Those Who Work on the Altar Must Eat from the Altar

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Published on International Journal of Social, Politics & Humanities
Publication Date: May 19, 2019

Kolawole Oladotun Paul
Department of Religious Studies, Olabisi Onabanjo University
Ago-Iwoye, Nigeria

Journal Full Text PDF: Those Who Work on the Altar Must Eat from the Altar (A Rethink on Extreme Materialism among Nigerian Pastors).

Over the years, the church is an agent of spirituality which turns the heart of men to God, but recent activities in the church today betrays this in different parts of the world; seeing Christianity as the root cause of major problems in the universe. In the past, churches in Nigeria stand against immorality, corruption and moral defiance in the society, reverse is the case today. Obviously, contemporary pastors in Nigeria are becoming modern-day fraud because of extreme materialism. Some ministers of God today have turned the church to money making venture. It is disheartening that in the recent time, Nigerian pastors’ measures success in the ministry by the numbers congregations, cars, among others. They have replaced faithfulness in the work of God with materials. In Nigeria, the church is seen as an avenue for ministers to reward themselves using wrong means. As a result, this paper engages the biblical stance (1 Corinthians 9:13) concerning materialism as it concerns it extremisms in the Nigerian pastorate.

Keywords: Materialism, Pastors, Nigerian.

1. Introduction: Statement of Problem
Many Nigerians, rich, poor, old and young seek pastors for spiritual protection and fortification from known and imaginary enemies. This is a typical African syndrome. Ministers of God in Nigeria, take advantage of those who seek miracles and healings in God in the recent time. Exploitation and extortion in the sense worshippers are being cajoled through; buying of holy oil, holy water, holy handkerchief, and so on. The fact remains that materialism constitutes vices such as bribery, corruption, kidnapping, armed robbery, terrorism, etc. perpetrated in the Nigerian society today. Ministers emphasize material prosperity at the expense of integrity and faithfulness. However, many have accrued this problem to Nigerian Pentecostal churches; because of its unapologetic emphasis on the acquisition of wealth (as part of a spiritual salvation), and the damages which prosperity preaching has caused to the social, religious, economic and political landscapes in Nigeria.
The shameful deception of materialistic preachers with their openly-displayed affluence and seeming indifference of a government that remains insensitive to the needs and yearnings of her people distorts the value of Nigeria sectors. In view of this, Brick asserts that “Pentecostalism is a modern-day commercial enterprise garbed in the cloak of a religion with deception and exploitation as its foundation; its goal being the complete monetization of the ignorance of its multitude of adherents.” Some people in Nigeria now call Pentecostalism “the theology of the Money.” But, this paper posits that the problem of extreme materialism in Nigeria pastorate today is not limited to the Pentecostal denominations; but Christendom at large. Thus, this paper is a theological attempt which situates the problem of extreme materialism within the biblical purview of 1st Corinthians 9:13.

2. Conceptual Clarifications
This paper gives clarifications on the following concepts:
Temple: this is a place dedicated to the service or worship of God. It is referred to as a place in which the divine presence specially resides, and in this context, the worship of The God of Israel (Yahweh).
Altar: The Hebrew word for altar is ‘mizbeah’, meaning to slaughter. In other words, an altar is any structure upon which offerings, such as sacrifices are made for religious purposes. It was usually a raised platform with a flat surface. There are over four hundred (400) references to altar in the Bible. Although the idea was present as early as when cain and Abel brought their sacrifices (Gen 4:3-4), the word altar is first used in Gen 8:20 when Noah built an altar to the Lord after leaving the ark. Swedenborg opines that ‘altars signify a representative of the Lord, and burnt-offerings the worship of Him thereby, is plainly evident in the Prophets.’ Robert explains an altar as a designated place for consecration (Gen 12:7, 26:24).
Materialism: is theory or attitude that physical well-being and worldly possessions constitute the greatest good and highest value in life. Materialism is also defined as the concern for possessions or material wealth and physical comfort, especially to the exclusion of spiritual or intellectual pursuits. In practical terms it is one who puts his physical possessions before God. Materialism is an attitude that temporal things are more important than the eternal. Some scriptural reference that identifies materialism are;
1. Matt 6:24 – “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Mammon refers to wealth and riches, usually with a negative connotation.
2. 1 Tim 6:9-10 – The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. It is the attitude of one who desires to be rich. vs. 17 – It is those who trust in uncertain riches.
3. Col 3:5 – covetousness, which is idolatry. There is much to be said about covetousness.
The word covetous means, “the desire to have more.” It describes one who is not satisfied with what he possesses. His pursuit in life is things, and he doesn’t care how it affects others. Luke 12:13-15 – The parable of the rich fool is identified with covetousness and materialism. It’s blatant that we live in a very materialistic society. Success is often associated with the possessions one have.
There are several attitudes that lead to materialism:
a. Discontentment – when ministers of the gospel are not satisfied with what they have, they often compromise what is right to obtain what they want (Prov27:20).
b. Selfishness – when men of God want everything to go their way and want everything in their pockets (2 Tim 3:1-5)
c. Covetousness – The example of Achan in Judges 7:21 is a good one. Ministers of God who are materially oriented covet; they even go to any length to gratify their sinful desires.
d. Lack of self-control – one reason some ministers of God become materialistic is because they have not learned to live disciplined lives. Desperacy easily sets in when there is lack of self control. Cases when ministers want to get things here and now. This vivid problem as seen in the Nigeria pastoral is what the researcher addresses in the next discourse.

3. The Problem of Extreme Materialism in Nigerian Pastorate
From a critical point of view, one cannot deny the fact that there are thousands of churches (different denominations) in Nigeria, in the hills and valleys. It is unfortunate that the population of churches in Nigeria does not reduce the social and moral evil witnessed in the nation. There are several mushroom churches; this is because the church is now seen as a source of livelihood. People who starts church ministry pursue money and desire to make it big (materially) in a twinkle of an eye. There is a serious paradigm shift in Nigeria pastorate; ministers of God in Nigeria are no longer hungry for lost souls but for money.
More so, thousands of believers listen to messages of religious fraudsters; who will do anything to make the people’s wealth become theirs. Those ministers become rich systematically and their members are going down gradually. Several churches in Nigeria are herald of materialism at the expense of the gospel; they perpetuate ignorance, tyranny, political misrule, oppression and suppression. In the political sphere, people steal in various forms; Government officials who misappropriate funds and receive kickbacks, the ordinary messenger who collects bribes before performing his assigned duties and others who converts state funds into private use, and so on. But it is worse when stealing is perpetrated in the name of the Lord.
‘Repent or you perish’ is now a sadistic barbarism and ‘you are blessed and highly favored’ with all its permissiveness took centre stage and signaled a watering down of standards. Churches filled up and pastors became richer and more influential. Many churches in Nigeria have become social clubs, existing more for religious frivolities and social gathering than spiritual quickening; caring more about here (the world) than hereafter (eternity), they preached on riches than salvation. As a result, some believers are frustrated out of the church or the Christian fold by the virtue of being relegated, isolated and intimidated. Some of them become stark unbelievers by the virtue of the incongruent prosperity preaching. Prosperity preaching raises several questions in their minds, having to do with the fact that prosperity as said by such preachers is an evidence of salvation. Ministers of God in Nigeria today use the ministry as a means of accruing wealth to themselves; flaunting their flashy cars around (even on social Medias), doing competition with jets and other material things and making their congregation poor the more.
In view of this, Pope Francis explained on 29th Sept, 2013 at St. Peter’s Square, cautioning the faithful against the danger of losing their personal identity materialism.“Whenever material things, money, worldliness, become the center of our lives, they take hold of us, they possess us; we lose our very identity as human beings.” He further explained that Christians must be on guard against “the danger of complacency, comfort, worldliness in their lifestyles and in their hearts, of making their well-being the most important thing in their lives. When materialism takes over, people end up becoming self-absorbed and finding security in material things which ultimately rob us of our face, our human face.”
Ministers of God who are obsessed with materialism end up in prosperity preaching. A gospel that teaches that materialism (personal wealth) is an indicator of a person’s spirituality, righteousness or holiness. In other words, the more you have, the greater your spirituality. Prosperity gospel is a self-centered gospel; a gospel of “me, myself and I. It teaches that faith can be used to acquire wealth, fame and power. In fact, wealth and riches is the evidence of a saved life. On a contrary, Cherry said “materialism is fueled by lust and sustained by lust.” It is a gospel that plays on the people’s greed and lack; it is a gospel targeted at the spiritually gullible or scripturally ignorant.
On this note, Rev. Oritsejafor expressed displeasure over how ‘so called men of God’ have now turned the church into a business centre and living flamboyant lives, stating that the development was the reason kidnappers now see the church as a place to make money. In a recent chat with the Punch, the outgoing President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) opined that:
The problem we have in the church is that a lot of these pastors are not the men of God they suppose. Instead they are mercenaries, commercially minded people. The duty of the church is to preach morality not materialism and because Nigerians are very gullible; they are easy victims of deceit. They fall prey to some of these pastors or prophets of doom. The way they live gives a wrong impression of what should be in a church of God. There should be no room for material possessions.
This paper asserts that men of God in Nigeria today have contributed to the social upheaval the nation is going through in this age. They laid the foundation of greed and social discontent from which the society is yet to come to terms. They departed radically from the preaching of the Lord Jesus which emphasized contentment with greed and avarice into the social lexicon. They offer wishy-washy holiness and continue to inundate people with the doctrines of prosperity. They decide to build a temple of materialism from which they hold the befuddled populace in a trance-like grip. What actually is the stance of the scriptural framework of this research? The next section answers this question.

4. Expositional Engagement: 1 Corinthians 9:13
The indebt study of the text observes the etymological framework and historical antecedents with concerning it. At this point, this paper showcases a brief understudy of this portion of the scripture.
1 Corinthians 9:13
οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ τὰ ἱερὰ ἐργαζόμενοι ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ ἐσθίουσιν, οἱ τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ προσεδρεύοντες τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ συμμερίζονται;
Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? (NIV)
Do you not know: The phrase “do you not know” gives further grounds for financially supporting ministers of the gospel. The Apostle turns to appeal to a serious argument among believers. The rights of the ministry to be supported by the Church have already been established by an appeal to ordinary life and to the Jewish law; and the statement has been made that the Apostle having that right, did not, for wise reasons, use it. Also, it was not only a principle of Jewish law which Christ might have abrogated, but it was a provision of the Jewish economy which Christ Himself formally perpetuated. This reveals that the concept of provision and remuneration for the Levites by God is not new to the Jew.