Are we in denial?

It is no longer news that there is an economic recession going on. Loads of people including Christians are losing their jobs and homes at such an alarming rate. Many even face bankruptcy and churches have not been exempt either.

A local assembly is only as rich as its members. So if members are forced to scale back on their spending this will doubtlessly affect the church. A trend many preachers have become quite unhappy with. And thus resort to drastic measures to reverse this trend.

One weapon of choice is guilt! A lot of these preachers mount the pulpit and berate their congregation for reducing their giving and failing to tithe. They claim this has resulted in the recession. They go on further to claim that this would be the best time to give sacrificially as that shows to God you really love Him and he will have no option than to bless you. Really?

Others have decided to use another ploy; brute force! They forcibly ask for access to the bank accounts of their faithfuls so that they can collect the monies unhindered. After I studied the bible, I discovered that those on both sides of this divide are crooks! They are hirelings who are only after their own interests and not that of the sheep. You might say this is a very strong statement to make but let’s see what the scriptures has to say about this.

In Genesis 41, Pharaoh had a dream which Joseph gave the interpretation. In the dream, they were going to witness seven years of abundance which would be followed by another seven years of famine. And Joseph’s solution to this dilemma was that savings should be made during the years of abundance so that sustenance could be available during the famine years. Joseph was set apart because of his ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dream and provide a solution. This was an economic recession to which Joseph had prior knowledge by God’s Spirit and adequate preparation was made to cushion its effects.

In the New Testament, a similar event occurred and here was what was done

27 During this time some prophets travelled from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them named Agabus stood up in one of the meetings and predicted by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire Roman world. (This was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius.) 29 So the believers in Antioch decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters in Judea, everyone giving as much as they could. 30 This they did, entrusting their gifts to Barnabas and Saul to take to the elders of the church in Jerusalem. Acts 11

Again we see that men by the Spirit were able to properly predict the impending “recession” and the believers took steps to alleviate the sufferings of those who were going to be affected. When the prophecy came, did any of the apostles blame those affected that it was due to their lack of giving? Did they guilt trip them into “sowing sacrificially” to ward away the impending recession?

In today’s church it is a completely different story. With so many hirelings running amok, none could hear from God and warn of this impending recession. It has hit and has hit big. And instead of doing the honourable thing and find out from the Lord what we can do, they resort to all sorts of tactics to make sure money keeps flowing in for them. They are not the least bit interested in the welfare of the sheep or the furtherance of God’s kingdom for that matter.

Famines happen and have been happening since biblical times but God always revealed to the people through His prophets what should be done.

The question now is why couldn’t any of these preachers hear from God with regards to this recession and warn all accordingly? Well your guess is as good as mine!

The righteousness of the Pharisees!

I have often heard a number of Christians beam with pride as they let you know how faithful they have been with their tithes. They often say that it is their opportunity to give back to God and am sure God would be pleased.

Ironically, no material thing is of any value to Him. The only thing He requires from you is your life. And in the real sense of it your love for God is actually measured by the way you treat your fellow man. And this is sometimes masked by legalistic religious activities which the church seems to find itself in today.

Being overly concerned with religious ceremonies at the expense of the more important aspects of Christianity is nothing new. The Pharisees had that same problem which led Jesus to reel out a series of woes to them in Mathew 23. They were quite meticulous with their tithes but refused to stretch that meticulousness to the more important aspects of the law.

Jesus further exposed how self righteous they could be in their own eyes when He spoke of the tax collector and Pharisee that went to the synagogue to pray in the book of Luke. Fulfilling multitudes of religious activities could at times have this same effect. “I have never missed a Sunday service” “I always attend mid week prayer meetings” “I have never defaulted on my tithes” and so on. And these religious achievements become the basis in which we want to demand our “due” from God. We feel like we have earned it in some way so to speak. “Why do you think you deserve to prosper?” “Because I tithe.” “Why do you think you deserve that new job?” “Because I have been a very faithful Christian.” I am not at all trying to deride church attendance or proper Christian living but it becomes a problem when we believe that they become the legal ground for us to stand on before God.

You cannot make the relationship between you and God any better than it already is. And God is more interested in your relationship with your fellow man as this truly shows your love for Him.

No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4: 12

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 1 John 4: 20

In Jesus parable of the Good Samaritan in the book of Luke, the Levite and the priest were the first people to pass by the poor wounded Jew. There could have been a number of reasons they both refused to help – they could have been running late for temple duties or they could have just finished some form of ceremonial purification which was required by law and touching this wounded man could have jeopardised that. The reasons could have been varied and probably justifiable to the human mind but not to God.

But this same attitude is prevalent somewhat in today’s church. Some preachers insist that all must tithe even when it is clear that it would be impossible for some to do so. That aspect of religion becomes completely pointless because it is of no benefit to anyone but the preacher. Mercy should triumph over judgement. And why do you have to impose restrictions on non tithers or excommunicate them? Do you think God will find that commendable?

We have now fallen into the pitfalls of the Pharisees by imposing man-made laws that make the Word of God of no effect. We have our own yardstick for measuring good Christians and that is no better than the righteousness of the Pharisees.

You give back to God in the way you treat your fellow human being. Scriptures are replete with this charge. Those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, showed hospitality to strangers and visited those in prison where commended by Jesus. Jesus declared that it was like it was done to Him.