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A YULETIDE SERMON: ultimately, it is not easier for the rich man.

December 28th, 2013 | Tags: yuletide sermon admonition politics materialism
Above: Dickson Igwe. Photo: supplied
By Dickson Igwe

This Yuletide message is an admonition. It asserts that materialism and greed have brought little benefit to Virgin Islands society: the pursuit of materiality is a mass deception, leaving the pursuant with a life that is shallow, empty, and hopeless. And this is what part of the church has become.

This second of two stories on the futility of materialism, is an end of year message, and a warning to community and church. It tasks some in the church to correct their motives for asking congregants to give. It asserts that giving is always voluntary and done in love, not in legalistic bondage. It further asserts that the church must become less judgmental and cash oriented, and instead foster its original purpose of being the crucible of faith, hope, love and compassion: its original purpose.

Today in paradise, many a pastor and church leader has sacrificed a life’s work and their congregation’s spiritual welfare on the altar of materialism and greed. This Observer has always been weary of the enthusiastic preaching of, and evangelical passion for, tithing and offering. When a preacher goes on and on about tithing and offering check the true motive. It is frequently a selfish one. In much of the world the tithe never provides for the poor and suffering, but is lavished on ostentatious lifestyles for a new breed of super wealthy pastor: also known as CON MAN. Yes, this is probably the most stated portion of the Old Testament emanating from many a pulpit in the Charismatic Church. The core is found in the Book of Malachi.

In the New Testament however, Christ actually condemned the showoffs who flaunted their giving. The ones who announced they were giving or planting a seed for their own material benefit. It was the poor widow He admired. The prostitute washed His feet. He befriended the tax collector who gave up everything and followed. He asked the very reluctant ruler to give his wealth to the poor and follow Him. CHRIST was born in a manger with no crib for a bed. He worked in a carpenter’s shop. He loved the sick and the suffering. He lived among the humble and poor folk. Christ rode into Jerusalem on an ass, not in a Bentley. The modern Church does not like to hear that. Today’s pastors fly around in private jets while many in their churches starve. They have turned the Gospel upside down.

The self righteous tithers and offerers were the HYPOCRITES and PARASITES. One disciple stated that wealth was a trap full of woe. Those who condemn those who do not put something in the offertory better understand that it was the secret giver who Christ blessed. Christ did not bless the ostentatious and publicity minded. Heaven will be filled with those who many today look down upon, and hell with the self righteous. Those were the words of Christ. 

Yes. Christ stated that if a congregation had to obey the Old Testament law, then they had to obey the whole law, every atom of it: go the whole hog so to speak. Not obey the parts they liked. So bring out the rocks and go look for the adulterer, fornicator, and homosexual, for a good stoning: that is the legalistic requirement of the Old Testament.

Churches that spend time in the Old Testament are frequently manipulative, legalistic and judgmental. Yes lover of the old law, ensure the diet contains not an ounce of shrimp or crab. Flee pork like the plague. Yes, if the believer must obey the law of tithing and offering, better obey the rest of the Old Law. Religious folk cannot choose what parts they wish to obey. It cannot be done! Believers live by God’s grace alone.

He that created the Universe, and the very air human’s breathe, Who flung the Sun into place, used a pebble of rock called the Moon to give light at night, and choreographed to perfection the planets that orbit around a massive and unimaginably hot star, certainly doesn’t need the self-righteous effort of the religious! HE who lives outside time and space, and then stepped into time and space, a Baby in a manger, two Millennia past, Who resurrected Himself from a violent death, is more impressed by love, compassion, gentleness and kindness, add patience and tenacity.

Christ was certainly correct when he declared that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Why? The rich man already had his god which was his dependency on his wealth. That is what eventually turns out to be the undoing of the wealthy and materialistic: their faith in the material.

The church, especially the evangelicals, has been going in the same direction. Mammon has replaced love and compassion. And this is not a new story either. The Pre reformation Church was just as materialistic as today’s evangelicals. In those times sinners could pay cash in advance for entry to heaven: it appears not much has changed.

Cash is the new liturgy. But it will never work. The material will never replace the immaterial: the tangible, the intangible. The Church is going to have to choose between the love of Christ and the love of mammon: or become increasingly irrelevant. That is this struggling believers “prophecy,” this ending of 2013 AD.

In the Virgin Islands, the cult of materiality has created a leveraged and angry society. Many may look good, in their ostentatious lifestyles. However, debt is a monster at many front doors. The pursuit of the material has increased selfishness, crime, family dysfunction, social breakdown, and misery.

And it is going to get worse, or so many financial experts state. Better the lender than the borrower, better the poor without debt, that the rich who owe more than they own. So the Bible teaches. Older folk are always admonishing younger folk to live within the means. If the purchase is tempting but unnecessary: leave it alone.

A hospice nurse stated once that at death, the greatest regret was not how much wealth one acquired in life. No. The greatest regret was the deception that a life of pursuit of the material caused. Materialism was a truly insane preoccupation keeping the dying patient away from spending quality time with loved ones. As a result, many children visiting an old people’s home couldn’t care less about their aged and dying parent.

And, the children repeated the selfsame deception: continuing the material cycle, with the senseless pursuit of the pointless. Yes. In reality it is the materialistic that are in pursuit of the worthless, in the real schemata. The lust for that which is transient and temporary is a true absurdity.

Prosperity has turned out to be fool’s gold for these Virgin Islands. The community has exchanged a precious value system steeped in a compassionate faith, and a close knit community model, for a flat screen television and an I Phone.

In the mean while, as one Educator put it to this Community Servant: ‘’ we are losing our boys.’’ And this observer will add, ‘’ and our girls, to sexual predators.’’ And many more houses and cars are set to be repossessed from those who were tempted to bite off more than they could chew. Yes, ultimately Mammon is a devourer.

The exhortation for 2014 is for the community to reflect and think about the direction it is headed. Cherish above the new BMW the loving relationship with the son and daughter; cherish above the hilltop villa, the community task of teaching the children how to swim and play safe, cherish above the half a million dollar saving account, the regular gathering of friends and loved ones on the hilltop verandah every Sunday evening, and cherish above the vital career, the volunteer home work tutorial class for children who have no parent to assist.

The Premier recently held a UNITY PARTY and invited one and all: not just the PAPARAZZI. It was a wonderful rendition of community and love, so this Avid Chatter was told. The Governor prefers CHARITY EVENTS that help the poor and vulnerable to a Christmas SCHMOOZE FEST for the rich and powerful. It appears that in the moral stakes, the world leads these days, while the church just follows: what a thing!

This Observer considers these efforts by the country’s two leaders a new community model of fellowship and compassion: TAKE HEED WEALTHY PASTOR! Flee the regular judgmental renditions that will never do any good for a congregation, and lost soul. Check thine own heart and frequently sinful life, and go back instead, to teaching the real truth: that LOVE is the greatest virtue in existence, that LOVE CONQUERS ALL, that LOVE COVERS A MULTITUDE OF SINS, that CHRIST is more concerned about JUSTICE and COMPASSION than your church building and expensive car, and that all that really remains, after all is said and done, is FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE.

All that matters in the end is what God knows about the individual heart, and not the increasingly irrelevant rantings and opinions from a thousand pews! He alone knows what is on the other side of that great and insurmountable chasm that every human being has to approach at the end of life.

So in 2014, the best thing Mr. Flawed Preacher can do is preach the message of love and compassion. Preach that a heart filled with unconditional love is the greatest tool of personal salvation, converting a wicked soul. Yes, a very wise man stated once that kindness is a language, the deaf hear, the blind see, and the dumb speak loudly to.

To be continued

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