We must give to the church.
Our then pastor, Ezekiel, was an ostentatious man. He had more than we had. But we still must always give him.
He came by often to visit us on evenings of weekdays. My father, a motorcycle rider then, would give him money to fuel his car.
He held a special night prayer session every month end for my family, usually on the 25th.
When my father changed job and started receiving his salary on the 6th, this night prayer session was moved to 7th of every month.
There was a day he came to pray for my mom who was sick. In the confusion my dad forgot to give him his fuel money. He waited outside till the bus called to take my mom to the hospital arrived.
I thought he’d gone. We all did.
‘Pastor, you are still here?’ my father asked him when we got outside.
‘Yes, Brother Patrick, there is no fuel in my car.’
‘Oh,’ my father said, apologetic. He dipped into his pocket and brought out some Naira notes. He gave him and only then did Pastor Ezekiel enter his car to drive home.
Pastor Ezekiel lived fairly comfortable. But there were many among his congregation who knew not what comfort was.
They managed to survive.
Yet they still paid their tithes, sowed seeds and brought gifts for Mothering Sunday and Annual Harvest and Bazaar.
I stopped paying tithe during my NYSC. I realized I needed not to bother so much.
The church I attended then was a big one, much larger than the one I grew up attending.
But it was still usually the same message.
Donations for a new wing. Donations for a new car for pastor’s wife. Donations for a new house for pastor and his family.
When I started work, I realized the church had not really given me anything free of charge. The pastor’s prayers and blessings he gave in exchange for my tithes, offerings, seed of faith, special counselling fees, etc.
I liked to follow the news about men of God, the men I termed good and always aspired to be like.
But over time, I began to realize their stories all seem blandly similar: TD Jakes and his mega mansion, CA Dollar and his Rolls-Royces, Oyedepo and his private jets, Oritsejafor and his diamonds.
The upcoming ones continued to steal and rape their way through.
Everything changed for me when I learned that Warren Buffet, an atheist, had given 99% of his wealth to charity.
If my parents had been rich enough, I would have gone overseas to study, just like my pastor’s kids now do.
But then I realized also I couldn’t even afford to go to Covenant University, a church-owned university here in Nigeria, my country.
The fees were ridiculously high.
I began to read, not about men of God now, but just about good men. I realized knowing God doesn’t equate being good, and that good men can be found anywhere.
I read touching stories of people who could have been billionaires today if not for their philanthropic endeavours.
I learned that Mark Zuckerberg takes home $1 a year and needed not to wear designer suits and diamond jewellery like Pastor Jakes. He was comfortable in his blue T-shirt and smiles.
I learned it was non-believers that first signed The Giving Pledge, a campaign to encourage the wealthiest people in the world to make a commitment to give most of their wealth to philanthropic causes.
I realized there are many men out there that have been good without God.
With this knowledge, I became better. I stopped aspiring to become anyone, because even the people that preach to me about Christ are not living Christ-like.
I stopped listening to people who don’t practise what they preach.
I began to disassociate myself from hypocrites.
I learned tolerance and acceptance, but most importantly, slowness to judge.
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