By Ugoji Egbujo
The Bible says, in all our getting, we should get understanding. I don’t know if our pastors can help their poor congregations understand this growing appetite for private jets. It’s possible that some pastors actually need jets. And that their work for God would suffer if they traveled like the rest of us. I am not asking pastors to travel by donkey. But before pastors buy jets , they should understand that private jets are symbols of opulence. The Bible warns us to avoid wastefulness.
Peter said that when he became a Christian he learnt to boast only in the name of the Lord. Our pastors should struggle to flee from all appearances of vainglory. Those who think they need private jets can buy them, but they must ask themselves if the jets would glorify God. I know many of them may have spent billions helping the sick and poor. They perhaps deserve accolades. But they must understand that God sees the hearts of men. And He is not fooled by tokenism.
The Bible is relentless against superficiality. It enjoins us to worship God in truth and Spirit. It emphasizes that God hates lukewarmness. After all, Ananias gave something too. He lied a little bit, but gave something. Yet, he was used as a punitive example. Pastors ought to know that church collections and gifts they receive from ordinary people by virtue of their positions as pastors belong to God. So, when they apply offerings and personal gifts, they should do it righteously, selflessly. If they need an example, they should copy Christ.
It is possible God has granted permission to some pastors to buy jets. But God is not an author of confusion. Yes, He can confound the wise with spiritual things. But He hates those who compete with Him for adoration. Pastors who must ride private jets must make strenuous attempts to avoid ostentation. Ostentation is the vulgar, pretentious display of wealth or luxury to impress or attract attention.
The Bible tells us whom a fool is. The Biblical fool is he who says there is no God. The Bible knows fools include those who shout the name of God everyday, but whose actions do not reveal they fear Him.
Nigeria is such a wretched country with over 100 million people living in abject poverty, malnourished physically and spiritually. It is the place where children die in many thousands, every year, from preventable childhood diseases and hunger. A pastor who has prioritized God and heaven above the world and its thrills would hesitate to buy a private jet. And to waste money flying first class. This isn’t to say that pastors are called to bondage and servitude. But Christ who is our perfect example laid His life for his friends.
The Bible enjoins us to be the light of the world. The world is sick of vainglory and exhibitionism. Our pastors should flee from all appearances of satanism. They must embrace contrition because God resists the proud. The Shepherds of God’s flock should show the way. The way of God is moderation, self contentment and truth. A lifestyle of covetousness and sybaritism by the clergy will endorse a culture of hedonism in the country. Our clergy must understand that they are role models.
The Bible tells us about the power truth has. But we often underestimate it. Christ is the Truth. But literal truths can also set folks and pastors free. Pastors should publish the audited accounts of their churches. Their congregations should know the whole truth about their finances, including gifts pastors receive. Before a pastor who is not a businessman buys a jet, he should inform the whole congregation and furnish his flock with the purchase and maintenance costs of these jets. Such open accountability could help the pastor realize that such a fantasy project, in the face of abiding extreme poverty, within the ranks of the church, is truly a white elephant.
The only rivalry, if any, that pastors can engage in, must be in soul winning. The world knows Africa is poor and wretched. And her leaders are rich and gluttonous. The world knows that a poor Africa would have very poor congregations, inevitably. No one in the world, outside Africa, is impressed by African religious leaders flying around in a private jets. They are amused by it.
Let our pastors know it. When these jets are parked in foreign terminals and full time pastors creep out of them, the picture the ordinary European sees is that of smart scavengers. And pictures are important. The ambassadors of Christ cannot be seen like the vice president of Equitorial Guinea, who outbid everyone and bought the white gloves of Michael Jackson for over a hundred million naira.
Christ died on the Cross. He has suffered enough.