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Noble: Sunshine the best disinfectant: why churches must open their books

US Justice Louis Brandeis, in his book Other People’s Money, explained: “Sunshine is said to be the best of disinfectants.” He leveraged the view that ‘public opinion … is full of sunlight … selfishness, injustice, cruelty, tricks and jobs of all sorts shun the light’. This is appropriate to the national discussion about religious bodies and money.

The Bible is an interesting book. Paul indicates that people preach out of different motivations, including impure ones (Philippians 1: 14-17). The ‘wheat and tares’ parable points to the difficulty of distinguishing between false and true preachers. Jesus whipped scoundrels, because of their mercenary ways, out of the temple on two separate occasions (bad behaviour is stubborn).

Photo: Pastor Vinworth Dayal of Third Ex­o­dus As­sem­bly Church in Long­denville (via guardian.co.tt)

What we see today should not be surprising to anyone with a nodding relationship to the Bible and its view about men. William Lyon Phelps, an American critic and scholar, wrote in 1922: “You can learn more about human nature by reading the Bible than living in New York.”

We have now seen the opposite end of the continuum from the Trinity Cathedral debacle: a church—The Third Exodus Assembly—allegedly flush with money. This state of play, as seen in other assemblies, may be the outcome of the prosperity doctrine (God’s will for us is to be rich, healthy and successful if we ‘sow a seed’).

This doctrine is a direct link to neo-liberal capitalism, where we seek our individual goals and money is the success marker, and it is bred and nurtured by our ‘gospel’ radio and television programming. This teaching is at odds with much of the biblical experience.

The prophet Balaam mixed up political interests and the word of God for his monetary gain, and his donkey had to reprimand him. Paul got stoned for preaching the Gospel of Jesus and exclaimed: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14: 22).

‘Sowing a seed’ philosophy assumes that God can be bribed, so we give Him a ‘kakada’ and expect much wealth in return. It is our greed and desperation, and not an understanding of the Bible, that facilitates the rise of such teachings.

Photo: Giving tithes to the church (by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay)

In politics, business and the church, we have a sad societal need to have a ‘Big Man’. Remember the long-time insurance agent who dressed flashily and drove a fancy car, the better to induce us to buy? In the church, the ‘Big Man’ through his flamboyant lifestyle, exemplifies economic, if not spiritual, success.

This glorifying of a ‘Big Man’ never works out well. We have ample case history in this country, and it is universal. Remember Enron with the smartest men in the room? Or Tyco International where the CEO and the CFO stole, in 2002, in plain view more than $600 million? They all felt the company was them and they were the company. The Bible warns: “Put not your trust in men.” They nearly always rob you blind.

Paying tithes or the ‘seed’, in this context, is a corruption of the Old Testament position: tithes are for the upkeep of the priests but also importantly for the foreigners, orphans and widows—the needy. New Testament teaching does not promote tithing but focuses on helping the poor (2 Corinthians 8). Storing up money for a potential ‘bad day’, as was reported in this case, is to not have faith in God’s providence.

The commentary from our religious leaders lacked clarity. The legality of the matter should not be their primary concern. They needed to answer: is this man living according to the precepts of the Gospel? This is not about whether he is an exception since up to the time of exposure, he too would have claimed faithfulness.

To talk about audits and vetting of accounts is meaningless if the managerial/policy decisions taken are suspect. The case of CL Financial with their PricewaterhouseCoopers audits showed us this. Competent auditors are wary of the “Big Man”—they call him a ‘dominant CEO’—because it is a red flag for weak internal controls.

Photo: Worshippers pray in a church service.

Most people do not do bad things, but most people do not want to get involved, choosing to remain silent. Silence is not an ‘on and off’ choice for religious leaders.

The ‘Big Man’ approach and strident confrontation, as exemplified in this case, are the antithesis of Christ. ‘Big Men’ deflate criticism and inflate their self-importance. God and Christ decrease in importance when we worship and tiptoe around the ‘Big Man’. If our religious leaders fail to call out this behaviour, then they approve. Paul sets the example by denouncing Simon, a new believer, in Acts 8 and Peter, an established peer, in Galatians 2: 11—21.

Thankfully, the heart of the Gospel is redemption; no matter what place we find ourselves, God offers a way out of it. Confession, not defiance, is a prerequisite for redemption. We, who seek to point fingers and yet not acknowledge the wisdom of the Bible, fall into a trap of deliberate ignorance.

This man’s behaviour ought not to be a shield for us to ignore the observations and claims of the Bible. We, like him, have to give our own account at the end of the day.

The government has a role since tax-exempt entities increase the taxes paid by individual taxpayers. The deal has to be that such entities provide transparent financial reports to a regulator so that taxpayers could see what is being done. If God is satisfied, men should be. Open the books.

About Noble Philip

Noble Philip
Noble Philip, a retired business executive, is trying to interpret Jesus’ relationships with the poor and rich among us. A Seeker, not a Saint.

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3 comments

  1. NEW TESTAMENT VS OLD TESTAMENT : CHURCH MONEY
    Who is Vinworth Dayal, and are his teachings biblical?
    Who is Pastor Vinworth Dayal, and are his teachings biblical; or one of subliminal seduction to a cause in question if not obviously visible exploitation?
    Vinworth Dayal is the Pastor of the Third Exodus Assembly Church in Longdenville. Near Couva in Chaguanas region. This migration from where suggests that this revelation is about transforming a non-biblical reading area of TT through a process of subliminal transformation of belief and the consequences challenging a changing society. In this movement; is it possible to starve yourself from disincentives properties of the community? [2 Cor 8:12-15]; [Ex 16:18].
    The bible says give as much tithing as you can afford, then it is logical to assume if there are givers there must be takers. If you give someone something it is no longer yours to command its outcome
    He quotes: US Justice Louis Brandeis “other people’s money”. That is what investors do. They use other people’s money to make more money.to line their own pocket and recruit unsuspecting victims of ignorance.
    He asked for a national discussion about religious bodies and money.
    He pauses with “the bible is an interesting book” to shadow human behavior. Study the old versus the New Testament for value clarification
    He speaks of neo-liberal capitalism; neo-liberalism is a term used for different social and economic ideas.
    The basic doctrine of the New Testament imparts the message of “hope, healing, and forgiveness”.
    Joel Osteen’s website is orthodox enough: the inerrancy and inspiration of the bible, the triune nature of god, and salvation by faith in Christ are all affirmed. The doctrinal problems of the church come in different forms from other areas.
    The Trinity Cathedral debacle is tragic .Episcopalian theology is vested in loving, liberating, and life-giving. The reaffirming of ones’ renunciation of evil and renewed commitment to Jesus Christ.
    They teach that physical healing and wellness were provided in Christ’s atonement. “Jesus came that we might have a more abundant life. He came to carry our weaknesses, our sickness, our pain, so that we can walk in total freedom, peace, power and purpose”
    Joel Osteen teaches the “Prosperity Gospel”: God’s will is that we be blessed with material things, a view that contradicts 1 Timothy 6:6.
    “To be successful in your walk with god, commit to honor God with your finances. When you commit to give the lord the first percentage of your income, god promises he will pour out blessings you cannot contain. Tithing is the first key to financial prosperity.”
    Malachi 3:10. Gives a prime example of taking old covenant promises to Israel out of context to apply them to new covenant believers.
    Osteen writes. “If you don’t think you can have something good, then you never will. The barrier is in your mind. . Your own wrong thinking can keep you from God’s best
    To experience [god’s] immeasurable favor, you must rid yourself of that small-minded thinking and start expecting god’s blessings
    There is nothing biblical about such teaching. There is no power inherent in positive thinking, and we do not create our own realities.
    God is not our servant, standing by and waiting for us to fire up our imaginations so he can lavish us with material goods. Jesus told his followers to “give up everything you have” (Luke), not to seek to get more.
    Addressing thoughts on Dayal’s neo-liberal capitalism;
    Neo-liberalism is the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism and free market capitalism, which constituted a paradigm shift away from the post-war Keynesian consensus that had lasted from 1945 to 1980.
    Simply; neoliberalism is a term for different social and economic ideas. … It is characterized by free market trade, deregulation of financial markets, individualization, and the shift away from state welfare provision.
    What do you understand by capitalism?
    By definition; capitalism is an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.
    Free market capitalism in its purest form, free market capitalism is a society in which an open market sets prices for the sole purpose of profits. This type of society operates on the principles of supply and demand. Prices are set, and goods are bought and sold based on the demand of the people.
    Neoliberalism is distinct from liberalism insofar as it does not advocate laissez-faire economic policy but instead is highly constructivist and advocates a strong state to bring about market-like reforms in every aspect of society.
    What is the basis for Dayal’s argument: is it the Old Testament environment of sacrifice and inconvenience? Biblical interpretation of boosting church funding.
    Neoliberalism is a policy model to transfer economic control … it tends towards free-market capitalism and away from financial investments. Dayal conveniently argues that neoliberalism ideology is at the root of all our problems.
    Today, we not only have decades of neoliberalism behind us, but the neo-liberal regime itself has reached a dead end.
    Dayal’s conversational argument shows his struggle with neoliberalism – as a problematic economic system;
    He wants his followers to change the world
    using Old Testament arguments as a justifiable course of action for a reasonable expectation of wealth gain in the New Testament environment is a betrayal of honor.
    It is not enough to call it capitalism, since capitalism promotes the growth of our society; neoliberal ideas emerged from the ruins of the Old Testament of crime, punishment and sacrifice.
    Thankfully, at the heart of the New Testament is redemption; no matter what place we find ourselves, Mahatma Gandhi quotes: “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”.” you must be the change you wish to see in the world be the change you want to see in the world”.in the darkness of your world.
    God offers a way out of it. Confession, not defiance, is a prerequisite for redemption. We, who seek to point fingers and yet not acknowledge the wisdom of the bible, fall into a trap of deliberate ignorance.
    Man’s behavior ought not to be a shield for us to ignore the observations and claims of the bible. However, at the end of the day. Open the books; provide transparent financial reports; “if god is satisfied, men should be.”
    Dr. Cliff Bertrand/Educator
    .

  2. Keep up the good work Noble, I enjoyed that piece,Sunshine the best disinfectant: why churches must open their books. Great job Wired868

  3. For someone who describes himself as “A seeker, not a saint,” you certainly have identified the heart of God in relation to the poor and need; along with the role of the Church and that of the government.