The relationship between independent churches in well resourced communities and those in under resourced urban and rural communities is complex. Churches in under resourced communities often resonate with Jesus’ illustrations of loving God by being a good neighbor. Therefore, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor; Love your neighbor like yourself” are very popular verses in these communities. One reason these scriptures are well-liked is that someone else is responsible for their lack of physical well-being. Indeed the sense of sharing among people living in poverty is more evident than among those in well resourced African communities. You just need to attend a funeral to see that people do not hesitate to share with the grieved in order to reduce the burden. One challenge this causes is that people rarely hear biblical messages on the importance of personal responsibility in issues of overcoming poverty at home.

Meanwhile, well resourced churches preach that God, by His divine favour, has promised Christians material possessions. If anyone adds another perspective to this debate he is labelled an agent of Satan.  Because of the way church leadership is done in both settings, people rarely ask clarifying questions for fear of being labelled a rebel.

Notwithstanding, one expression of God’s character is justice. And since most churches minister in communities where hunger, poverty, unemployment, health care, orphans and vulnerable children and widows are prevalent, Christians should provide leadership in sharing God’s concern for justice, reconciliation, liberation from injustice and oppression. We argue that this is part of our Christian duty.

The church in under resourced and well resourced communities needs a biblical understanding of wealth and poverty. Theological schools in Zambia need to revisit their curriculum and pay more attention to how the gospel relates to leadership, peace, wealth and protection of the poor and vulnerable in an African context.

To address these needs, church leaders need to understand some of the causes of poverty. In Isaiah 1:13-14 we have a situation where people think that God will break the curse of poverty if they sacrifice their time, money or service. However, we are told in verses 15-17 that sin has social consequences; environmental consequences (1:19-20); and political consequences (1:23). God responds that these consequences are because they had not learnt to do good; to seek justice, to correct oppression; to defend the orphan and fight for the rights of the widow (1:17).

The Church in Africa needs to reconsider, or consider for the first time, how the gospel relates to the African context. Rev. Chanda of Bread of Life, Ndola put it this way a few weeks ago, “Africa has the richest natural resources in the whole world. How come it is foreigners who exploit our riches and employ us on our own land?” Could it be that there an Achan sin (Joshua 7:11ff) which we are not courageous to confront and have become slaves in our land? Could it be that people are hearing a gospel that does not include both personal responsibility and concern for others?

Lawrence Temfwe