The kingdom of God is not for “men:” the kingdom of God is for “children.”
In Nigeria, “Men of God” come by the dozen. You see them regularly on television. They are fixtures in newspapers and magazines. They always have something noble to say on the radio. They sit on the high table at every major social gathering or event. They are the counselors and prayer gurus of presidents, governors and other public officials. There is only one problem with “Men of God:” they don’t inherit the kingdom of God.
“Men of God” don’t go to heaven for a simple reason; the kingdom of God is not for “men:” the kingdom of God is for “children.” Indeed, it is not just for children, it is for “little children.” Jesus says: “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3).
Jesus’ “assuredly” should be enough to convince the prudent. Nevertheless, many still insist on being “Men of God” instead of “little children of God.” Jesus says children are representative of the citizens of the kingdom of God. (Matthew 10:14). Therefore, every time you see a so-called “Man of God,” know that “of such is not the kingdom of heaven.” Like Nicodemus, “Men of God” need to be “born again” so they can become “children of God.” (John 3:3).
Check out the handbill of a church crusade, outreach or any other program and you will see how boastful it is about the preacher and his ministry. “God has been using this pastor to de-populate hell.” “Pastor John has been raised by God to do mighty works in these end-times.” “This man is anointed for stupendous and bombastic signs and wonders.” The more boastful, the greater the public appeal.
However, Jesus had a healthy disregard for public appeal. He shunned the glory of men. When the people insisted on making him a king, he ran up the mountain. When he healed people, he often instructed them to tell no one about it. (Matthew 9:30). When he raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, he told her family members to make sure no one knew about it. (Mark 5:43). When a man in the synagogue acknowledged him grandiloquently as the Holy One of God, he told him to keep quiet and promptly cast the demon out of him. (Mark 1:23-25).
The Zebedee brothers wanted to be “big men” in Christ’s kingdom. They even brought their Mama to plea-bargain with Jesus for such special status. But Jesus warned them and the other disciples that such striving for pre-eminence was inappropriate in God’s kingdom. He said to them: “Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28).
When a Lagos pastor invited Bishop T.D. Jakes of The Potter’s House, Dallas (Texas) to minister in Nigeria, he spent over thirty minutes introducing the great “Man of God.” He ended the introduction literally on his knees before the bishop. The “great Man” accepted the worship.
Another church invited yet another American superstar to Lagos; the gospel singer Kirk Franklin. The pastor’s introduction was equally effusive. But when he finished, Franklin refused to get up from his seat. When he finally obliged, he complained that he was merely a singer and not Jesus Christ. Such an introduction, he insisted, was totally inappropriate. The psalmist prays: “May the LORD cut off all flattering lips.” (Psalm 12:3).
Jesus says all men will hate us because of him. (Matthew 10:22). This means if they love us, we are not his. He says furthermore: “You are the light of the world… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14/16). How can we have a private faith when we are supposed to be the light of the world? Light must be seen. How can people see our good works and yet not glorify us?
The difference between “Men of God” and “children of God” lies in the ability to unravel this kingdom dynamic. People see the good works of “Men of God” and glorify them. Because they receive glory from men, their good works in the world become bad works according to the estimation of the kingdom of God. However, people see the good works of “children of God” but don’t glorify them. They only glorify God.
This happens because “children of God” consciously and deliberately leave themselves out of the equation. They do their good works in secret. Their right hand is not allowed to know what their left hand is doing. They don’t stand up or raise their hands in church to make lavish donations. Instead, they write anonymous cheques by issuing bank drafts. They give money to people and organisations that don’t know them and therefore cannot thank them in person. All they are able to do is to thank God for whoever they are.
Where charitable acts are concerned, Christians should practice self-abnegation. We should not be seen. Our light must shine but we must not shine. Do we carry our bibles publicly? Do we litter our speech with vignettes of scripture? Do we drop one “hallelujah” here and another “praise the Lord” there? Do we hold hands to pray before eating at home or in a restaurant?
Do we bring all-comers up to speed with jaw-dropping testimonies about the wonderful works we are doing for the Lord? Then we have missed the way of Christ. Then we are on “Broadway” and have derailed from the narrow path that leads to life. Jesus says: “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1).
This means conspicuous charitable organisations are ungodly. Yes, that includes even the Red Cross. Once they are formal and institutionalised, they attest to man’s righteousness and not to the righteousness of God. It also means charitable programs organised by churches are ungodly. They are acts of righteousness put on public display; therefore they do not speak the righteousness of Christ.
Jesus warns that if our righteousness does not exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees we will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20). The righteousness of the Pharisee is public: the righteousness of the son of God is private. The righteousness of the Pharisee is designed to attract public commendation. Jesus says: “Everything they do is done for show.” (Matthew 23:5). But the righteousness of the son of God has just one objective: the keeping of God’s commandments.
Jesus teaches that private faith is far more important than public faith. Private faith purifies the heart. It makes us honest and not two-faced. It makes our devotion God-ward. The wise man says: “The purity of silver and gold can be tested in a crucible, but a man is tested by his reaction to men’s praise.” (Proverbs 27:21).