I had brunch a week ago with a black South African friend and a white South African friend. They are from different socio-economic backgrounds, and the white girl began to talk about Jesus. “Oh Jesus, he’s so good to me.” “I just prayed ‘Jesus, I need your help. Can you help me out, please?’” I actually have a relationship with Jesus, yet, I felt myself wishing I was more like her. It sounded like Jesus was a friend who did anything she wanted for her, the friend she first goes to and aids her.
So she was talking about Jesus blessing her with one international trip every 6 months (semester) or so. She’s been blessed with fun international trips that she otherwise could not afford. “Jesus is so good to me!” On top of all that, she was blessed with another one and she was going to take off this Friday (today—30th of Jan) to Switzerland. Her father was going on a skiing trip and decided to pay for both daughters to go. At this point I started getting disgusted a bit. Didn’t Jesus have better things to do in this country?
And she told how her father was going to pay for the airfare, but she didn’t have money for the trip, but she was given a job to house-sit for someone in a nice part of town for 3 weeks. They just paid her and they gave her thousands of South African rand for house sitting (she still went to work each day). “Thank you, Jesus!” So I asked why she needed that money. Was her father only paying for the airline ticket and not lodging, for instance. “No, he’s paying for lodging, food, transportation—everything. I needed this money for buying things, for spending money. And Jesus gave it to me.” This began to get interesting.
“Now I just need new ski pants.” What’s wrong with the ones you have? “They are old. My mom gave me a pair but they are really ugly.” Oh, ok. You would not use pants because they’re ugly and don’t match? “No, I would but besides being ugly they actually are not adequate.” And she gave me the reason: they aren’t thick enough. “I didn’t have the money for it and I didn’t think I would be able to afford it or ski, and then my dad called me up and said that he was going to buy ski pants for my sister, and that he would do the same for me! Thank you, Jesus!” At this point Jesus was doing a lot of extra work for this privileged girl to aid this unnecessary holiday trip to a European country.
This continued. She needed a pair of sunglasses (I have never used sun glasses when skiing), and a vest. Later in the week she had miraculous stories of how the money came in for this. She expected to pay for the vest. Why do you need a vest? “I just need one, I need to have one of those sleeveless ones, you know?” I didn’t, but ok. So somehow, someone paid her some money and it was enough for the vest with money left over for the sunglasses. But the sunglasses she wanted cost R200 more than the extra money given. So she was in a bind. I didn’t understand this because she was working (granted as an administrator in a church, but she should have R200). Someone gave her R200 that week. “Thank you Jesus! My ENTIRE trip is paid for. I don’t have to pay a THING! Jesus is good!”
I didn’t understand why Jesus didn’t have better stuff to do. Just thinking, ya know? I am especially sensitive to such things in South Africa where you live with poverty as your neighbor, and he comes knocking all the time. This friend brought up the fact that all the pastors at our churches had really nice cars. “How do you think they got them? They didn’t buy them; people gifted them with those cars.” I had heard it before.
A lot of pastors (either leaning to prosperity theology or in it) will tell you how favored they are. They walk in God’s blessing, bask in God’s favor, just swim in God’s gracious giving. They talk of how people give them vacations, homes, cars, trips, time-shares, seats to games, etc. I know it’s possible God favors them, but isn’t it possible it’s because they are pastors and leaders of churches and congregational members like to honor them. It seems that simple. No one ever gives stuff to the janitor or custodian. I haven’t blessed my pastor here, and I have never felt moved to. I did give a gift to two administrators at the church, one being this girl who was telling me about her many international trips and this new one to Switzerland.
I really think a lot of these pastors get blessed because they are the visible guys in front who people see and to whom they give gifts to honor and say thank you.
But why wouldn’t God (the Jesus one this girl was talking about) spend time blessing some of the people in the townships instead of giving money for unnecessary items for an unnecessary trip to the point of it not costing her one penny? I suppose I have no ability to question God. I do question what people say. . . .who’s doing what. . . .to whom we attribute what. I wonder. Anyway, perhaps God has the ability to give as much as he wants to whom he wants. Who am I to question? Maybe we’re the answer we’ve been looking for, if we and God are one.