Plenty has been written about the oath of loyalty that members of Destiny Church took to their Bishop – Brian Tamaki. If you haven’t followed the story, 700 spiritual sons took an oath and now wear a ring (that only cost them $295 + $5 admin) to show their commitment. They’re required to stand when he or his wife enters a room, not to interrupt him when he’s speaking and not to begin eating until he has. This “code of conduct”, aiming to ensure “obedience and honour” is spelled out for them in the covenant document. Hundreds of others paid $30 to witness the ceremony.
In all of this, Tamaki’s six-figure salary and receipt of “first fruits offerings” is given a lot of attention. When asked about this on Campbell Live, the church spokesperson said that Tamaki gave people something to aspire to. The church minister the interviewer described – someone who had never flown business class and who drove a second-hand car – was not inspirational or aspirational – and this was seen as some kind of a lack.
In the midst of all this I read this quote on Sister Susan Rose Francois’ blog. She’s a Sister of St Joseph of Peace and every Friday she posts a quote from the founder of her order, Margaret Anna Cusack
Even those who do not altogether deny Christianity are living far from it. What is the meaning of this ardent desire for wealth? What is the meaning of this mad craving for pleasure? What is the meaning of this reckless waste of precious time? What is the meaning of this gross neglect of the poor; of servants, of dependents? What is the meaning of this selfish expenditure of money on personal comfort, even on personal luxury; while Lazarus is dying at the gate?
-Women’s Work in Modern Society, 1874
I’m all caught up in a consumerist world, desire instant gratification and love shiny new things. The lifestyle I want is one which responds to the challenge of the Gospel, that is loving of my neighbour, that is not about storing up riches… I sin. I am forgiven. I try again. We sin. We are forgiven. We try again.
Bishop Brian’s life and ministry has no doubt been fruitful. It just seems to me that acquiring personal wealth and encouraging others to aspire to it is a long way from those difficult sayings of Jesus: the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Humble yourself and become a servant to many. Not so much the “law of attraction” as the law of reversals!
(One of the most thoughtful pieces on this is by The Ven Glynn Cardy, a friend in the Diocese of Auckland, and can be found here )