The Primate of All Nigeria Anglican Communion, the Most Rev. Nicholas D. Okoh has asserted that by virtue of creation, God is the owner of the universe and human beings own nothing! He cited this assertion in his Synod Charge titled, “Christian Stewardship”, which was read during the Third Session of the Eighth Synod of the Abuja diocese held at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, Maitama. According to him, God owns material, animals and inanimate, visible and invisible things. He however added that people are active occupants of God’s property and not neutral or irrelevant, stating that by divine commission individuals have been made stewards, managers or administrators on behalf of the owner of the universe.
Quoting copiously from the Scriptures, Archbishop Okoh explained that a steward in the Old Testament referred to one who looks after a house, while in the New Testament a steward is one to whom the head of the house or proprietor has entrusted the management of his affairs, the care of receipts and expenditures, and the duty of dealing out the proper portion to every servant and even to the children not yet of age. The Cleric said that stewardship emphasizes the function of delegated responsibility adding that the manager or minister is not the owner of the goods. In stewardship, judgment and accountability is inescapable, he said. He added that invariably the master comes to take returns, concluding that a Christian has responsibility, being a steward under Christ of the government of the Kingdom of God.
Primate Okoh highlighted the qualities of a good steward; to be faithful and trustworthy in his work and to his master always enhancing the glory and honour of his master. Also, to him, without obedience, no steward can succeed adding that obedience to the LORD of the Church is non-negotiable. According to him, a steward must be responsible, dependable and reliable towards his master and those he/she superintends and should be prudent and judicious in the management and application of the resources given to him to manage.
In describing the attributes of God’s stewards, the Cleric said that all Christians are Christ’s Ambassadors entrusted with this very important responsibility, and in the end all believers will be called upon to give an account of how they fulfilled their ministry to Jesus Christ. To Parents, he said the gift of children comes from God and therefore every parent is a steward, adding that God is interested and concerned in the way parents raise their children whether biological or adopted. Archbishop Okoh opined that it is not enough to pray to God for children; it is very important to raise them up in a way that will bring glory to God. Thus, according to him, the wayward streak in Children which blossomed into armed robbery, prostitution, drug addiction and all forms of atrocities could be traced to poor parental care or the absence of it entirely. To Government Officials, Primate Okoh stated that God is the owner of power hence, all who wield power, must submit to Him by being accountable to the ordinary people over whom they exercise power and ultimately to God, who cannot be deceived or bribed with human and legalistic ingenuity.
He taught on the entrusted gifts of time, treasure (money), talent and the human body and called on all to be careful in the management of God’s gifts bearing in mind the inevitability of God’s audit and accountability. The Cleric explained that it is a misapplication of time, to spend it daily in the pursuit of temporal and material benefits, leaving out God, His honour and glory. He further stated on the issue of money that giving is to God not to the Vicar or Bishop hence, Christians of today particularly Nigerian Anglicans, need to hear this message afresh adding that to be able to do that acceptably and in good value, the giver must first give himself or herself to God. Archbishop Okoh stressed that the attitude which seeks to devalue the body in favour of the Spirit is Gnosticism, a heresy which has been totally repudiated by the Church. To him, a careless attitude towards the body is a sin and therefore, believers must present their bodies to God in holiness, whether rich or poor, married or single and they must not also put their lives in habits which destroy the body. Habits such as drunkenness, gluttony, smoking, promiscuity, drug addiction and so on put the body in danger, he said.
Archbishop Okoh opined that all ministers of the gospel and all believers are stewards of the word of God who must surrender all they have, all they are, to extend the frontiers of the gospel. He warned that the day of reckoning is coming for all categories of stewards – political, spiritual, traditional, parental, professional etc. adding that failure to be deeply committed to the enhancement of the Master’s honour, has awful consequences. He asked the congregation to note that God established authorities thus, those who engage in violent activities and corruption will bring judgement on themselves. The Primate of all Nigeria concluded by charging all to offer their world, time, talents and treasure to Him who owns them and all things. Also, he advised that because of the sure prospect of facing an unbiased divine audit panel, people will do well to repent of all indiscretions and iniquities, now!
Present at the reading and launching of the Bishop’s Charge were His Excellency, Gen. Yakubu Gowon who was the chairman of the occasion, Minister of land and housing, Ms. Amal Pepple, who represented Mr President, Chief Jim Nwobodo and very important people from all works of life.
By Ngozi Maduoma