A few years ago, I was told a story about ‘giving’ that shook me to the bones under my feet. The Catholic Church in Ghana, as a policy, does not discourage co-operation between its seminarians and philanthropists, including foreigners who “have something in their hand”.

Through this policy, some of the Ghanaian seminarians have been receiving gifts, including cash, from people all over the world – people they have never known and will (may) never know. 

My information is that to avoid pestering, among other reasons, the Church does not make the identities of the philanthropists known to beneficiary seminarians, but I dare conjecture that in the human imagination of the Ghanaians, those philanthropists must be fabulously rich, with so much, and more, to spare.

There was this particular seminarian who had, for years, been receiving cash gifts from a philanthropist in Malta. After many years, this seminarian, now an ordained priest, decided to go to Malta to look for his benefactor.

In Malta, he contacted the Church hierarchy and they agreed to take him to see this kind person. The Ghanaian stood shocked when this generous benefactor was pointed out to him. The benefactor was, and has been a cripple, all his life.

Not only that: he earns (and had all these years been earning) every sou from coins and notes dropped into his beggar’s bowl by passers-by. It is from these collections that he wires money to Ghana to take care of a priest in training.

What a heart! 

I am told that from that day, the former seminarian’s attitude to life changed, including his attitude to the poor.

Article 2 of the Constitution of Malta states that the religion of Malta is the “Roman Catholic apostolic religion”. My column today is not strong on the religious life of Maltese. It is written as a token of my admiration for the cripple-beggar. His is what I call Christianity.

This column today is addressed to religious people who give in offerings expecting “a miracle with your name on it”. I believe in miracles, but I pray for the joy of knowing that my giving is the miracle a deprived orphan and widow has been praying for.  

I am a Christian and I believe in giving. I will continue to put money in the offering bowl, pay my tithes and vows, according to my faith. Any pastor who enriches himself with my money does not know God; he thinks God is blind. 

That type of pastor is the one who will prophesy just to earn popularity in the hope of attracting desperate people to line up behind his house for a consultation that attracts a fee! This gifted “man of God” certainly has not read the bible. 

Every spiritual gift, according to St Paul, is given for the profit of all. About these spiritual gifts, Jesus said, “Freely have you received; freely give”. These principles are embodied in the “dharma” teachings of Buddha and in Islam’s Koran

About three years ago, Pope Francis had occasion to warn an audience of trainee priests and nuns against using “the latest smart phone, the fastest car.” He told them, “If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world.”

So should pastors be poor? I don’t think so and I am not interested in the answer. What I know is that it is not necessarily the poor who will go to heaven. In fact, if we should be honest about this, we would realize that “poverty” and happiness are products of a heart that is perpetually (dis)satisfied. 

Some pastors/prophets (and some ‘fetish’ priests these days, incredibly) think one becomes famous by appearing on TV and buying air time on radio to shout. When they are not achieving that goal, they open their mouths and prophesy, taking advantage of the richness of the moment. Their eyes are not on how many hearts they turn towards God; their hearts are in a mansion in the other side of town and the latest limo. 

Many of them don’t hear from God. How do I know? Check the many election prophecies. Only one comes close. I am sure if I drink enough water at 9pm, I should wake up at 5amprophesying.

With prophets like we have in this country, how many Christians can sit begging at street corners in Ghana to raise money to support God’s work elsewhere? 

Go to London. There are prophets who are selling water and oil from Israel. One of them has built a reputation around it. He dips his little finger into the oil and touches the victim’s forehead for ten pounds sterling. Presto, the person is ‘healed’, ‘delivered from poverty and witches’!

Is that all that God or godliness is about?

****

The writer is a former Editor of the ‘Ghanaian Times’ and now a columnist of the ‘Daily Graphic’.