One sunday some years ago when I was an undergraduate, the Vice President of my student fellowship got on the podium to preach, just after we had given the weekly offering. Then He brought out a torn and dirty twenty naira note, which someone presumably just dropped into the offering basket and said ” Some people just don’t respect God, how can you give this kind of money to your father in heaven, can your father on earth accept this, not to talk of your father in heaven?” As is their wont he then proceeded to use appropriate bible verses in the old testament about “giving God your best fruits” to back up his opinion. Perhaps it was the cynic I was due to become, but that assertion instantly struck a wrong chord. Of course arguing with my fellowship pastor at the time was unthinkable, and besides I didn’t know exactly why I felt the pastor had made a mistake, so I kept my opinions to myself and forgot all about it.
Then another sunday some months later, My Dad came home to tell us of an argument he had with someone in church. They were counting the church takings as usual, when the fellow raised the same issue my fellowship pastor had raised about “giving God” torn dirty money. My Dad replied, ” see, we don’t need to be indignant over anything, everybody knows it is not God’s money, because God doesn’t spend cash, it is all going to be taken to the bank and put in the church’s account anyway, and no matter how old and dirty the money is, the bank will likely not turn it down.”
After what Dad said, I nursed doubts about the particular pastor’s worth as a spiritual leader because of that cheap act of shaming, for a very long time. Now that I am much older, I realized that I had no need to carry a grudge, the pastor only made a honest mistake, he forgot that when God gave the instructions in those appropriate Bible passages, the Israelites were running an agrarian economy, not the kind of paper money based economy of today. In the agrarian economy, the value of an offering can be assessed by quality, for instance a a lame sheep has less value that one that is not lame, and a rotten bunch of bananas, had less value than a bunch of ripe ones and so on, but in a paper money based economy, the value of the money is not on the paper it is printed on, so an old and dirty one thousand naira note (so far it is not torn in two), still has more value than a shiny new five hundred naira. It is a discrepancy that pastors do not often take note of and they often use it to wrongly shame their church members. That however is just a digression, the piece today is not to rail against pastors, it is to talk about money.
What brought all those memories back was that I was reading a bible passage, 1Kings chapter 4, recently. In the passage Elisha was talking to a woman who needed money to pay her creditors or her sons would be taken away as slaves. Then I noted that in verse 2 Elisha asked her “what do have in your house?” I thought about that verse, given that it was God and “there is nothing impossible for him to do” why didn’t He just rain the cash for Elisha to give to the woman and be done with it. Then I remembered what my Dad had said years ago, “God is spirit he doesn’t need cash for anything, so why will he have cash to give?” Thus what God had to do for that woman, was to increase something she had, so that she could exchange it for enough cash to pay her debts. That gave me an insight about money. God created heaven and the earth an everything in it including man, but money is a purely man made invention which man created for his own convenience, so it is impossible for God to give you cash because he doesn’t have any, what God can do is to give you something, a resource, a skill, some knowledge, anything that you can give in exchange for cash, like the olive oil in that bible passage. That is why if you go to pray and you start asking God for money you are just wasting your time, he has no money to give you.” This is not just about the Christian God either, for those of us who grew up on a diet of Nollywood movies, especially those money ritual films where there is the obligatory little girl or woman in a room somewhere vomiting money for the person who did the ritual, it has become part of our beliefs that it is possible for money to come through supernatural means. I like something that a tweep (whom I would like to buy a drink for,for that kind of smart thinking) said “All the monies that those people in the movies vomit, I wonder if they all have the signature of the governor of The Central Bank of Nigeria”. I couldn’t have conceived it any better. I think the alternative, where the medicine man gives the person interested in the ritual, something to put in his/her shop or a soap to bathe with, that will attract people who will give him or her ordinary money (which is signed by the CBN governor) sounds more feasible.
To conclude, I was having a discussion with a friend one time about money, then he told me ” it is impossible for anybody not even Bill Gates or Aliko Dangote to say, It is my money, nobody owns money”. Puzzled, I asked him what he meant, he said “can Aliko Dangote do all the work at his cement plants and flour mills and all the companies where he makes all his billions all by himself?” When I replied in the negative he said, “that is the point, in essence, the money is made for him by those people who work in his companies. if those people for some reason do not make the money for him, he won’t have it. And that is how it is at every level no matter how lowly placed you are. All the money you think is yours is as a result of the work someone else is doing, not your own effort. Money can serve you, but it cannot belong to you” I suppose I should put a moral lesson here, after such an insight from my friend, but I can’t think of one to put. I did however make an interesting deduction, “If God as omnipotent and omniscient and omnipresent as he is, cannot claim to have money, how can you a mere human claim to?” Make of that what you will.