FAVOUR OR GREED? (SHORT STORY)
This is a fictional story that explores some Christians’ expectations from God in the area of favour and how despondent they can be when these expectations are not met. I crave your views on this and would be glad if this story helps us examine our attitudes towards giving and receiving as well as the whole issue of contentment as taught in the Bible.
FAVOUR OR GREED?
Thelma was very unhappy. She had yearned for a new car. She had prayed for favour in buying it, something like receiving a gift of a new car or having someone bless her with the money to buy one (if not the entire sum, then a substantial portion of it). But until the last minute, no one offered any such help. She had to nearly empty her savings to pay for the Lexus 330 SUV. Okay, I still have about two hundred grand left. Still it doesn’t detract from the painful fact that I paid every single kobo for the car, by myself!
On top of that, she had to hold small parties to celebrate: in their neighbourhood welfare association, at work and church. No one was bringing her any gifts. Rather, they came to eat and drink. As many remarked, bringing presents for someone who just bought an SUV in the present economy is like pouring water into a stream. And really, the gatherings were meant to pray over her and the car so that it wouldn’t bring “devourers” into her life: stuff like accidents, constant breakdowns, even tyre punctures.
Granted, the refreshments were not meant to be much: four crates of malt drinks all round: one thousand Naira worth of garden eggs, two thousand of groundnuts. She absolutely refused to buy biscuits or anything fancy. The church event cost the most, although all the members were not involved. She bought a goat and some yams as thanksgiving offering. That was “sixteen bleeding thousand”, she thought.
She would have been considered tight-fisted if she had offered a cock or anything inexpensive. The thanksgiving offfering was expected to be proportionate to what gave rise to it. After the service, the pastor and some deacons held a session of fervent prayer in which they laid hands on her and the car and anointed them. She gave them a crate of malt drinks and a two thousand Naira bottle of non-alcoholic wine. By then the joy of buying the car had all but dissipated.
As she drove home from church where the last of these events took place on the third Sunday in March, she hardly enjoyed the plush leather seats in her new car, the air conditioning or the beautiful Bethel worship music wafting from the speakers armed with both tweeters and woofers. When she got home, she was angry enough to refuse the food offered by her mum, who was visiting for a fortnight because she was on leave from her civil service clerical job. (Her mum helped to watch a sick neighbour on infusion while Thelma went to church.)
As she dropped her car keys into her bedside drawer, she saw money of different denominations there. She normally left cash lying around her flat in case she had to pay a repairman, buy fuel for her generator or water for her tank. Something told her the money there was over ten thousand Naira and that many people didn’t make that much in a month. She snorted.
As she dropped her bag in the wardrobe, she opened it to bring out her Bible. There was about five thousand Naira in the Bible, three thousand or thereabouts in a side pocket and more in her wallet. She left the amounts where they were and lay down fully clothed on the rugged floor of her bedroom. She did that when she was sad and needed to think or pray.
Why don’t I receive favour like others, why? Why can’t I be like those people who testify that out of nowhere, God did this and that for them? Why must I pay for everything I have? And to think that I sowed my Honda Accord as a seed, hoping that someone will give me a Jeep! Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? “Cast your bread upon the waters” and it will come back to you swollen or multiplied.
She heard a voice within her saying, “Talk to me when you’re in need. For now, you’re just being silly.” She didn’t know whose voice it was. Would the Holy Spirit say she was being silly? Isn’t He supposed to comfort me, to speak kind words to me, especially now that I’m feeling rotten? And the word “silly” in this context makes it seem as if I’m being greedy. Now, that’s not fair!
She got up, removed her dress and underskirt. Wearing just her bra and panties, she went to ease herself in the attached bathroom. As she washed her hands at the porcelain sink, she admired herself in the large mirror on the wall. Her body was lithe and her fair skin glowed. At twenty-nine, she didn’t have an ounce of cellulite on her thighs. Her body was well-toned even though she wasn’t a fitness buff. Good genes, she reminded herself. Her mum at fifty-five looked ten years younger and she followed in her steps. They had strong constitutions and were hardly ever sick. Ditto for the rest of her siblings. Thank you, Jesus! Her dad had had a similar build but had died on an ECOMOG mission to Liberia.
When she came back to resume her position on the floor, her fiancé, Anayo, called. She ignored him. In fact, she was asking herself why she agreed to marry him. From the look of things, she would have to pay for a lot of stuff in their forthcoming traditional marriage. In fact, that was part of the reason she’d rushed to buy the SUV. It appeared that she’d never have the chance of driving such a luxurious car after their wedding.
(Related: Either SUV ot Burst – Short Story)
That wasn’t what she had dreamt of. She wanted a man who could spoil her: buy her expensive clothes, pay money into her account from time to time and the like. She would have liked to show her friends the unique and priceless things he bought for her, but he was just a staff of a federal agency. Besides, he was spending on his higher degree and taking care of his siblings, because his mother was a widow too. The most he had bought for her was an android phone which she had given to her mum, a wrist watch and an external hard disc for backing up her computer.
On the good side, he was gentle, prayerful and easy to please. He always radiated an aura of peace. But she was wondering if the peace would be so fulfilling to her when he couldn’t often “favour” her in “substantial” ways. She longed to someday say, “See the car my husband bought for me on our wedding anniversary” or “Wow, my husband is taking me shopping in Paris for my birthday”. Well, from all indications, God wanted her to marry him and she was obeying Him, but the truth was that she wasn’t finding it funny.
Her phone rang again. This time it was her cousin, Anuli. Anuli was very excited. She called to announce that she had finally got admission into the university. As lists of admitted candidates had been released over the months, it had been disappointment after disappointment for her. But she kept believing and praying. On Friday, the final list had been released and she had made it. Thelma was so happy. The problem now, Anuli continued, was the money to pay her fees. Acceptance fee alone was twenty thousand Naira, the consolidated fees were seventy thousand for Psychology, her department.
Thelma’s heart sank. She was no longer paying full attention because she knew the gist of Anuli’s words was a plea for financial help. Thelma wondered if she could tell her to go elsewhere. Of course, she would go elsewhere! But the words filtered in that she would be so grateful for “whatever” Thelma could give her.
Thelma was praying and her mind was making some furious calculations at the same time. She could plead that she had just bought a car but that would be low and quite uncharacteristic of her. Her extended family members knew they could always count on her. In fact, in Anuli’s case, Thelma knew that she would ultimately be the one to pay the bulk of her ninety thousand Naira fees because her parents were poor farmers.
She admired the girl’s efforts at rising above the level of education her parents could fund and she had encouraged her over the years. That encouragement often meant picking up the bills. She did the same for other needy relatives. Her policy was to never leave anyone who came to her for help empty-handed. She always gave something, even if it was far less than what was asked for.
Since she already had Anuli’s account number, she told her she would send something immediately, at least the acceptance fee. Later, she should get back to her with details of other help she was able to raise, so she could supplement. After transferring twenty-three thousand Naira to enable her pay the fee and sundry expenses like bank commission and computer time, she lay down again. Anuli cried and thanked her so profusely it made Thelma’s heart bubble with joy.
“So, do you still think I’m being silly?” she addressed whoever made that charge earlier.
I need some favour, same as anybody else.
She dozed for a few minutes till her mum woke her with a knock on her bedroom door.
“Ezinwanne brought some mangoes for you.”
Ezinwanne was a neighbour from another compound. And Thelma LOVED mangoes, although she often missed them because the season usually flew by while she was busy travelling for work. She screamed and hurriedly donned a loose, long-staple cotton gown in sea green. She hugged and thanked Ezinwanne, carried the plastic bowl containing the mangoes into the kitchen. After washing them, she came back to the dining room with a table knife and began to work on them. They were ripe and succulent, just the way she liked them. So she dropped the table knife. Her mum steered clear because she understood her bond with the fruit.
It was not until she had eaten the last of the five mangoes that Thelma realised what had just happened. God had replied to her cry for favour. With mangoes! Two hundred Naira worth of mangoes, which Ezinwanne had picked free from her compound! Smooth! You think this is funny, Lord? Much as she had enjoyed the mangoes, she didn’t relent in her petition.
As she picked the fibres from the fruit out of her teeth, she admitted that she was in a better position than many others, being the Marketing Manager of a large pharmaceutical firm; she conceded that favour can come in various forms, like escape from diverse kinds of evil, good health, caring friends, or even sweet mangoes, but she insisted that she was entitled to financial favour. There was no fun in paying her way all the time, doing everything for herself from her salary. I am sowing financially, please, please, please, let me also receive financially. I mean bountifully, pressed down, shaken together and running over!
Ⓒ Edith Ugochi Ohaja 2018
(Related: 6 Correct Christian Views About Money)
Hi, hi! Do stay and chat for a bit.
Have you ever sowed a seed with a need attached? What happened later?
Do you agree with Thelma that Christians are entitled to the harvest of their seeds in the areas they sowed (e.g. money for money) regardless of whatever else they might receive?
What would you say of Thelma’s attitude towards Anayo?
Do you think Thelma was right in maintaining her stance (praying for favour) or do you think she was greedy?
Which part of the story touched you the most?
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