Back in July at a TAFES event I bought a copy of ‘Biblia na Utajiri’ (The Bible And Wealth), which was written by Ufoo Kassa George, a businesswoman and TAFES Associate. I haven’t finished it yet, but the really exciting thing for me is that much of what Ufoo says confirms what Arthur and I have been thinking about theology of prosperity in Tanzania. Up until now, what we’ve come up with has been based on observation, interview and kind of picking things up. We’ve checked our ideas with Tanzanian friends and colleagues, and asked for their input, but in this book, those things are articulated and spelt out. And it’s her Swahili words. Below are some of my translations, paraphrases and summaries of Part One. For clarity, my comments are in italics.
Part One is entitled ‘You have the ability to change the endpoint of your life’.
Ufoo opens with the question of why teaching on prosperity is needed. The purpose is to provide an alternative to the quick fixes and false promises of so many teachers, but not by leaving people in their poverty, where they may give up faith or become desperate enough to turn to theft, corruption or the like.
It is not the desire of wealth which is a bad thing, she argues, but doing so in a way that is not honouring to God. It’s important to read this teaching against the backdrop of poverty that is Tanzania: creating wealth can be a very good way of bringing hope and healing to oppressed and malnourished people. Indeed, she says, wealth is not about having everything or having no cares, because you can have everything and yet be empty inside. So be careful that you do things God’s way, because ill-gotten wealth will not prosper you as a whole person.
This is where the pursuit of prosperity is an act of discipleship, she says, citing the Great Commission. Disciples learn afresh each aspect of their lives, so we must learn to think as God does about godly ways to prosper. This is about wisdom: ‘Though it cost all you have, get wisdom’ (Proverbs 4:7b).
She quotes the story of the rich young ruler and its warning: it is harder for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Therefore, if you are to be wealthy and you want to enter the kingdom of God, it can only happen with the help of God. If you need God for salvation, what makes you think you don’t need him for your every day? The Bible must inform our efforts for prosperity.
The flip side of this is that we must not treat God as if he is withholding from us, when he has given us his wisdom for life. We must not blame God as if he does not help us. After all, he is mtaratibu. Taratibu is a word you use when you want things done properly. It can be used to tell people to drive carefully, or to line up, or even to be kind. It is about order, and the kind of order that benefits people. God, she says, is a God of order. He does not tell a person to do something without giving them what they need to learn to do it. We must learn to trust this God and his ways.
Furthermore, let us not be deceived into thinking that Satan’s ways are better, or that he has more to offer. Satan’s realm is about darkness, emptiness and chaos. God is wealthy beyond all human understanding; Satan and his followers are poor. How can Satan give anything to those who ask him when he has nothing? The earth was created by God, entrusted to humans to rule it, and to own its wealth.
This brings her to a call to repentance. This teaching is not a way to get rich quick. Like the yeast working its ways through the bread, so is the kingdom of heaven. Let us follow these ways, not giving Satan an opportunity, because we obey God. Remember the Tanzanian proverb, she says, ‘Haraka haraka haina baraka, pole pole ndio mwendo’ — there is not blessing in haste, but less haste more speed.
I’m really looking forward to reading part two, entitled ‘Why do you want to be wealthy?’
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.