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 (Is 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 Cor. 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 (Matt. 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 (Mt 8: 20, Lk. 9:58).
“He ate His last supper in a borrowed home (Lk 22; 7ff). He rode to Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey (Mt. 21:3, Lk. 19:31, Mk. 11:3). In death, He was buried in a borrowed tomb (Mt. 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 (Lk. 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 (Mt. 6:2).”
Mr. Kukah stated that the path to peace in today’s Nigeria remains littered with debris of human pain.
“The excesses of Boko Haram still haunt the landscape. The Chibok girls are still not found and we will still spend another Christmas without any hope that their laughter will soon return to our homes.
“The engine of political change has still not gathered the steam we had hoped for. The political calendar continues to shift as we witness a domino effect of overturned elections across the states.
“All in all, new anxieties, new battles for power among the elites will likely lead us to loss of more innocent lives and blood. The contest for power continues to take its toll and yet we continue to pray for the stability of the ship of state. We call on our leaders to use the power in their hands for service.”
Mr. Kukah admitted that although Nigerians have not been lucky with quality leaders, citizens ought to also share in the responsibility.
“How for example is a government responsible for men whose irresponsible lifestyles lead to their children being sick or out of school?
“How is government responsible for men who decide to marry and bring children into the world when they have no means of bringing them up?
“How is government responsible for domestic violence? How is government responsible for the collapse of family values? How is government responsible for students who decide to cheat in their examinations?
“How is government responsible for men who choose armed robbery rather than hard work? How is government responsible for women who decide to choose a life of prostitution?
“Government can and must create conditions, but we must all become instruments of change. If we take our responsibilities seriously, we can compel government to serve us better.”