My Dearly Beloved Youths in Christ,
HAIL JEHOVAH AND JESUS CHRIST!
On this important occasion of the 15th Triennial GKS Youth Fellowship National Assembly, when you the youths of the Church assemble in honour of God Almighty and to build up yourselves on our most holy faith, I give profound thanks to the Creator of heaven and earth, JEHOVAH the Almighty God, through our Mediator, Christ Jesus, for His manifold blessings on us His children by His grace.
It is in keeping with the process of nurturing you in the way of salvation that I have chosen as my address to you this year the topic, “Beware of Quick Riches”. The word “Beware” means to be on one’s guard or be alert to somebody or something that may cause harm, injury or loss, while “quick” means moving or doing something fast, or doing something without delay. The word “riches” refers to great wealth or many valuable possessions. Thus, in this sermon, I shall be discoursing how to be alert or cautious and circumspect to avoid the harm, injury or loss that arise from attaining wealth or valuable possessions very fast or too quickly and through ungodly means.
The Bible says the “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof…” (Psalm 24:1) He has laid up the treasures of the earth for those who are faithful to Him. (Psalm 31:19) King Solomon says, “The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it”. (Proverbs 10:22) And Moses the prophet made the Israelites to understand that when they reach the promised land they would become rich in that they would have more than enough to eat; they would build goodly houses, and dwell therein; they would have herds and flocks besides silver and gold in good measure. Howbeit, they should remember that it is God Almighty Who had given them power to get wealth. (Deuteronomy 8:12,13,18) Moreover, King David, reflecting on the providence of God Almighty says, “Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.” (1 Chronicles 29: 12) The Bible says that King David “died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour” (1 Chronicles 29: 26-28) and that God Almighty gave his son Solomon “both riches, and honour” so that there was no king like him in his days. (1 Kings 3:5-13) Other ancient faithfuls such as Abraham, Lot, Joseph, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Job, Boaz, Joseph of Arimathea, among others, were very rich materially. – Genesis 13: 2-6; 45: 7,8, 13; 2 Chronicles 17: 5; 18:1; 32: 27-29; Job 1:1-3;42:10-13; Ruth 2: 1; Matthew 27: 57-60; etc.
The truth therefore is that it is not a sin to be rich. Nonetheless, God does not bless His people with overnight wealth or wealth gotten through oppression, cheating, robbery or any sort of dubious means. Scripture says, “Wealth hastily gotten will dwindle, but he who gathers little by little will increase it.”- Proverbs 13:11 (RSV).
Those who are in a hurry to be rich would most likely resort to the devil’s devices, which is to steal, to kill and to destroy. King Solomon says, “He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.” (Proverbs 28:22) Solomon the prophet also gives us a picture of how greedy people lure others into their evil schemes, when he advised thus, “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause: Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit: We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil: Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse: My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird. And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives. So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.” (Proverbs 1:10-19) Surely, those who are in a hurry to be rich do find themselves in big trouble sooner or later, just as those who aim too high in cutting a tree end up injuring themselves. And ready examples abound today as people take to get-rich-quick schemes through fraud (419 or Yahoo, Yahoo or Yahoo plus, that is 419 with ritual murder or fetish acts for money), gambling-betting of all sorts etc, pyramid banks, secret cults or societies, ritual practices and so on.
An example of someone who ended up in the ditch because of the relentless craving for quick riches through evil means was a serial and high profile kidnapper in Nigeria called Evans. He was said to be the richest and the most notorious kidnapper in Nigeria. His evil business ranged from drug dealing and armed robbery to kidnapping of high net worth victims. He was so violent and disregardful of human life that the mention of his name struck fear into the hearts of people in Abuja, Anambra, Edo, Rivers, Bayelsa and Lagos States, which were his main theatre of operations – though his influence even stretched throughout the Southern parts of Nigeria and reached as far as South Africa and Canada.
According to news reports, he once kidnapped his boss’ daughter, which netted N22 million into his account. He collected ransoms of between N50 million and N100 million for those he kidnapped. He then progressed to collecting ransom in dollars, which he spent on expensive automobiles and women. His charges were non-negotiable. It is said that the pitcher goes so often to the well that it is broken at last. In other words, long continued impunity ends at last in punishment. Evans case was not different. According to the Vanguard newspaper of June 11, 2017, his last operation involved the abduction of the owner of a pharmaceutical company at Ilupeju, Lagos on February 14, 2017. They placed a ransom of N500 million on his head. The family were able to raise N150 million; but he and his gang did not budge. They threatened to kill him if the full ransom was not paid. As God would have it, he was able to escape from his abductors and alerted the police who traced the villain to his mansion and arrested him as he prepared to fly to South Africa. That was the end of the exploits of the man the press have called “Evans the terrible”. He now faces a death charge in court. The word of God is always true, “As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool”. – Jeremiah 17:11.
Also deserving of mention is the case of a 24 year old, the first son of his mother who, after he was arrested by the police in Lagos, confessed that he fell into trouble because he did not heed his mother’s advice. According to the online edition of Thisday newspaper of March 29, 2017, the suspect, in company of the driver and conductor of their operational bus, had picked up a passenger; But instead of dropping him at his destination, they sped off, in the course of which they dispossessed their victim of his two mobile phones and his wallet containing the sum of N60,000.00. They then forced him to jump down while the vehicle was still in motion and threw N100.00 at him, apparently to pay his way home. Their victim however alerted a police patrol van which chased them and arrested the culprit. One of them confessed that after he was caught for a previous operation his mother had warned him repeatedly “never to take what does not belong to him”, but that he didn’t heed her advice. He added, “She told me that if I have been making money through other peoples’ sweat to foot her hospital bills, I should stop it forthwith. She insisted that if I want to live long, I should stop stealing what belongs to other people. She added that the consequences would be too severe and grave for me if I go back into it again. But few weeks later, after the incident, she died.” However, he went back into crime because according to him he needed N140, 000 to renew his house rent – and that was when he was caught by the police.
Another recent story I would like to highlight to illustrate the danger of quick riches and why we should beware was reported in the Vanguard of July 22, 2018. The story stated that four policemen were dismissed for armed robbery, kidnapping, unlawful detention and threatening violence. The four policemen had on June 24, 2017 abducted the complainant from his house at Alagbado area of Lagos on the allegation that he was performing fake miracles. From thence he was taken to a hotel where he was detained and threatened to be killed if he failed to cooperate. The following day, he was taken to the bank where he was made to transfer N7 million to the account of one of the operatives. The incident was later reported to the Police High Command where it was investigated and the men arrested.
Truly the Bible says, “A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.” (Proverbs 28:20) God Almighty warned long ago through the Prophet Micah to wit, “Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand. And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage. Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily: for this time is evil.” – Micah 2:1-3.
As could be seen from the examples cited above, those who are in a hurry to be rich place themselves in dangerous situations, indulge in acts that are even senseless, which eventually culminate in disgrace, humiliation, misery, poverty (as they lose all they had illegally acquired) and eventually, in death. But the fact is that monies gotten without hard work do not have value in the eyes of the recipients and besides, it does not last. Even if such ones are paid or win the lotteries, the money goes as easily as it comes. Greedy people (those who want to get rich at all cost without working honestly for it) develop tastes for illicit drugs, gambling, drinking, living flambouyant life styles (buying expensive cars, wrist watches, gold/diamond rings and necklaces) loose women, compulsive shopping and so many vainglorious pursuits or pastimes – and the money soon goes the way it came. Regarding such people Solomon the prophet states, “Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23:4,5) Christian youths, should therefore avoid get-rich-quick schemes, banks and financial arrangements which promise people mouthwatering interest rates as, they would lose all they had invested, sooner than later. The Bible says, “An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed”. (Proverbs 20:21) It is the material things God has blessed one with, which Solomon the king calls “durable riches” that last. – Proverbs 8:18
Let me use this opportunity to warn our young sisters to avoid being lured into having affairs with loose and ungodly men who spend money freely. Many girls in their quest for money to buy expensive phones, fashionable wears, and jewelry, make up, wrist watches, etc. have ended up being victims of ritualists, or have been dragged into the web of armed robbers and secret cults. St. Paul wrote: “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” – 1 Timothy 6:9, 10.
My dear Youths, let no one deceive you, all who pursue riches at all cost and by any means and expect to escape God’s wrath by using the proceeds for seemingly good causes are making a grave mistake. One compelling reason why we should beware of quick riches is that such wealth cannot be used to serve God, as God cannot be bribed with gifts or sacrifices. To use ill-gotten riches in the service of God is a sin. The Bible says, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.” (Job 14:4; Jeremiah 7:22,23; 1 Samuel 15:22,23; Deuteronomy 10:17) Unless all such ones repent thoroughly and do the will of God, they will not go unpunished. – Proverbs 28:13,14; Amos 5:11,12; Isaiah 3:11; Psalm 90:7,8.
Instead of striving to be rich overnight, I admonish you our Christian youths to decide with prayer to God what you want to be early in life and to patiently work hard towards it while doing the righteousness of God. As Jesus Christ our Saviour says, we must plan for our future. (Luke 14:28-32) We should recall the admonition of King Solomon to wit, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:6-11) Instead of planning for and doing what they should do in “summer time”, that is when they are still in good health and are strong, and have the opportunities, some are lazing about and scheming for how to resort to devilish means to become rich overnight. They forget that he who must climb the ladder must begin at the bottom. It is said that “Victory loves careful preparation”. Given enough time and the determination to succeed, one would be successful by the grace of God. The Preacher Solomon declared: “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings: he shall not stand before mean men.” – Proverbs 22:29
We should not be lazy but continue to work hard, using the opportunities that present themselves and in course of time God will bless each person as He deems fit, “some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty”. (Matthew 13:23) Solomon says: “Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.” (Proverbs 20:13) You should not waste precious time in empty conversations or idle talk spent in hang-outs with people who have no godly plans for themselves. “He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough. (Proverbs 28:19) In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury. (Proverbs 14:23) St. Paul drove the point home that there are no free lunches anywhere. He wrote that when they were in Thessalonica they lived by example in that they did not just depend on food provided by the members but worked with their own hands day and night to generate income. He added: “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:8-10.
What you should know is that money is never enough. One who is materialistic will thus be endlessly striving for more and more money. As the person satisfies one want, he becomes aware of others. He will thus not have time or even regard for God and His work and will eventually lose salvation. The Bible says, “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10) We should therefore cultivate the virtue of contentment. “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8. See also Hebrews 13:5,6) It is the person who is contented with what God has blessed him with that He would bless with His peace. Scripture says, “The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.” – Ecclesiastes 5:12.
Above all when God will destroy this evil world, it is one’s deeds of righteousness, NOT ONE’S WEALTH that would deliver one from death. Scripture says, “Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.” (Proverbs 11:4) And Zephaniah the prophet tells us that on the day of destruction, “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.” (Zephaniah 1:14-18. Compare Mark 8:36, 37) Please read up also the parable of the Rich Fool who felt secure after a bountiful harvest but, because he was not rich towards God, died untimely, as stated in Luke 12:15-21.
I advise all those who have bound themselves in various entanglements because of their striving for quick riches to repent thoroughly so as to be freed by God Almighty with Whom nothing is impossible. – Jeremiah 32:27, 17; John 8:31, 32; Galatians 5:1,13; Ezekiel 18:30-32; Luke 13:1-5; Matthew 9:10-13; 5:20; etc.
May God Almighty continue to guide and protect His sheep everywhere by His grace through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
GODWIN O. IFEACHO,