He came to serve, not to be served

Dear Editor, 

I write in reference to your story titled “Luatuanuu want ban lifted” in the Weekend Observer.

We continue to see clashes between government and some of the other authorities in the land.

It suggests among other things that it will take a while yet for the concept of the rule of law to be understood and respected by other existing authorities such as village councils and churches.

As in most democracies of the world, the law of the land is paramount above all others in Samoa.

The one exception is when the law of the land is in conflict with the laws of God, in which case the Bible teaches that God’s law is supreme. (Acts 5: 29)

The request by Luatuanuu for government to lift the ban which excludes its residents from joining the NZ and Australia seasonal labour schemes reminded me about this fact in Samoa.  One can understand the wish by Luatuanuu for the ban to be lifted. But sadly, the village spokesperson Tofete Lafaaua Tofete in his comments to the Samoa Observer continues to try to weasel out of the responsibility that the parents and village council of Luatuanuu must take for the behavior of its young people. 

 After all, why continue trumpeting the authority of Alii and Faipule if it can’t at the same time take responsibility for its own children and their misbehavior? Especially when that behaviour spills outside Luatuanuu itself and endangers the safety of other people? Mr. Tofete says good changes have taken place but he did not say what these were.  As for the fact that there has been no further incident, but of course everybody has to be on their good behavior so the ban is lifted!

The least Mr. Tofete and his village council friends can do is take responsibility for the behavior of its own young people irrespective of the circumstances. If they can’t do that, how in heaven’s name are they going to teach their young people a sense of responsibility and to show respect for the law of the land, not just for their own narrow village tribal laws.  Village councils guard with much jealousy and pride their authority at village level. One hopes government will have an opportunity to impress on these authorities that it’s an authority which also comes with responsibility for the safety of the general public and good name of Samoa.

As it happens, we have with us today another instance of an authority, this time religious in nature and   in the form of EFKS, placing itself above the law. The Bible is clear about obeying and respecting the institution of government except when its laws are in conflict with the laws of God.  But it means that the institution of government is God ordained, and paying taxes so government can do its work is the responsibility of all Christians as the apostles Paul and Peter both taught (Romans 13). And this is notwithstanding the errant nonsense from the EFKS General Secretary about God being the employer of EFKS pastors and for government to therefore collect their taxes from God.  It’s one thing to be genuinely in error, it’s another to also lead others down that path.

And please Mr. General Secretary, we as Christians are all called by God to serve him in whatever field we have a God given talent in. (1 Peter 2:9). As the apostle Peter teaches in this verse, there is no longer a special priestly class as in the Old Testament. We have a high priest in heaven now that we can go directly to. As for the employment of EFKS pastors, the employer in the congregational model is the congregation which offers the pastor a job and then pays for his/her up keep through the ‘alofa’ (plate, freewill offering etc.) However it’s collected and whatever it’s called, it’s still money given to the pastor for his upkeep like the wages employers pay their employees with. That is the pastor’s income and as such, it is subject to the income tax laws of the land.

 The “feagaiga” or covenant that the pastor and the congregation agree on is nothing more than a fancy name for a Terms of Employment Agreement or contract which all employees receive from their employers. It sets out the respective responsibilities of either party including the terms for terminating the employment agreement. 

But as the deadline for pastors registering for tax purposes approaches, let us hope that common sense, not to mention a touch of the humility of the Master will prevail. Jesus did say after all that the Son of Man (a title he loved to apply to himself) came to serve, not to be served.  He also said the servant is not higher than his master.


Tamapa’a Vaitoa

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