By Dave Chikosi
There is a fine line between testifying and tooting your own horn. William Shakespeare had some choice words for horn-tooting braggarts: “It will come to pass that every braggart shall be found an ass.” King Solomon in the Book of Proverbs was less colorful, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger and not your own lips.”
As Christians, and more so as spiritual leaders, we are called, not to show off, but to “show forth the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into light.” Even though we all boast and self-promote every now and then, still no one loves a total show-off.
Showboating is one of Christianity’s biggest turn off. When blowhard apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors or teachers boast about their big ministries, big mansions or big motor vehicles it hurts the Gospel message they are trying to communicate. Most people, including genuine seekers of salvation, are turned off by all such sinful self-glorification.
There is a right way and wrong way to share one’s testimony of the goodness of God without coming across as bragging. Bragging says, “Look at me, my expensive toys and my amazing life.” This is the little child in our adult bodies seeking validation and crying for attention, saying, “Look at me mom and dad. Look at what I have done!”
Sadly for the Kingdom of God, we still have men of God who have not developed beyond this attention-seeking childhood stage. They crave and seek in adulthood the attention they never received in childhood. They post and display their expensive toys and lavish lifestyles as a way of saying “Look at me. See how wonderful I am?” And of course they expect followers to bend their knee and with one voice sing “How great thou art, how great thou art!”
It’s not uncommon to hear men of God brag about how anointed they are, as if they anointed themselves. “Who makes you so superior?” asks St Paul. “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor 4:7).
Fact is no man of God is indispensable, and everyone is replaceable. When the prophet Elijah thought he was the only anointed one left standing, God told him to take a chill pill, reminding him that there were 7000 other prophets who had refused to bow their knee to Baal. And for this prophetic tantrum Elijah got promptly replaced by Elisha, his protégé. It pays to stay humble.
Question: how will a congregation know when their man of God is no longer testifying but bragging? There are many signs, for example, when he name drops and compares himself to some of the big names in ministry. Or when he is being a Shakespearean ass by despising the poor, talking about how he only sows upwards and never downwards. What does that mean?
Well, in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles, sowing upwards is giving financially to a ministry that is more successful than your own, and thereby partake of the grace that is on that ministry. Sowing downwards, on the other hand, is giving to the poor, which connects you to a spirit of poverty! But the poverty of this theory is that God Himself promises that “if you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD, and He will repay you!” (Proverbs 19:17).
It is cruel and insensitive when men of God brag about their expensive cars and big houses in the face of some folk in their congregations who can’t afford a bicycle and can’t keep up with their rent payments. How does that make them feel? That’s like a woman testifying about her new baby to a friend who has just had a miscarriage. How tone deaf is that?
Where is the empathy for the less fortunate? Is it necessary to rub it in their face? Does the man of God have any idea how much resentment, jealousy, envy, anger and/or depression he generates, not in the go-deeper-papa bootlicking section of the congregation, but among quiet listeners who are experiencing genuine economic hardships?
To be clear, no one is saying that a Church leader should never share with his congregation or the public at large what God has done for and blessed them with. Such testimony can, in fact, be very inspirational and motivational if shared with the right spirit. There is no need to hide one’s light under a bushel. One doesn’t have to lie that they live in Highfields when they in fact live in Borrowdale Brooks.
There is no need to dim one’s light for fear of sounding too uppity or being seen as snooty. By all means share your testimony, but ask yourself why you are doing it. What is the motive? What is the purpose? Is this a narcissistic braggathon or is it a genuine testimony that leaves hearers feeling, “What God has done for others He can do for me too”?
A true testimony should not be a pointless navel-gazing homily. It should say in so many words, “Look what this God has done” not “Look what this man of God has done.” A true testimony is as David testified, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory” (Psalm 115). The glory must always redound to our Lord and Savior, not unto us. This way, not only is God glorified: the hearers are edified.
There is nothing wrong with the honest acquisition of cars and houses by Kingdom-minded ministers of the Gospel. It’s a satanic lie when critics of big name ministries insinuate that all preachers fleece their sheep. That is arrant nonsense. Preachers write books, produce movies, post profitable online content, market ministry products, run businesses, receive offerings, donations and honorariums etc. and get wealthy in the process just like anyone else. Poverty is not piety
My only advice to men of God who have been so blessed is to enjoy your toys quietly. And in the words of the inimitable Robert Mugabe, “Munodireyi kuridza mabhosvo?” (Why do you need for a megaphone?)