By Femi Aribisala
Let me tell you my version of the parable of the Prodigal Son.He stole money from his Father and ran away to a far country. But after a few years, he started looking for a way to be reconciled back to his Father.
So, he sought the counsel of men. They advised him to soften his Father’s heart by sending Him gifts. So, he started sending his Father expensive gifts. He sent cows and goats. He sent expensive clothes and shoes. On one occasion, he even sent a Lexus Jeep.
But the gifts never got to his Father. They never even left the far country where he was; they were simply cornered by his mentors. They continued to advise him to send more and more gifts to his Father, claiming they were necessary to appease Him. But in fact, his counsellors wanted the gifts for themselves.
They warned him that if he ever went back home, his father would have him arrested. They told him if he went home, his Father would kill him. But if he could only send more expensive gifts, his Father would surely have a change of heart.
It just so happened that the gifts they suggested were the very things they needed to build up their own homes and businesses. In fact, the Prodigal Son could have sworn that the Jeep he saw with one of them was the same one he had sent to his Father.
Thanks to their threats and warnings, the Prodigal was scared to death of his Father. He had nightmares of his Father’s wrath and swore he would never go back home.
But one day, things went beyond his control. His business went south and he lost everything. He thought about it and concluded that he had no choice but to go back home. If he did not, he would die of starvation. But how could he go back without a gift? What gift could he take back home now that he was penniless?
So, he decided to go back home with the ultimate sacrifice. He would offer as a sacrifice his status as a son and ask to be made a servant. He felt confident, from what his mentors had been telling him, that his sacrifice would be acceptable. After all, his Father seems to have a great weakness for gifts and sacrifices.
But when he went back home, he had the surprise of his life. To his amazement, his Father was extremely glad to see him. He did not allow him to finish his prepared speech, plea-bargaining to be accepted back as a servant. His Father jumped on his neck and gave him a tight embrace.
He did not have him arrested and he did not have him killed. He did not even ask him if he brought Him any cows. Instead, the Father killed the fatted calf in his honour and threw a lavish homecoming party for him.
What is the moral of this parable? Some people had given the Prodigal Son a false impression of his Father. They told him his Father would have him arrested or even killed. They told him he would need to appease his Father’s wrath with gifts upon gifts.
But on his return home, he was not confronted with his Father’s wrath. On his return, he was overwhelmed by his Father’s love. He discovered to his surprise that his Father was far more loving and forgiving than he had ever imagined.
Who were the counsellors of this Prodigal Son who had given him such a false impression of his Father? Who were the counsellors who profited from his ignorance of his Father’s love? You have guessed it: they were the pastors, bishops, popes, and cardinals of the churches.
God is not Mammon
What God desires is love and not sacrifices. He says: “My son, give me your heart.” (Proverbs 23:26). He does not say: “My son, give me your money.”
But what pastors and the religious leaders insist on are sacrifices and not love. Indeed, sacrifice is another name for religion. The religious man has always seen sacrifice as a means of appeasing deities, and pastors are quintessentially religious. But the true God is not an idol and Christians should not be made to act like idol-worshippers.
When God finally sent his Son Jesus as His one true and faithful witness, He repeated God’s assertion in the Old Testament: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6). Jesus says: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’” (Matthew 9:13).
Today’s pastors have refused to learn what this means because it is not in their selfish interest to do so. Tithes and offerings provide them with free lunches. They use them to finance lavish personal lifestyles. They use them to bank-roll the religious empires they build in their illusions of grandeur.
A Nigerian pastor even went as far as instructing his church-members: “Anyone who is not paying his tithe is not going to heaven. Full stop.” That is balderdash. The payment of tithes and offerings will not guarantee anyone’s place in heaven. But it will ensure that men will be in the good books of their pastors.
Therefore, these latter-day Pharisees are subject to the verdict of Isaiah: “They are as greedy as dogs, never satisfied; they are stupid pastors who only look after their own interest, each trying to get as much as he can for himself from every possible source.” (Isaiah 56:11).
God is love
Sacrifices and offerings do not and cannot motivate God. God is love; therefore, he loves unreservedly. His love cannot be bought.
Since God loved us when we were his enemies, then it is certain He loves us now that we are His sons through Christ. That means He loves us whether or not we pay tithes and give offerings. In any case, who has ever heard of a son giving offerings to his Father?
Jesus asked Peter: “‘What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes- from their own sons or from others?’ ‘From others,’ Peter answered. ‘Then the sons are exempt,’ Jesus said to him.” (Matthew 17:25-26).
This shows a son of God should not give offerings to God, his Father. Everything the Father has belongs to the son and everything the son has belongs to the Father.
Pastors have led men to believe that God is worshipped with men’s hands and not with our hearts. They maintain the more we give to a church, the greater our worship.
However, the one true God is self-sufficient. He does not need anything. He does not need our money to build his church. Jesus says: “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). He does not need pastors to build it for him.
What believers are is far more important to God than what we have. God loves us because of who He is. He is our Father and we are his children. He says: “I AM WHO I AM.” (Exodus 3:14). He does not say like men: “I AM WHAT I HAVE.”