam Adeyemi, pastor of Daystar Christian Centre, a very unassuming fellow, who has probably done more than anyone else I know to motivate and build the leaders of tomorrow. It is of course, possible that Pastor Chris Oyakhilome is in this list of private jet owners. Ecclesiastical maverick, Pastor Tunde Bakare, is calling for a revolution to sweep away spiritual leaders who own private jets.
Some critics link the affluence of these prelates which led to their acquiring private jets to the unholy alliance between some church leaders and the corrupt government officials, including especially the oil subsidy rogues who had milked the nation dry.
Many critics talk glibly about how these men are exploiting their gullible flock to milk them of millions in order to aggrandize themselves, a fact which the acquisition of private jets seem to illustrate. But of course, you cannot rule out the issue of exploitation of gullible flock either by these men or pastors generally.
But, even if these were so, is it any different from the exploitation of consumers in all facets of national life by many corporate sharks with their own private jets whom we lionize and celebrate?
Those of us who know how utterly difficult it is to build a ministry to success can equally attest that on the empirical evidence of what these men have achieved as pastors, they are people who could have made it as billionaires even in secular circumstance if they had not been called to the ministry. Otherwise, if running a church is as easy as many seem to suggest, many more Nigerians would have flocked into it to buy their own jets.
But the truth is that so many people indeed flocked into ministry expecting a pot of gold only to hit the sand. As Jesus once said, wisdom is justified by her children. So many of the criticisms are borne more out of frustration than any clear righteous indignation of the type Bakare who is successful on his own, is expressing—wrongly in my view.
A Sunday Punch investigation, for instance, revealed that over N5 trillion had been stolen since President Goodluck Jonathan took over power in May 29, 2010. That amount is more than enough to finance Nigeria’s annual budget for one year and three months without a deficit!
In fact, the Nuhu Ribadu-led Petroleum Task Force reports that 250,000 barrels of crude oil worth about $6.3million are stolen daily—enough money every day to buy a private jet! Rather than wail over such unprecedented national calamity, our critics prefer to turn their guns at church leaders who had private jets.
Since the last dispensation to date, almost all the bank managing directors have private jets at their disposal, ostensibly to aid them in running a bank in Nigeria with thousands of staff and customers.
But some of the pastors who have private jets have thousands of branches with several million members. The fact is that it is not so much that Nigerians are against private persons owning private jets as pastors owning them. Why should pastors, men of God called to piety, own private jets, something that ought to be the exclusive preserve of the world’s affluent private members.
This is a throwback to the old theology that equates piety with poverty; that throws up Lazarus who made it to heaven with his putrefying sores as a model of Christian virtues while his rich and uncaring neighbor ended up in hell. But the gospel of Christ is good news and from the beginning, poverty was not part of God’s agenda for man—until Satan showed up, marketing sin to man. From the beginning, God has always argued that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness therefore (Psalm 24, 50 etc).
Abraham was exceedingly rich in his time; his son Isaac was richer than his host nation; his grandson Jacob was even more abundantly rich; indeed, even the biblical Job had more trailers (camels) for instance than Aliko Dangote, etc. From the beginning, God never wanted the church to be poor. Out of the twelve tribes of Israel, the Levites were not to be given any inheritance when the land was being shared, but then each of the eleven tribes were to pay them 10% of their income as tithes, meaning that in the end, each tribe retains 90% and Levites are left with 110%! The Levites of old are today’s pastors!
How are the pastors getting so rich? From tithes and offerings which are clearly scriptural teachings of the Bible. Of course, tithing and offerings are matters of faith. If you don’t like it, don’t go to churches which teach people to pay tithe. The matter is so simply that it is stupid for anybody to bellyache about churches collecting tithes and offerings. I will probably not consider acquiring a private jet any priority even if I have the money, but that is a matter of choice rather than a doctrine. Of course, there are church leaders who are probably no better than scoundrels, but who is to judge such ones?
Those who want to judge them by sheer force of activism and revolutions are probably indirectly losing faith in the capacity of God to punish those who desecrate his temple. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s move on to more important things!