Holy work should not be about worldly rewards

By The Editorial Board 11 March 2024, 10:00AM

Have some holy men in this country lost their way? It seems like it is because even if the members of the congregation want to offer expensive gifts to the priests, they are not saying no. They are not saying that they do need extra wealth to do the work of the Lord.

It is not surprising that a senior clergyman is worried that the annual practice of 'faamati' has lost its true meaning and it is becoming a means to reward the priests or pastors in the village.

The chairman of the National Council of Churches (N.C.C.), Reverend Aisoli Iuli said it was very concerning that congregations were buying cars for the church ministers. There have been reports that one particular congregation raised funds to buy the priest a Toyota Landcruiser.

As bigger targets are set, families have been told to give certain amounts, in many cases, there is an opportunity cost which is either food for the family, education or other expenses. Some families have to take loans to meet the amount they have been set.

Rev. Aisoli has explained that the original purpose of any fa'amati as he understands is about beautifying the churches which include the church ministers' houses.

He said buying vehicles for the church ministers is not okay. It should never be unless the priest lives in a remote area and part of his work is to reach out to families living in the wilderness, then maybe it should be done, but the spending in the name of the religion is getting out of control.

If a person could buy his way into heaven, then all the wealthy people in this world would have their names already entered into the register held by St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. Inflation is at an all-time high and it is not going away, more and more children are not going to school and families are not able to provide three decent meals in a day.

These are the families who are then told that they have a duty to God to collect a certain amount of money because it is the faamati and they have to do something good for the priest and his family. The thought is very good but such things should not be forced onto people. That should be enough if someone can only provide physical assistance in terms of labour to clean the priest’s garden or cut down trees.

The idea that members of families are told to take loans to satisfy the quota is not a good thing. Most priests in Samoa are paid and quite handsomely at that. When they are assigned to their congregation, they are provided housing, and then the village they serve does other things for them as well. Priests do not pay taxes on the income they earn as well.

And now with the faamati, some priests do not even utter a word when they know they are getting cars.

Like Judas reaching into the money bag, the sad reality is that a small minority of Christian pastors have become greedy and used to the idea of a comfortable lifestyle and in doing so, they have forgotten what their real role is. As Christians, we hate to face this truth, but we must.

Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. – 2 Corinthians 2:17. It is stated in the Bible as well.

If people are raising funds for the faamati, then it becomes the duty of the church to use this money for the betterment of church services, the education of children, the welfare of the poor and the elderly and in ways that would make the church’s flock prosper.

The president of the National Council of Churches said all things in this world always come with a negative side and that includes the fa'amati because they are now having a culture of buying vehicles for the church ministers which is not a fa'amati. After all, it's putting more pressure on the families.

With so many benefits and rewards for priests and pastors, no wonder many people are fighting for spots to get into Malua and Piula. These practices have given a wrong signal to many people. This also could be a reason why many priests force their children to follow in their footsteps because it is a profitable one.

Let us stick to the true meaning and practices of the faamati and the decision to become a priest should not be one to benefit but to spread the word of God.

By The Editorial Board 11 March 2024, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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