Luphurise Mawere, whose podcast I’ve written about recently, advertised in our networks her online financial literacy classes. She said, “the secret to change your financial situations lies in acquiring right skills, knowledge, strategies and tools that will help to make sound financial decisions.”
The response from one senior TAFES associate was to thank her for taking on the topic:
I am not a fan of ‘prosperity gospel’, I think it’s important and necessary that believers have good understanding of finances and how money works, make informed financial choices and control their lives. I fully endorse and recommend these trainings.
You can see in his response that he makes a clear distinction between her teachings and the prosperity gospel. Yet, in her podcast, Luphurise makes statements such as:
- God wants us to have financial success. (ep.2)
- You can can use the words and promises of God over your success. (ep.3)
- Your hands will be blessed as you continue to pray. (ep.5)
- The wealth you are entering into has been bought with the precious blood of Christ. (ep.8)
To Australian ears these might sound like classic phrases from the prosperity gospel and yet that’s not how her teaching is viewed within Tanzania. On the contrary, the comment of endorsement above sets up her teaching about making informed financial choices in contrast to the prosperity gospel. Why is that?
I want to suggest a couple of reasons.
- There is no magic here. While the prosperity gospel shrouds its outcomes in special objects, prayers or people, Luphurise grounds her teaching in what we in Australia might call ‘practical advice’ or even ‘common sense’. When she says your hands will be blessed as you continue to pray, she’s talking about how hard work and shrewd investment pay off, for example, so don’t sit around doing nothing and expect financial success.
- Context is key. The first four episodes are titled: God must be first in your life, You need the right intention, Have a right view of financial success, Do not love money. It would be a terrible injustice to characterise her teachings as having anything to do with self-centredness, greed or ignorance.
- The religious/biblical language in which she talks about wealth need not alarm us. Tanzanians do not distinguish as we westerners do between the secular and the religious: the whole world is God’s so of course he has things to say about it and it is natural to mine the Bible to understand it. I think the more holistic view of God’s rulership in the world is something that, on the whole, we from western nations could learn from Tanzanians.
- Luphurise’s teaching empowers people in contrast to prosperity gospel preachers who make people dependent on them. Luphurise is providing the service of giving people skills: the idea is that people will be more capable managers of their money. People will be blessed by this rather than having to return time and again for another dispensation or blessing.
Is this kind of theology I would teach? No, of course not. This kind of theology does not make extensive use of the historico-grammatical method of reading the Bible that is so cherished in my theological tradition. I definitely think it could benefit from the kind of biblical theological model that Australian evangelicals have pioneered. But my experience in Tanzania has been that those models can be treated with suspicion because they take so much academic work to reach, as if the word of God is only for the elite or those who subscribe to the thought categories of the modern west. Meanwhile, Luphurise is helping people to get out of debt, manage money wisely and contribute to others, all while pointing them to God and his provision rather than herself.
To conclude, here are some other phrases from Luphurise’s podcast which give a fuller picture of her teaching:
- Depending on God does not mean being lazy. (ep.1)
- Use your wealth to support gospel work. (ep.2)
- Do not allow money to rule you. (ep.4)
- Money must not drive your life. (ep.4)
- God has given you talents for the purpose of using them for his glory. (ep.5)
- Your purpose is to draw people to him so use all talents, wealth, etc in order to do this. (ep.8)
- You are a manager of God’s world. (ep.9)
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.