FLEECING THE FLOCK

freshfruit

Pastors are planning a major robbery in the churches this January.

There are certain months of the year referred to as the “ember” months.  These comprise those months which, in the English language, end with “ember.”  They are September, October, November and December.  You will notice already that, strictly-speaking, October does not fit the bill; otherwise it would have been called “Octoember.”  But never mind, it is still included in the “ember” months. 

One thing however is without controversy about these last four months of the year.  In those months, there is a definite change of emphasis in the messages preached by many pastors.

 

Thieves and robbers

In the “ember” months, pastors start to preach about “first-fruits,” laying down the foundation for a major robbery routinely planned for the month of January.  In our selective use of Old Testament scriptures, we start to remind church-members that the first-fruits of every harvest must be given to us.

Never mind that in the New Testament, the harvest is now the harvest of souls and believers themselves are the first-fruits.  Never mind that even in the Old Testament, God was only interested in agricultural products.  Today, all that pastors are interested in now is money, money, money; for “money answers all things.”

If we teach this “godliness” as effectively as we should, we can make all the money we need for the year between February and March.  The first-fruits scam requires all church-goers to hand over to us, their pastors, not just a tenth, but their entire January salaries.  It used to be the case that the first-fruits were defined as a Christian’s first salary after leaving school and securing gainful employment.  But some of us soon realised that this only gives us the right to a man’s entire salary once in a lifetime.  So we have become more ingenious in coming up with new, more financially lucrative, biblical revelations.  Many pastors now insist that since the January salary is the first salary in the year, legally it falls under the definition of first-fruits.

Just do the math.  Imagine a situation where the pastor gets the January salary not only from twelve members of his congregation, but from all of them.  Depending on the size of his church, he can get in one bonanza enough money to last him a lifetime.  Is it any wonder, therefore, that pastors are very zealous in preaching about first-fruits in the “ember” months? 

Many even refuse to be limited to their churches.  Turn onto Christian television such as the Trinity Broadcasting Network in the “ember” months, and you are likely to find Paula White and Steve Munsey extolling the blessings of giving first-fruits.  Of course, the first-fruits must be sent to them and to no one else.

 

Sour grapes

Kingsley Akenzua told me a story pregnant with meaning.  In one of Nigeria’s big churches with a large branch-network, the pastors were making a killing collecting first-fruits.  But one of them used the money to put up a church building.  This went a long way to endear him to his congregants.  Members of the other parishes started comparing him favourably to the other pastors who had nothing to show for the first-fruits they collected.  Those pastors became concerned that the pastor who put up the building would soon bring the entire first-fruits scam into disrepute.  So they decided to take “appropriate” action.

They reported the “erring” pastor to the General Overseer of the church.  His transgression was that he put up an entire church building single-handedly.  So doing, they claimed, he was being greedy.  He was determined to monopolise the spiritual blessings that come from putting up the building.  He prevented others from getting blessed by not taking contributions from them.  The General Overseer wondered where he got the money to erect the entire building by himself.  So they told him the money came from the first-fruits he collected from his church-members.

 

Comeuppance

The General Overseer became even more curious.  Just how much first-fruits were the pastors under him collecting?  He decided to investigate.  When he did, he was astonished at the sums involved.  It was unthinkable that such lucrative business was taking place in his church without due consideration for his position.  The General Overseer fired a memo to all the parishes under him: henceforth, all first-fruits collected must be forwarded intact to headquarters. 

However, his memo did not exactly have the desired effect.  Thereafter, the pastors in that particular church noticeably lost interest in preaching about first-fruits in the “ember” months.  

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