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Modern Day Pharisees

By Kelvin Ugwu on 13th May, 2018

If you go to the Church in my village , somewhere in Enugu state, you will find a group of men and women serving as church wardens. They will stop you from going to receive the Holy Eucharist if you are painting your lips with make-up.

But when you come to a city parish in Maitama, somewhere in Abuja, paint whatever or wherever you want to paint, no one cares. It is not a big deal, it is not a sin.

Somewhere in Aba, ladies do not dare put on trousers around the Church premises, not to talk of entering the church building. But if you have been to UNILAG to worship, you may most likely feel odd if you are not wearing trousers.

If you go to the parish where I grew up, somewhere in Abuja, no girl even imagines the idea of not covering her hair to church. I have seen cases in which bride’s maids in a wedding were sent out because they left their hair open. They had to buy handkerchief to fulfil the ritual of covering their hair. It is that serious.

But if by chance you come to any parish here in Malawi, who cares if you cover your hair or your head. Leave it open if that is what you want. Cover it if that is the style you want. That is not what disturbs us.

Somewhere in Lagos, there is this Pentecostal church that has a register of all their parishioners and the places or the type of work they do. They have details of each person’s salary or if the person is into business, how much he or she makes in a month. They have details of how much the person ought to pay as tithe every month. For them, this is their own way of ensuring that none of their members is robbing God or will even go to hell for not paying tithe.

But somewhere in Malawi, in another Pentecostal church, the parishioners have not even heard of tithe. And those that have heard of it have this understanding that the only way one could even use the words “robbing God” is when we see the poor and refuse to help, when we see the sick and could not attend to them, when we see the old and despised them, when we see evil and refuse to confront it.

Even at that, they still feel that it is not God one is robbing, but one is robbing his or herself. Why all these comparisons??? If what will take one to hell in Aba church does not take one to hell in Lagos church, that means something is wrong. If what will take one to hell in Nigeria church does not take one to hell in Malawi church, then it is either Malawi church is wrong or Nigeria church is wrong. Both can’t be right at the same time.

If what the pastor of Holy Redeemed considers as robbing God is considered as being at peace with God by the pastor of the Most Redeemed. Then it is either Holy Redeemed is wrong or Most Redeemed is wrong. Both can be right at the same time. God is one and cannot contradict himself. Get that point very clearly.

Another point to keep in mind is this: God is Holy and nothing unholy will be admitted into his presence. This point is very important in understanding these differences. You see ehn, every one of us is trying to make sense of what it takes to be Holy. Somehow every one of us has a criteria of what we needed to see in a person to be able to say that that person is holy. The key word here is “SEE” My mum personally abhors ladies trousers. She does not really see it as something to be worn by ‘holy’ people. It is just recently that my sisters started wearing trousers because they are in universities. Mum pushed his criteria of holiness to all of them.

There is nothing absolutely wrong with this ideal of my mum. In fact it has its own advantage because I can tell you for sure, it gave my sisters a good mindset of the type of life to live. But the problem is this… You may be very holy as a person, but once you are putting on trousers, Mumsy won’t see your ‘holiness’. On the other hand, you may be worst in everything moral, but once you appear with long skirt, she uses you as a good example of holiness. This is what actually happens in different churches. They are all trying to make sure everyone live up to that ideal of what physically count as holiness in that area. And sometimes, if not all the times, they push this to the extreme that they forget that it was meant to be a mere sign and does not in itself constitute true holiness.

I have seen some church members that see holding a bible as a sign of how holy one is. If you are a Christian and you don’t carry Bible around, they look at you as a ‘mere’ or ‘ordinary’ Christian. Have you not been watching Nigeria movies, when an evil man repents of his bad ways, what do you often see him carrying around anywhere he goes? What does that say to you? In Israel, God gave them 10 commandments.

The scribes and Pharisees and the leaders in those days were so carefully not to break any of these commandments of God. So in their bid to ensure no one breaks the commandments, they gave interpretations to each of the ten commandments thus breaking them down to the smallest piece. For example, they will take the commandment on keeping the Sabbath day holy…. And they will give all the ‘dos’ and ‘donts’, things that you will do that will constitute breaking the Sabbath. Practical things. By doing this, they multiplied the 10 commandments into 613.

Imagine keeping 613 laws… This was why picking corns on the field to eat on Sabbath day by Jesus, was seen as breaking the Sabbath. In their bid to be holy and to ensure everyone lived a holy life, they ended up putting heavy burden on the shoulders of everyone such that it became even more difficult to live a life of holiness.

This is how I see any pastor that go the extent of knowing the amount their parishioners are getting in a month so that he will ensure they do not rob God of his tithe (meanwhile, you cannot rob God of tithe, you can only ‘rob’ your pastor of money that is not even his). Run away from them. They are modern day Pharisees. They won’t go to heaven, and they won’t let you go because they have made heaven too difficult to enter. Being a leader is a very serious task. More so, a religious leader. All of us must make sure we do not use our standards to make heaven too difficult for our flocks to enter as though in reality that is what God wants. We must equally make sure we do not use religion to impute unnecessary guilt into the people we lead.


Author:  Kelvin Ugwu

Kelvin is a Nigerian Priest currently working in Malawi


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