1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The quest for truth and interpretation of prosperity theology has motivated us into this research work, appraising the centrality of Jesus and his ethical teachings on prosperity gospel. Prosperity theology is known to be promoted by mega churches and televangelists with the same messages of tithing, giving and regular attendance to services which are believed to bring material blessings. The proponents of this theology are of the opinion that it is not God’s plan for anyone to be poor but to live in abundance. They believe that the more money a Christian gives to his or her church, the more he or she will receive from God. It is important to clarify the statement of Jesus that you will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me” (John 12: 8). This is not contradictory to the theology of prosperity. In other words, the attitude of individuals to the teaching of prosperity determines the result that he or she will obtain.
Those who condemn prosperity theology claim that, money or materialism has no eternal value. Quoting from a Christian Daily Devotion titled ‘Word for Today’ it reveals seven of the world’s most successful men of their time that met at Edge Water Beach Hotel in Chicago, United States of America in 1923.1 The story has it that, these men control more money than money in the United States’ treasury. The account went further to mention how each of them ended their life in penury with all the money they possessed. Charles Schwab, head of the largest independent steel company lived the last five years of his life on borrowed money and died as a pauper, because of bad investments, stock market crash, prolonged economic depression and wasteful spending.
Arthur Cog, the greatest Wheat Speculator, shot himself. This man towards the end of his life lost $50 million dollars in the stock market, he was charged of evading over $400 million income tax, why two more indictments on similar charges were pending. Cog died of heart attack a few months before his trial at the Edge Water Beach Hotel in Chicago. These problems we believe must have contributed to his mental disorder, which made him to consider suicide as the best option. Richard Whitney, President of the New York Stock Exchange was convicted of embezzlement and imprisoned.2 Others are: Albert Fall, a member of the President’s cabinet, he went to prison for bribery; Leon Fraser, President of the United States Bank of International
Settlements shot himself as a result of depression and the death of his wife.
Also, Ivar Kreuger, head of the International Match Co., which was then the world’s largest company at that time, committed suicide. Kreuger’s death occurred because of the crash in business and lack of support from his bank, although, his brother Torsten Kreuger was of the opinion that his brother was murdered.3 Another rich person was Michael Jackson, he crashed into a deep debt before he died as a result of ill health. If these so called successful men ended their lives the way they did, there is an indication that ‘one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses’ as taught in one of the ethical teachings of Jesus Christ in (Luke 12:15). Man must therefore live for the right reason.
What happened to the above mentioned personalities and how they spent their money does not stop God from blessing others according to His will. Similarly, some other people portray the prosperity gospel as ‘idolatry’ because it is assumed that it gives undue importance to prosperity gospel and cultivate authoritarian organizations, with the leaders controlling the lives of the adherents.4 In a situation whereby poverty wields its destructive influence at every stage of life, from the moment of conception to the grave, one cannot but embrace this doctrine that will bring new meaning to one’s live. There are lots of mis-interpretation and mis-conception regarding wealth or prosperity. This is the reason why this work is making an in-depth study to some of the interpretations given by the proponents and opponents of this doctrine with an effort to make some clarifications for better understanding of the concept of prosperity theology in relation to the ethical teaching and practices of Jesus Christ. It must be noted that, desire for money is not a sin but the love of money brings evil. One can desire money for comfort and expansion of the gospel; these are not for selfish purposes. Paul’s assumption in (1Timothy 6:9-10) is that men should not mis-use wealth. Thus, we submit here that the principle of moderation is needed at all times and in all circumstances for perfection.
The rejection of Abraham’s covenant of material blessing to mean spiritual blessing of salvation is a problem in the context of prosperity gospel. The submission of Ken Sarles was faulted when he says both physical healing and financial prosperity have been provided for in the atonement of Christ.5 A critical look at the word ‘atonement’ shows that it means sacrifice. Jesus made Himself a sacrificial lamb. He paid the price for sin, adversity, death and whatever can enslave man. Therefore, the atonement is the supreme expression of the love of God and Jesus Christ for man. Therefore, Sarles submission, that physical healing and financial prosperity had been atoned for by Christ is valid so each person must claim his or her own benefit including prosperity.
There are questions we need to answer with all sincerity as individuals. Is there anyone who does not need money? Are there people who love to live in abject poverty in spite of the provisions available to have a breakthrough or is it right that some should enjoy wealth and comfort, enjoy luxury and comfort, while others live in destitute, dirty and unpleasant condition as a result of poverty or neglect.6 The teaching of prosperity does not reject personal property7 or acquiring worldly materials in this work but the intention of such possession. It is however, observed that, prosperity gospel is fundamentally flawed as a result of love of understanding. This work will inform and inspire critics on this controversial doctrine and foot-hold prosperity theology and all the physical and spiritual blessings accrue to it; especially at a time like this when the war against poverty has not been won.
The teaching of prosperity gospel is a common feature in Nigeria and other parts of the world since the beginning of the twentieth century.8 However, the concept is an interesting and highly controversial discourse. It continues to generate the interest of scholars of Religions, Sociologists and Historians. It is believed that the theology of prosperity preaching is responsible for the expansion of the New Religious Movements today, and it has even influenced the doctrine and practices of the mainline and African Independent Churches in Nigeria.
The concept is variously called: Word of Faith, Faith Movement, Health and Wealth Gospel, Positive confession, name it and claim it gospel.9 Prosperity theology proponents support the idea that God wants every Christian to be abundantly successful in every way with special emphasis on financial prosperity.10
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper in health even as they soul prospereth. (3 John1:2).
The above quoted biblical passage and others often quoted fundamentally sum up two things. Firstly, the phenomenological interpretation is exclusively financial, neglecting the spiritual well-being of the people. Secondly, it is believed that the prosperity gospel is more than financial success. Ken L. Sarles says that the gospel consists of healing from sickness,11 Otabil interprets Biblical prosperity to mean salvation. In other words, a life that is free of sin and demonic activities will be prosperous. He added that, benefits from God such as forgiveness of sins, healings, redemption of lives from destruction and crowning us with tender mercies brings a prosperous life.12
Rolley Bailey describes prosperity not only as the absence of diseases or infirmity, but a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.13 Thus, from the foregoing, we see that prosperity gospel touches other areas of Christian teachings, such as avoidance of sin, sickness, poverty and demonic oppression. Jesus Christ said ‘the spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the good news to the poor; He hath sent me to health the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised’ (Luke 4:18-19).
The critics may have some reasons to say that the preachers of prosperity gospel do not place enough emphasis on spiritual growth. For example, Jim Bakker was of the opinion that a pastor should be as rich as the richest person in his church. Duncan Williams adds that the times when pastors trek are over. Unfortunately, Bakker was convicted of fraud by United States of America government and sentenced to jail in 1989 and later released. Bakker recounted of his so-called faith equal fortune.14 He regretted living a flamboyant lifestyle not placing enough emphasis on spirituality. His book, ‘I was wrong’ is an evidence of his remorsefulness. However, that is not enough to disregard its theological importance.
Cathlean Falsany, a religion columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and a critic of prosperity gospel, argued that when Jesus talked about material wealth, it was just part of a cautionary tale. She maintained that Jesus was born poor and died poor. According to her, she emphasized more on the importance of spiritual wealth and health gospel. Her question was, ‘Was the poor cursed by God because of their unfaithfulness’? She concluded by saying that the gospel of prosperity has turned Christianity to a doctrine of little spiritual value and magical thinking.16
In his book ‘Defeating the Dragons of the World,’ Stephen D. Eyre identifies this cultural trend that has invaded the church as the ‘dragon of materialism,’ concerning its effects Eyre wrote:
The Dragon of materialism leads us to become preoccupied with the material side of life. All our time, energy and thoughts are focused in the physical aspects of life. We became practical materialists. We know that there is more to life, but the way we live shows that we have adopted the creed of the dragon of materialism, matter is all that matters.17
Eyre is of the opinion that prosperity is evil and therefore calls it a ‘dragon’. The word dragon is mythological representation of reptiles or serpent. It is often held to have major significance in various religions and cultures. Evil is also associated with this creature because of its magical and supernatural power. Eyre believed that this spirit of wanting to have more is a dragon of materialism.
Scot McKnight argues against what is often called prosperity gospel, with the idea that God wants to bless believers financially. He is of the view that the gospel has some explanation to make as she could see people not employed, suffering and going to bed worried if there would be food on the table for the family the next day, with anxiety written on their faces and voices. Some of these people mentioned are found to be faithful yet with many problems.18
The Nigerian Tribune dated 10th September, 2011 reports that, poverty has been the bane of the socio-economic well-being of Nigerians where it is believed that by the estimation of its vast and rich natural resources, every citizen is expected to live comfortably. It went further to say that, the country has enormous resources and potentials. It is currently ranked 20th among the poorest countries in the world. This was further confirmed by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in its 2010 Global Monitoring Report (GMR), which revealed that about 92 percent of the nation’s population survives on less than $2 daily while about 8 percent survives on less than $1 daily.20
The Nigerian Tribune dated 30th June, 2012 also reported that, Nigeria is among the top ten failed States in African and 14th in the world.21 The Fund for Peace (FFP) declared this in its 2012 Annual Conference. Also, Precious Gbeneol, the Special Assistant to the Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Millennium Development Goals at a meeting where countries re-assembled to recommit their efforts to tackle global poverty itemized some efforts being made to address poverty in Nigeria. For instance, 2,844 primary health facilities were constructed, 6,673 health workers received training, more than 74,000 school teachers were recruited, over 2.4M insecticide-treated nets were provided, 3,524 small town boreholes with solar powered pumps, 6,031 boreholes with hand pumps, 393 small town water supplies skills were also constructed. In addition to this, 3,709 VIP toilets were provided while 7,673 people were trained on vocational skills.
In spite of these giant efforts to reduce poverty to the barest minimum in Nigeria, the Ambassador Martin Shearman of the United Kingdom remarks: ‘The Nigeria National report on the progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, its economy grew at an annual rate of 6.8 percent between 2012 and 2013, he added that there is still extreme poverty that exists in the country.
Speaking on the high level of poverty in Nigeria, the Editorial Section of the Nigerian Tribune reported on the High Level Policy Dialogue on Nutrition-Sensitivity Agriculture in Nigeria. The head of Co-Operation, European Union (EU) delegation to Nigeria and West Africa, both Mr. Bran O’Neil and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) representative, Dr. Richard Seki, remarked that over eleven million children in Nigeria are suffering from stunting disease. According to O’Neil:
There are too many mal-nourished children in this country as over eleven million children are suffering from stunting growth and many also are suffering from chronic mal-nutrition.
Under-nourished children in Nigeria reflect the poverty situation in the country. There is no accessibility of food to many poor children in the country. The National Bureau of Statistics (2012) gives the data below to buttress the above statement. Sokoto State is said to report the highest rate of poverty, put at 85%. Other states with over 70% rate include Katsina with 74.5%, Adamawa 74.2%, Gombe 74.2%, Bauchi 73%, Kebbi 72% and Zamfara 70.8%.
According to this data, the State with the lowest poverty rate in the country is Niger State with 33.8%, followed by Osun with 37.9% and Ondo 45.7%. Others with less than 50% poverty rate are Bayelsa State 47% and Lagos State 48.6%. The report gives the average poverty rate in the North-West geo-political zone as 71.4% which remained the highest in the country. The North East region and North-Central region is put at 69.1% and 60.7% respectively. Poverty is said to be least dominant in South-West 49.5%, South-South 55.5% and South-East Region 59.5%25
From the report of the High Level Policy Dialogue on nutrition – sensitivity Agriculture in Nigeria, over half of all children in the Northern part of the country are stunted while 41% of all children under 5 years are classified as stunted, 23% are severely stunted. The North-West region has the highest level of stunting with 56%, followed by North-East with 42% and the North-Central with 29%. The regions with the lowest levels of stunting are South-West with 22%, South-South with 18% and the South-East with 16%.26
Following the above data, the effect and factors responsible for stunting in human growth was mentioned, while solution to this challenge was given, such as, integrated approach and close partnership across ministries of Agriculture, Health, Education and Human Affairs was given. Among other solutions, the government had been advised to prioritize the issue of nutrition by making policies on production of more nutritional food, also the government has to address the growing economic gap between the rich and the poor. Growing inequality in the midst of growth needs to be addressed through effective re-distributional policies.
In Nigeria, poverty is evident. No wonder, poor people are deceived with money especially people with low income. Many have sold their birthrights as a result of hunger and lack. A new N200 note and a mini bag of rice will do to vote for corrupt leaders because of lack and needs without considering what will become of their destinies.
It is surprising that, as people are craving for riches, the concept of the poor by the Roman Catholics at Vatican II is the theology of ‘Option for the Poor’ or preferential option for the poor which was popularized in the early 1970s.27 The Latin American Catholics re-oriented their perspective from seeing the poor as the object of the mercy of the church but as the subjects of their history.28 The option for the poor was accepted and used in Liberation theology before it was considered for a radical paradigm shift.29 A school of thought sees the poor as object of mercy that is required to be nursed by the church and another says the poor people are impoverished as a result of their short comings and divine punishment for them is to be poor.
Monreau, however, argues that the idea of opting for the poor incorporated into Liberation theology needs to be changed. He says that the poor are no longer seen as object of mercy but at people gifted by God to exemplify His justice. It is argued that they are the people of God because they are impoverished. It is also argued that we must see the poor as the sinned against rather than sinners, even though they face oppression as a continual way of life, yet they receive the support of God at all times.
This idea is proven from the Biblical point of view that an option for the poor is not optional because it is founded on God’s nature portrayed in Jesus incarnation. Again, poverty is acceptable because Jesus came with the purpose of bringing good news to the poor and as a result of this they are blessed with epistemological advantage in reading the scriptures for they have biblical truths in them. At this juncture, we must clarify the word ‘poor’ being refered to here. We want to assume it is the poor in the spirit who will inherit the kingdom of God as we have it in (Matthew 5:3). There was an evangelical resistance to this new ideology of the poor.30 The needy would not want to accept the concept as God’s nature portrayed in Jesus’ incarnation and continue to suffer.
There is a need to say that everyone must be poor in spirit and that is why option for the poor is not optional. It is the responsibility of individuals and the church to care for the poor and the needy. The church can help in alleviating suffering of the poor and give them hope. We must emphasize here that poverty is not worth opting for.
Akanmidu in his Inaugural Lecture at the University of Ilorin, Ilorin titled, Poverty Alleviation Programme and the Politics of Ethical Despair in Nigeria: Classified Poverty in Nigeria into two – they are, absolute and relative poverty. Absolute poverty, he says, is the inability to meet basic needs of life, while relative poverty is settling for whatever is available or insufficiency and not necessarily the best. Many people want help in their state of hopelessness and want to live a meaningful life, it is, therefore, not difficult for them to embrace prosperity message.
The theology of prosperity crept into Nigeria in the early 1980s. It became popular and expressed during the implementation of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) introduced by General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (Rtd) to reposition the country’s economy and open it up for private participation with its strict ‘conditionalties of monetary austerity, fiscal austerity, privatization and financial liberalization, currency devaluation, reformation of public sector and other structural adjustment policies’. Nigeria under the leadership of General Babangida had a bitter experience as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) induced SAP turned away, due to what economic analysts have described as ‘lack of institutional framework’ that could allow successful implementation of SAP which came with devaluation of National currency by more than one thousand percent.32 The Policy caused economic depression and made life difficult for common man in Nigeria, which made many to flounder in abject poverty today.
Despite the rich human and natural resources, Nigeria continues to wallow in abject poverty. There is no doubt that seventy percent of Nigeria population are living below the poverty line. There is a sharp contrast between the incomes of the poor and the rich and a large percentage of Nigerians lack basic needs. The greatest challenge besetting the country is poverty and corruption in the midst of plenty and bad leadership. The prevailing economic situation and failure of the government to checkmate the ugly trend, have forced many who could not engage in armed robbery, ritual killings, bribery to engage in some other foul means. For instance, begging for alms has become a professional business. Some see it as an opportunity to make money without labour.
Many solicit for financial support by fabricating lies, such as, loss of money, medical expenses, others swarm around motor parks parading themselves as ministers of God trading the gospel for many by offering plethora prayers for passengers to collect money. The most inhuman method that some poor mothers have adopted to beat the plague of poverty is to beg for money, using helpless set of twins strapped to their bodies or sprawled on the floor in market and other public places apparently to draw sympathy from the public and perhaps to exploit the fortunes that twins are believed to harbor. As if this is not enough, on 1st January, 2012, the government of President Goodluck Jonathan removed fuel subsidy. The price of PSM was given as N140, although, it was later reduced to N96 per liter after much struggle by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). That notwithstanding, the price of fuel is still on the increase. This has inflicted more problems on the masses because of poor income being received at the end of the month. It has also caused a lot of protests in many parts of the country. The government on the other hand, analyzed how the proceeds will be used to provide other amenities, such as good roads, healthcare, electricity, education etc. To many Nigerians, the government has not alleviated their poverty but added to it. Unfortunately, the same elected representatives of the National Assembly have been found to be involved in bribery and corruption in so many areas of the economy.33
The price of fuel was a bit stable for sometimes until 2015 when the country experienced another hike in price of fuel with the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. The New Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, GMD, NNPC in a speech after a meeting with the stakeholders, including members of National Assembly, Labour and Oil Industry unions gave reasons for the increase in price of fuel, when he said that:
The main reason for the current problem is the inability of importers of petroleum products to source for foreign exchange at the official rate due to the massive decline of foreign exchange earnings of the Federal Government.
He went further to say that this led to inability of private marketers to meet their approximate 50% portion of total national supply of premium motor spirit. The inability of the marketers to meet their approximate 5% of national supply left the government with no option than to:
1. Allow individual importation of fuel, subject to quality specifications and follow other guidelines issued by regulatory agencies in order to increase and stabilize the supply of fuel.
2. That oil marketers will be allowed to import premium motor spirit on the basis of FOREX proared from secondary sources and accordingly PPPRA template will reflect this in the pricing of the product.
Dr. Ibe Kachikwu said it was after all these that the new price for PMS was announced as 145 maximum per litre with effect from 11th March, 2016. The increase in price generated a lot of controversies and divisions among the labour leaders as the (NLC) pronounced workers to go on strike that lasted for two days before it was called off for negotiation. The new official pump price affected everyone, business and cost of living. Some see it as anti-people, undemocratic and totally against the spirit and letter of the ‘CHANGE’ President Mohammed Buhari promised the nation. The government is not trying to bring unnecessary hardship to her citizens but to find a lasting solution to the problem.
We really cannot say whether the oil boom in Nigeria was a blessing or a curse. The oil boom in 1970 led to a complete economic crash. There was a shift from agricultural sector to the non traded petroleum and projected revenue for petroleum was high. The borrowing of General Murtala Mohammed on grand scale in mono-economy became a problem because of a sharp decrease in the world oil crisis under the regime of Ibrahim Babangida in 1980s.35 This brought about an inflation that affected everyone as things became expensive and prices of commodities were on the increase. The government resulted to borrowing and went into numerous debts. The country is still facing the same situation today.
The Structural Adjustment Programme implemented by the government failed. The decline of the economy was so severe that by 1991 Nigeria was labeled a low income country and qualified for World Bank assistance. It is assumed that the Nigeria oil crisis caused the state to become predatory for its income. Up till now, the country is yet to recover from 1970 economic crash. Because of the bad economy, Nigerians live below the poverty line; many are not gainfully employed, government skips payment of salaries in some states while wealth distribution was grossly unequal.
The Goodluck Jonathan administration was alleged to loot the treasury before handing over to the administration of President Muhammed Buhari on May 29, 2015, as a result a general problem of insufficient funds to pay government workers arose. The effort of the President was indeed appreciated for his bailout programmes for the State, an action which has also been condemned by the former Minister of States for Finance, Mr. Remi Babalola. In his paper presented at the opening of the 45th Annual Conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Nigeria (ICAN) he affirmed that, ‘as good a gesture as the bailout is, it may lead to moral hazard as the states continue with financial recklessness leading to financial insolvency’. Poverty and suffering was highly increased in the country, because of mismanagement and misallocation of resources, coupled with an unprecedented level of corruption that was at its highest peak in the history of the nation.37 For instance, the controversial 2.1 billion dollars meant for the purchase of arms to fight Boko Haram insurgency during the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan was allegedly diverted and shared by some influential politicians.
Increase in the level of corruption day by day brought down the standard of living drastically with high rate of inflation and poor living condition. Hunger, disappointments, anxieties, joblessness has been the lot of many people. This phenomenon geared up prosperity messages and it was heartily embraced by many Christians in Nigeria. Some ministers who caught the vision popularized the theology and their churches were populated. The expectation of Nigerians was to live a life free of oppression, demonic activities, fear, sickness and abject poverty. This is the core message of prospertity preachers, suggesting ways to live in plenty.
Many people from the mainline and African independent churches drifted to Pentecostal churches (e.g. Living Faith Church, The Redeemed Christian Church, Christ Embassy, Latter Rain Assembly, Mountain of Fire and Miracle, etc), because of the preaching of hope to the hopeless and the needy. It is therefore believed that, ‘The gospel of prosperity preaching serves as a wake up alarm for the depressed, apathetic and the hopeless. It brought a new challenge to the mainline church doctrine of poverty held by the church for many years. On this note, we can say that prosperity teaching provides abundant life, hope, and makes life more meaningful, creative and productive.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
It is generally believed that Pentecostal churches have visibly incorporated the identity of corporate practice such as, public outlooks, advertising strategies, methods of fund raising and aspirations in their worship. In other words, making prosperity churches business oriented. This view will be examined in line with the Ethical teachings of Jesus Christ in relation to prosperity gospel in the Living Faith Church. As a matter of fact, prosperity gospel should propel churches to greater heights, bring spiritual and physical blessings. In this study, we shall find out Christ standard on acquisition of wealth and the extent to which Christians have replaced some value commitments and holiness with material possessions.
It is observed that, the directives that serve as guides to the Christians have been neglected. For example, God had a purpose when He addressed the Israelites that the land they were about to occupy must be shared and its resources distributed to families, clans and tribes. This agrees with the Jubilee principles as against the monopolistic tendencies of unbridled capitalism, that fails to have a concept of care for the natural order which the scriptures mandated, such as, allowing individual to exercise stewardship through the rights attached to private property, fails to encourage responsibilities on sharing with the poor and encourages the idea of pursuing for its own sake.41 On the contrary, God is seen as having preferential treatment for the poor. A certain amount of favoritism is given to the marginalized, perhaps to create equal opportunities and guide against unjust implementation of the law as viewed by Blomberg.42
Although, the Bible does not mention capitalism but speaks mostly on economic issues, as many of the parables of Jesus are related to economic matters. What attitude should be exhibited towards acquisition of wealth as taught by Christ, reviewing the concept of prosperity theology in Pentecostal Churches with special reference to the Living Faith Church. This is expedient because of the strong emphasis in the message and lifestyle of leaders of the church.
1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
A lot has been said by scholars in various literatures, journals and on the internet concerning prosperity theology. This theology caught the attention of many who embraced it, while it was denounced by others. Thus, no doubt, it has generated a lot of discussions and arguments among Christians and church ministers. Although, this theology has been philosophically, socially and biblically applied, some interpretations still persist, thereby causing division in the church. Considering the problem of proof texting, some words or verses in the Bible are interpreted on a selective hermeneutics thus, there is difficulty in understanding such verses or words in relation to prosperity teaching.
This work, therefore, examined the ethical teachings of Jesus in relation to prosperity theology in Pentecostal Churches using the Living Faith Church as a case study. The ministry has been able to establish branches of the branches of the church in all the six geo-political states in Nigeria and beyond with more than 5,000 churches in Nigeria. The call and vision of the founder, Bishop David Oyedepo is examined in this work. A detail historical background of the origin of the church was explored by tracing its development from inception to date. In doing this, the life of Bishop David Oyedepo was examined. The study established the events in his early life, educational background and his conversion story that eventually led to his emergence as the founder of the Living Faith Church worldwide.
The study also examined the beliefs and doctrines of the Living Faith Church in Nigeria. The work highlighted the involvement of the church and her contributions to health, education and socio-economic development. It also discussed extensively ways by which the concept of prosperity has blessed its members, the general attitude of Christians on the concept, the confusion, errors and extremism regarding the theology. In this regard, it brought about clarity and understanding about biblical prosperity and ways to maintain a balanced understanding of the subject, as taught by Christ. The work however, never failed to look at the unique traits of the church in comparison with other churches and how this has affected the growth of the church.
Finally, the biblical perspective on wealth and poverty are important for our study to teach godly lives, avoiding ascetisicm and materialism. Biblical views of poverty are essential; if we are to fulfill our responsibilities to the poor.
1.4 SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
The study examined the ethical teachings of Jesus Christ in relation to prosperity gospel in the Living Faith Church. We chose the church because it is one of the major proponents of prosperity theology. Bishop David Oyedepo, the founder of the church claims that God spoke to him while in America to go home and make His people rich. We therefore, examined the teachings of Christ concerning wealth or prosperity as practiced by the Living Faith Church, considering the vision, beginning, growth and spread of the church vis-a vis the interpretation of prosperity gospel in the church between 1981 to 2015.
The Living Faith Church is a world-wide organization. A study of its growth and development should rather have covered the church branches in Nigeria and various continents. But this would have rendered the study unmanageable and speculative. The work concentrated on the Living Faith Church with her headquarters located in Ota, Ogun State. The study is limited to prosperity preaching in Pentecostal denominations, particularly the Living Faith Church.
1.5 JUSTIFICATION OF THE STUDY
Prosperity gospel is a controversial discourse. The critics erroneously believed it to be worldly and evil; causing confusion and attitudinal problem in christiandom. Therefore, the research work tends to emphasize the goodness of God to humanity. We believe there is the need to suggest that the teaching of the church pertaining to prosperity is the will and aspiration of God, God is interested in the welfare and well-being of man, although care must be taken not to assume that wealth represents God’s blessings all the times.
The need to research into the concept is necessary to establish beyond doubts the importance of the teachings concerning wealth and to help many Christians to come out of pretence, confusion and embrace the gift of God with a perfect understanding that God’s blessings are not restricted to the heavenly realm alone, but often allows man to enjoy marital blessings here on earth.
1.6 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
This thesis conducts a biblical and theological analysis of prosperity theology. The research tools adopted included both primary and secondary sources of data collection. The primary source is the oral interviews conducted with leaders and some members of the church in selected big cities and towns. The secondary source searched information from historical journals, biographies, periodicals, and other related books available in the libraries of the University of Ilorin, Ilorin, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Lagos State University, Ojoo, Lagos, United Missionary Church of Africa College Library, Ilorin, Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso and Landmark e-Library, Omu-Aran.
Also, there were extraction of information and unstructured, personal observations through visit to prayer meetings, church services, annual Shiloh programmes organized by the church in Ota, Ogun State. The researcher took part in some of the programmes in Ota. Relevant verses in the Bible both the Old and New Testaments related to the subject were examined, which gave us an opportunity to arrive at a critical, analytical and reasonable conclusion.
1.7 LITERATURE REVIEW
As a result of the importance of the concept of prosperity and its interpretation in the contemporary scholarship, many scholars have argued for or against the concept. Dapo Asaju in his thesis titled: The Ethical and Theological Study of the concept of Materialism in Christianity and Yoruba Indigenous Religion,44 adopted a comparative approach in the study of materialism in Christianity and Yoruba indigenous religion quoting from the book of (Romans 7:15-25) to buttress his point. It is evident that there is a serious disagreement between spirituality and materialistic life. To him, materialism has become an evil concept affecting the adherents of the three main religions in Nigeria namely: African Traditional Religion, Islam and Christianity.
The teaching of Jesus Christ, His life and attitude towards materialism were examined as a model for Christians. Many at times, we want to believe that Jesus frowned at wealth, that he would prefer men to live a low life, and that accumulation of wealth was wrong.45 Throughout the ministry of Jesus such teachings was never heard. Although Jesus had interest in economic matters noting its gains and losses, most of his parables indicated this. In the same manner, he went further to analyze the perils and benefits of wealth. In fact, His main concern is the effect of wealth on an individual and the development of his character, and the effect on the society at large; noting in particular the benefits and temptations of wealth.46
In addition to this, it can be categorically said that Jesus had no intention to disdain wealth, but noted that a man’s possession could lead to temptation turning away his heart from social duties to a self – centred life. In other words, wealth that is meant to bring comfort to everyone could become an end in itself to the wealthy, however, he was emphatical about the dangers of worldly materials.
The teachings of Jesus Christ, His life and attitude towards materialism were examined as a model for Christians. The Old and New Testament as background to Christian’s concept of materialism was based on obedience and righteous living. This was obvious in the life of Abraham but King Solomon failed in this area. The latter failed because he disobeyed God by marrying foreign wives in contrary to God’s commandment. In fact, Moses instructed that no king of Israel should multiply wives for himself (Deuteronomy 17:17).
Although, Solomon’s multiple marriages were primarily political in nature, he became attached to these women and their gods. His construction of shrines for foreign gods was no mere political gesture. He participated in the worship of his wives’ gods, which might have included shrines for prostitution and child sacrifice. Solomon’s wealth and knowledge exceeded that of his contemporaries, but God took away his ability to enjoy them because of his disobedicence. He suffered as a result of this and acknowledged that only by knowing and obeying God can anyone have a meaningful life. (Jeremiah 17:11; Amos 4:1-3; 5-12; Proverbs 11:24; 15:27).
As regard greed and obsession for acquisition of wealth, parables illustrating the dangers of materialism were cited, such as, parables of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21); Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-21), The rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-31), etc. We agree with him that wealth or riches itself is not evil but if care is not taken, it could hinder spiritual growth. This is why Jesus said ‘seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and all other things will be added unto you.’ Preachers interpret this passage to mean the promise of good things to those who live a righteous life. The good things anyone would have in mind include: good education, power, position, prosperity, good health, good children, etc.
The significance of the word ‘seek’ God’s righteousness before other things could be added requires obeying God’s instructions and his will.49 If God’s commands are followed the all other things” that are God’s blessings will follow automatically but in conformity to God’s righteousness pave way for God’s blessings.50 Why many put their hearts on wealth is because of fear and lack of trust for provisions. Philippians 4:19 says ‘but my God will supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus’. This verse ought to bring relief and stop them from running up and down. Lack of trust that makes many to lay their treasure on earth leads to non-fulfilment, selfish desire, bitterness, envy, misplacement of priorities and lack of concern for other people. Jesus knows the needs of man but demanded we should seek first, the spiritual benefits of the kingdom and all other material possessions will be supplied.
God is a God of providence. In the gospel according to St. John, Jesus said, Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). Based on this scripture, we will like to modify Eno’s submission as quoted by Asaju; the former believes that the spiritual decline of the society to materialistic consciousness is the fault of the Christians. This is not very correct because everyone desires to be rich.
The only way to alleviate poverty from the church is to teach and accept the doctrine of prosperity as legitimate and desirable while waiting on the mercy of God for its manifestation. The early church lived an un-materialistic lifestyle but, there was no proof that they regarded materialism as sinful as believed by Asaju. Ananias and Saphirah were condemned not in the basis of what they possessed but on the ground of unfaithfulness which best described Asaju’s notion that materialism is not in substance alone, but in attitude.
We agree with Asaju’s conclusion that Nigerian churches have failed the society in many respects. However, the church cannot be solely blamed for the collapsed system in Nigeria. It can be rightly said that, the church also has a role to play by showing good example through leadership style, discipline, integrity, elimination of bribery and corruption, etc anytime and anywhere Christians find themselves in power or in position of authority.
In You and Your Finance by Tosin Awoyinka,51 he maintains that materialism is not ungodly but emphasized that trust must not be in such material possession at the expense of one’s salvation. Quoting from the book of Haggai 2:8 and 1 Chronicle 29:12, riches come from God and him alone enables man to be wealthy; and as a result of this, he is of the opinion that there is no need to defraud, cheat, work in oil company or come from a well to do home before one becomes rich. It is true God has the power to make rich, He does not condone laziness. For any increase or multiplication to happen one must be blessed.
Randy Alcorn in his book, Money, Possessions and Eternity says ‘materialism is not only wrong, it is stupidity52 in Jesus’ discussion about the worthlessness of materialism in (Matthew 10:26), his question is ‘What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul(s) or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?’. This is why Jesus gave a serious warning against materialism, when he declares ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed, a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’ (Luke 12:15). Randy explains greed in two manners: possessiveness and covetousness. Greed is a serious offence against God, and the origin of all destructive force imaginable including War53 (James 54:1-3).
God warned the people of Israel against this evil called greed. It is regarded as a violation of the first and most foundational commandment. ‘…You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:23). Also, the eighth commandment in (Exodus 20:15) is another warning against stealing, a by-product of greed, while the tenth commandment warns against covetousness, another form of greed.54 There are various forms of greed in both the Old and the New Testaments with their repercussions as a result of unnecessary desire for material things. For example, Achan’s lust for money and possession brought death to the entire family (Joshua 7), Balaam cursed God’s people in return for Balak’s payment (Numbers 22:4-35), Delilah betrayed Samson to the Philistines for a fee (Judges 16), Solomon’s disobedience against God’s commandments led to his downfall; to be prosperous in material things Gehazi deceived Elisha (11Kings 5:20-27), in the ultimate act of treachery, Judas asked the chief priests ‘what are you willing to give me, if I hand him over to you?’ (Matthew 26: 14-16, 47-50; 27:3-10).55
Jesus knew materialism would bring negative effects to anyone who is attached to it but still he did not condemn it out rightly. We must always realize that we are made for one person who is Jesus and for one place which is heaven.56 Therefore, our hearts must not be too attached to what is ephemeral. Accumulating wealth as earlier discussed is wrong when it becomes an end in itself, and when one tries to keep it, hoard it and trust in its power to save. However, as a means to an end much good can be accomplished in the world when wealth is used to further God’s work. In the parable of Jesus narrated the story of a certain man who went on a journey, he gave his servants money and instructed them to manage it for him. The servants who traded with theirs earned interest and were rewarded, while another servant was penalized for neglecting his responsibility (Luke 19: 11-12). In this parable, God wants us to be faithful in whatever he puts in our care as he gives us the ability to produce wealth Deuteronomy 8: 17-18).
One of the books of Bishop David Oyedepo reviewed is Success System. Oyedepo says that one can be successful in so many ways, either through the power of darkness, cheating, fraud or hand labour.57 He maintains that ill-gotten wealth will dwindle while true prosperity comes from God and abiding by his word; he added that, success that comes from God does not bring unhappiness. Oyedepo made it clear that anyone that will be successful in life must know the secret as written in the Bible. He added that knowing the word of God to become prosperous is important, which is also the foundation for divine success.58
David Oyedepo also in another book titled, Winning the War Against Poverty,59 compared the economic meltdown in the world today to the days of Joseph. He made us to understanding that in the beginning it was not so. This according to him, is more of the mind than destiny, that is, man lives the way he thinks. He quoted Ecclesiastes 9:14-17 which says ‘…the voice of a poor man is not heard and his words are despised.’ He also cited the continent of Africa as an example of poverty stricken race. As he rightly points out, poverty erodes human dignity. One of the reasons why the world powers despise the continent of Africa is because of her poverty. On the other hand, we may not accept in totality that African countries are poor. Poor governance and mismanagement ruined many African countries. Nigeria is cited as a paradox of a rich country with poor citizens.
The author reminded his readers that Africa’s input in the economy of America assisted in revitalizing her economy towards the industrial revolution in the16th -18th centuries. Africa on the other hand is not recognized because the voice of a poor man is not heard and his wisdom is despised. He, therefore, advised new orientation and a reconstruction of value system. To him, traveling abroad to look for comfort, is indirectly enslaving oneself.
To support Bishop David Oyedepo’s view about giving less consideration to living abroad has more disadvantages than advantages. The footprint of Trans-Atlantic slavery and colonial rule in Africa and Caribbean countries is the creation of modern African Diaspora. The African in Diaspora had a considerable impact in the economic development of many countries culturally, socially and politically. One of the contributions of Africa-American that was obvious in the twentieth century is the genres such as: jazz gospel, blues and rap/hip-hop that transformed and dominated popular music in the United States of America.
There was an influence of Rastafarianism – a religious movement that emerged in the 1930’s that was named after Ras Tafari (1892-1975). Rastafarianism came into global prominence in the 1970’s because of its strong influence on reggae. Its most lasting impact has been the popularity of ‘locks’ a hair style that was at one time associated with the religion.
Africans played an important role in the abolition of slave trade movement in the eighteenth century, not only as writers, but as participants in debates and other activities throughout the country. Many Africans were opportuned to study abroad which gave them more knowledge and exposure. One of the disadvantages to Africans living in Diaspora was seen during the first and second World War as more Africans were sent to the war front. From the British West Indies, both men and women were enlisted in the Army, while thousand of black troops were recruited into the French Army including hundreds from the Caribbeans that were held prisoners by the Nazis.
These Africans sacrificed their lives to endure long period of incarceration as prisoners of war. African – American ex-servicemen in Britain faced racial violence. Riots and racist attacks led to several deaths of the Blacks. Today, the situation is not better; there is still discrimination against the Blacks.61
In 2005, it was reported in Britain that about 12,000 doctors and 16,000 nurses were employed into the National Health service from African countries, while a World Bank report estimated that there were over 70,000 African migrants to Europe and North America every year. The brain drain is not just of direct economic benefit to the receiving countries, but a form of exploitation to those countries that have trained their citizens only to loose them to overseas countries. Africans are denied visa sometimes at the immigration office, humiliated and deported.62 Traveling abroad is not bad but we must not despise our country and all the natural endowment to become second class citizens in another man’s country because of comfort and greener pasture.
We agree with the author Bishop David Oyedepo, that one of the causes of poverty is possessing a poor man’s mentality. A man’s poverty mentality must be healed before he can create wealth. A man must work on the concept of equality of destiny. Whatsoever causes barriers on ones destiny must be removed. Oyedepo’s view represents a fundamental approach to having a total life. Jabez name was given to him because his mother bore him in sorrow. The outstanding thing about him was that he called upon God and he was answered. He applied the concept of equality of destiny and he got what he wanted from God (1Chronicles 4:9-10).
According to Oyedepo, spiritual dimension of economic recovery is accompanied by divine speed, which brought a change in Egypt (Exodus 12). Natural laws are broken by spiritual dimension of economic recovery. Therefore, it is a fact that divine speed can move man to any height. Life is enhanced as one adds values to other people’s life, and poverty is eradicated not by laboring to be rich, but in enriching others. A sacrificial life is therefore, encouraged. The story of the widow’s mite made an indelible impression to every generation with her attitude of giving without reservation or grumbling.
The widow of Zarephath gave all that she had to Elijah first and was blessed (1Kings 17:8-10). A woman whose husband died because of debt, used his two sons as collateral found the favour of God. Those who attended the marriage at Cana in Galilee also witnessed a divine provision (John 5). The feeding of the five thousand men in (John 6) was another great miracle. People ate and there were left over. Simon Peter who caught a great multitude of fishes (Luke 5:1-11) and the provision of money out of the mouth of a fish were all demonstrations that God intervened supernaturally in the lives of his people.
The author does not want his readers to deny themselves the need of money, by thinking that it is the root of all evils. (1Timothy 6:10), Ecclesiastes 10:9) prove that nothing on earth can be detached from money. The Living Faith Church is one of the churches which understand what financial breakthrough is. The 50,000 capacity auditorium in Canaanland at Sango Ota in Ogun State, is said to have entered the Guinness book of records as it was believed then to be the largest single auditorium in the world.
The auditorium is built to worship God and for the comfort of the entire members. Canaanland city is described as festooned with assorted light of various colours, balloons and artificial trees and flowers. The altar is simply exotic. In addition, it is swathed in lush green lawns, the landscape cuts and picture of a typical holiday resort, much like a vast estate set in a beautiful jungle.63
Prayer alone cannot accomplish this, it must be backed up with action and money. As one of the proponents of prosperity gospel, the founder of Living Faith Church believes that poverty is not a sign of righteousness but a curse. Therefore, the man of God warns against pretence. He suggested that the only way to overcome poverty is to have a perfect understanding of the covenant. The power to get wealth revolves round the platform of the covenant. In (Genesis 12:10; 12:2-3) Abraham was rich in cattle, silver and gold. Isaac was equally blessed by God (Genesis 20:1; 13; 26:33; 42:2; 43:11-15). Joseph moved from prison to become a prime minister. A unique thing about the covenant is that, it is full of blessings. This is the will of God for His children. There is the need to act in faith and launch ourselves into financial blessings. God desires to satisfy His people with good things (Psalm 103:5). We share the view of Oyedepo that poverty stinks, kills and humiliates.
Gloria Copeland in her book ‘Will is Prosperity’64 shared David Oyedepo’s point of view on prosperity gospel. She is of the same mind with David Oyedepo’s point on prosperity gospel. She also believes that from the beginning, God provided financial prosperity for His own people. Through obedience to God’s word, man lacked no good things. She supported the fact that Adam was provided with a help mate, ability, abundance and a kingdom. She went further to say that, Adam was not limited in any form until when he fell. As a result of this, he died a spiritual death because of his disobedience. God sent him out of the furnished garden to toil and sweat before he could eat. In other words, God’s will for Adam was abundance and plenty. Poverty, lack and suffering came into the world because Satan took dominion. Though, God wanted him to live in plenty, he chose to live otherwise.
God, therefore, provided a way out by entering into a covenant with Abraham (Gen.17:1-9). God promised to make the covenant an everlasting one by extending a covenant to Abraham’s children. This covenant of blessing was established for all Israelites by faith. God fulfilled His words and entered into a better covenant through the blood of Jesus. The New Covenant was ratified in the blood of Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. The Old Covenant was incomplete as far as man’s needs are concerned. For this reason, Christ redeemed man from the curse of the law….that the blessings of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ. (Galatians 3:3; 14; 26:29). The author made the following clarifications.
1. That God has given covenant men power to get wealth;
2. That prosperity is necessary to establish the covenant; and
3. That for God to bring to pass His promises concerning Abraham, he must prosper Abraham’s descendants.
It is unfortunate that the covenant is not established in the lives of some people today because poverty had perverted their lives. Deuteronomy 28 reveals the fact that poverty and lack are part of the curses of the law, as a result of disobedience. If sickness and disease are regarded as curse, and healing is regarded as part of Abraham’s blessing, this blessing is said to be divine prosperity as explained by Copeland.
Similarly, Nimi Wariboko develops a theory which he calls Covenant Paradigm. In this theory, he opines that, people and nations are blessed on the basis of covenant of giving or the covenant of good efforts of sacrificial giving to the church. This, he believes will lead to national development; not just the seed of Abraham. Poverty he says is a religious problem because of lack of faith.. 65 Nimi Wariboko quotes the popular verse in the book of Malachi:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, says the Lord of Host if I will not open you the windows of heaven. (Malachi 3:10).
Sunday Adelaja66 reacted to Wariboko’s idea of financial giving and other material resources to the church as a wrong means of becoming rich. ‘Being active in the church, faithful in giving tithes and offerings and additional giving to various church projects’ cannot make anyone to be rich. ‘The one on the receiving end only becomes wealthy, live in luxury and excess while large portions of their flock can barely afford three square meals a day.’ Adelaja maintained that giving has its place in the law of giving but it cannot make anyone sustainably wealthy. In these two different opinions, two things are interwoven. Adelaja believes this is not enough to bring prosperity as some may pretend to be given and are lacking in some more important things. Adelaja wants his readers to know that God cannot be bribed.
It is necessary to know that giving is a law whether it is done with a correct heart or not, once the law is fulfilled there is a reward. The reward could be of the flesh or spiritual depending on the heart with which it was done.
There were times in the Old Testament when God’s people selfishly held on to their money and resources instead of giving them to serve God’s purposes as tithes and offering. During the building of the second temple, God’s people seemed more interested in building their own houses instead of preparing God’s house. As a result of this attitude, many of them suffered financially and in other areas of their lives as well. God disciplined His people for refusing to bring their tithes to Him. Wariboko therefore, encourages Christians by improving their economic circumstances through giving. God does not operate on human logic and He is not limited by our resources. In the book of Malachi, there is a challenge and a promise. His principles have not changed. The need for ministry support has not changed but has increased. The duty to exercise ones faith and responsibility with personal resources has not changed, resources are limited by not giving to others.
Gyadu objected to giving as sacrificial but transactional because it is reciprocal. 67 Whether giving is viewed as sacrificial or transactional, the religious implication is more important. Gyadu is wrong because his idea about sacrificial giving is not scriptural. Christians should not hesitate to give sacrificially. In (11Corinthians 8:3), Apostle Paul testifies about the Macedonian churches when he says that ‘For I testify that they gave as much as they were able and even beyond their ability entirely on their own’. The Macedonian passions and priorities are towards God. Sacrificial giving can test and strengthen our faith in God’s ability to provide whatever we need (Philippians 4:18-19).
Togarasei Lovemore in his paper, The Pentecostal Gospel of Prosperity in African contexts of poverty: An appraisal, embraces prosperity theology as he views critically the Pentecostal Gospel of prosperity in the context of poverty experienced in sub-Saharan Africa. He emphasized the possible contribution of this doctrine to sustainable development. He says in his earlier studies that Pentecostalism has identified its success among the poor as a result of its promise of prosperity. Citing examples of how Pentecostal Christianity is contributing to poverty reduction in Zimbabwe and Botswana. He concludes that the gospel indeed contributed to poverty alleviation in five ways: encouraging entrepreneurship, employment creation, encouraging a holistic approach to life.68
Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye in his book titled, The Ultimate Financial Breakthrough says that the ultimate financial breakthrough is powerful enough to put to silence all other breakthroughs. Adeboye explained that the only way to have explosive breakthrough is knowing what to do, to get the best result and doing it.69 The General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church Worldwide Pastor Adeboye cited some principles to become wealthy. The first step is sowing at the most difficult time to do so. The widow of Zarephath is a good example of this. She gave her all that she had even when she sensed death. The heart and the hand that gives are blessed. Whoever wants to be blessed must give with a correct heart.
Sowing seeds on a good ground is essential for God’s blessing. The Zarephath widow gave to a man of God. In giving, it is wrong to give to those who can reciprocate the good gesture. Sowing on a good ground brings a harvest of thirty, sixty and hundred folds.70 Adeboye postulates that in the principle of sowing there must be room for waiting. He cited the example of farmers who are never in a haste to harvest, because they know that between sowing and hasting there is a waiting period which could be prolonged or brief. Hardwork is another principle Adeboye mentioned for whoever wants to experience financial breakthrough such a person must not be lazy. God has promised man financial blessings, it is the duty of man to work in order to obtain what God has promised (Ephesians 1:3)…which has blessed us with spiritual blessings…) God has blessed man already, not that he will bless, so all we need is to tap into that race through hardwork.
According to Adeboye in his book, he emphasized remembering God by putting him first. He says when the food harvest comes, God must be revered in order to enjoy and sustain what has been worked for. In addition to this, sacrificial giving is one of the concepts that can open doors for a prosperous living. Giving is reciprocal. In (Luke 6:35) the Bible says:
Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, shall men give into your bosom.
This is the reward of anyone who gives either to God or an indigent person. The benefits or rewards come with great recompense, either temporarily or spiritually.71 ‘Givers never lack’. Anyone that will be rich must be open handed, so that anytime he calls for help God will respond. Adeboye concluded by maintaining a position of keeping on sowing or working. Anyone who stops work without a reason will experience poverty. The more reason the bible says in 2Thessalonians 3:10 through Paul that:
‘for even when we were with you, we gave you this rule ‘the one who is unwilling to work shall not eat’
So therefore, according to this verse in agreement with Adeboye’s statement, the sustainability of wealth is to keep sowing.
Emiola Nihinlola in his work ‘Between Prosperity and Spirituality: A Theological Examination of the Perspective of the Church in the 21st Century African Society’ explains the relationship between material prosperity and religious spirituality.72 To Africans, prosperity and spirituality are of prime importance especially in the modern world. It is disheartening that with the level of religiosity life is still unfair to many because it is full of troubles, ups and downs, lack, needs, uncertainty, sickness and diseases.73 Nihinlola made it clear that prosperity goes beyond material possessions, although it is good and it includes all basic things of life that can bring comfort to man. The author wonders why Nigerians would always take accumulation of wealth to mean prosperity, putting their trust in uncertainty that brings pains and destruction on the other hand, Nihinlola closes the gap between spirituality and prosperity as both are all-inclusive principles.
Ire cited the example of Jesus’ ministry which includes preaching, teaching, healing and deliverance. The implication is that even in the ministry of Jesus, he attended to both spiritual and physical needs of the people. Also, Nihinlola emphasized the fact that prosperity teaching is much needed and timely because of the existing hardship in the society. The author su