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The paradox of being religious and poor

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Miracle money! Miracle food! Miracle drinks! Miracle spouses! Miracle everything! Despite the continent embracing prosperity theology with great passion and believing in all its accompanying miracles, poverty continues to haunt many people.

A careful probe shows one common trend. It is the church founders who are getting richer and richer while the followers are still enmeshed in poverty.

Amongst the desperate, prosperity gospel is psychologically sweet as it gives them optimism. It is the optimism that persuades the needy to throw their last penny into the offering basket on Sundays.

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Here is the catch. If you are a single, and the prophet tells you that God has already found you a spouse, you get excited. Likewise, if you are jobless and the prophet assures you of a future job, you become a die-hard follower. If you are poor and you are told “receive as it is on its way”, you are filled with hope.

Prosperity theology thrives on the belief that God wants to see His people prosper. The binary teaching being obvious – poverty is either a curse or a trial.

Favourite verses include Deuteronomy 28, which states the curse of poverty was to come upon God’s children if they disobeyed him. But if God’s people are

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faithful, they should prosper as is written in Proverbs 10:22: “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.”

Prosperity theology also ploughs from the abundant literature which shows that the patriarchs of the Old Testament were very rich and prosperous.

With our faith that God does not change as He is the same all the time that means what he did for the patriarchs, God is also capable of doing the same to us. We believe the principles of God work for anyone that applies them.

For starters, Abraham was one of the most successful, prosperous and richest patriarchs. The book of Genesis says he was rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. In others words he was a millionaire. Isaac, Jacob, David and Solomon were millionaires of their eras.

Let’s twist the issue now.

Can the same be said of modern faithful people or nations?

Several studies conducted by renowned research groups show that the majority of religious nations are wallowing in poverty while secular countries are very prosperous. It is now the most religious nations that envy and admire secular societies

One survey conducted by Gallup in more than 100 countries showed that the more poverty a nation has, the higher the ‘religiosity’ in that nation.

Some of the most religious countries in the world according to research are Niger, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Djibouti, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. Despite being religious, these countries are among the poorest and least developed in the world.

The paradox of the matter is that most secular countries like Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Japan, United Kingdom, Finland and France are the wealthy and very developed.

Living in a God-fearing nation and believing that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, it is important to start asking ourselves tough questions. If God was able to bless the patriarchs, why are the God-fearing Malawians languishing in poverty when secularists are prospering?

I know the easy answer to the question is to recite the story of Job; but not everyone was created to go through what Job went through. After all Jesus Christ endured it all on our behalf on the cross.

Folks, as we worship God (and even as some of us are worshipping our apostles, prophets and bishops), these are some of the issues we should be brainstorming.

Should we perhaps attribute our problems to our education system as Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukuh of Nigeria once observed?

Bishop Kuku said: “African educational systems have surprising outcomes. The smartest students pass with First Class and get admissions to Medical and Engineering schools. The Second Class students get MBAs and LLBs to manage the First Class students. The Third Class students enter politics and rule both the First and Second Class students. The Failures enter the Underworld of crime and control the politicians and the businesses. And, best of all, those who did not attend school at all become Prophets and everyone follows them…. What a paradox and an irony of life! It can only happen in Africa.”

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