“Yes, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough; and they are pastors who cannot understand. They all look to their own way, every one for his gain, to his own end.” (Isaiah 56:11).
The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah, has condemned the investment of billions of naira into the running of today’s churches in Nigeria.
In his Christmas message, Thursday, Mr. Kukah said religion should not be a profit-driven venture. “The word of God and its living blessings are free,” Mr. Kukah said.
“Isaiah said that much when he said: Come all of you who are thirsty, come to the water and you who have no money, come and eat. Buy wine and milk without money and without cost (Isaiah 55:1).
“St Paul reminded us: What is my profit? It is this: that in preaching the word I might offer it free of charge (1 Corinthians 9:18). This is what led Jesus to express His only visible show of anger and violence when he whipped the moneychangers and accused them of; turning His Father’s house into a den of thieves (Matthew 21:13).”
Mr. Kukah said there were times when the Catholic Church was guilty of “Simony” – the practice of making profit out of sacred things.
“It was one of the reasons for Fr Martin Luther’s revolt. But, so much has changed now. Prayer for our people is the duty of all ordained ministers, but today, it has become subject to abuse.
“The embarrassing billions being committed to spiritual matters is an act of outright criminality and nothing to do with the Christian faith. This is one of the damning betrayals of Jesus Christ.”
The cleric called on Christians to return to the model of Jesus Christ as they celebrate Christmas.
“He was born into the most absolute expression of poverty, in a dirty and smelling stable with animals. In real life, the Lord of Heaven and earth had no place to lay His head (Matthew 8: 20, Luke. 9:58).
“He ate His last supper in a borrowed home (Luke 22; 7ff). He rode to Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey (Matthew 21:3, Luke. 19:31, Mark. 11:3). In death, He was buried in a borrowed tomb (Matthew 27:57).
Mr. Kukah said that considering the life that Jesus Christ lived, it is difficult to understand how Nigerians had come to equate success, prosperity and blessings of God with wealth.
“Had riches been the essence of the mission of Jesus, He would have handed His ministry to bankers and economists such as Matthew or even Judas,” he said.
“Had healing been of the greatest importance, perhaps, Luke would have been the head of the Apostles. Rather, he chose Peter who doubted and was rather fickle minded.
“When He asked them to take the Gospel to all the ends of the earth, He stripped them of all forms of insurance. He warned them against relying on prosperity by enjoining them to carry no money, no belt, no sandals (Luke 10:4).
“Money is very good but it must not become an idol for us. Thus, Jesus warned that we cannot worship God and mammon (Matthew 6:2).”