I approach this subject with the greatest humility possible. I am not writing to condemn anyone, but to present a thought for our consideration. I am merely adding my voice in the Global Public Square, and asking that we consider the scriptures in all that we do, especially if we say we are Christians. So, I wish to address Christian civil servants, i.e. believers in Christ Jesus who are working in universities, Government parastatals, multi-nationals, etc. (as well as those who hope to be there one day) . I will commence this charge by quoting a discussion that took place between John the Baptist and some groups of people who came to him for baptism. This was as recorded by Luke in his Gospel notes.
“Even tax collectors—notorious for their corruption—came to be baptized and asked, “How shall we prove to you that we have abandoned our sins?”
“By your honesty,” he replied. “Make sure you collect no more taxes than the Roman government requires you to.”
“And us,” asked some soldiers, “what about us?”
John replied, “Don’t extort money by threats and violence; don’t accuse anyone of what you know he didn’t do; and be content with your pay!” (Luke 3 vs. 12-14)
When I was gathering raw materials for my post-graduate thesis, I had the opportunity to go to Ekene Dili Chukwu workshop at Onitsha to acquire certain polymers I needed for my research. When I got there, I met a young man called Mighty. After explaining to him what I wanted and that I was a student, he advised me on the best way to go about acquiring the polymer, then told me to wait for him while he tidies his work for that moment. After he had finished the polymers he was pulverizing, he took me with him and entered the market where we went to acquire the polymer.
While we were walking about, being a normal Nigerian, I was already calculating how much I was going to give him to ‘show appreciation’ for all the troubles. When we finished the purchases and returned back to the workshop, I brought out some money to give him as appreciation, but to my greatest surprise he told me not to worry. I insisted that he take it as I was sincerely grateful the way he helped me and walked about with me, but I cannot forget what he said to me. He told me that I should not bother giving him money, that I am a student, and that he is wishing me well in my programme. He told me that if that one was not enough I should come back for more. I thanked him for his help, and left, but that incident remained with me. This is getting to 4 years now, but as I remember his action that day, especially in the light of what I faced later on in other people’s hands, I just knew I met a young man who was remarkably different.
Some days later after I made the purchases, I had to return to a laboratory in my school to sieve out some samples. The main laboratory where I was doing my analysis had issues with their sieving machine, so I was directed to another laboratory in the school. When I got there, I was already tired and short of money. I was hoping I would be allowed to just do the sieving and go. When I explained to the technologist there what I came for, he said I am free to use it, but I must find something for him. I did a lot of pleading and begging, but afterwards I was forced to part with about #1000 just to use a sieving machine that belonged to my school, not to the technologist (and it was not as if he assisted me in the sieving or any such thing). Well, it struck a chord in my heart as I saw the marked difference in attitude between Mighty at the Onitsha workshop, and the technologist in my university.
Today, as I live my daily life, I see clearly that the culture of ‘appreciating’ people has become so enamored into our cultural perspectives that we see nothing wrong with it. If you come to submit an application in a government agency, you must ‘appreciate’ the secretary there, otherwise the story of your application will be a long one. One day, a school proprietress was telling me how difficult it was for her to maintain integrity as a school owner. Every time school supervisors visited, she must part with serious amount of money, otherwise she will get a negative recommendation. Not, because she is running a school below standard, but one way or the other the supervisor must find fault, and can glorify that fault to the point where it may work against her. Once she had to part with as much as N50, 000 (on demand) and also N10, 000 (also on demand, the supervisor said it is money for pen!). This culture is so much bedeviling the African society today. Nowadays, if you enter any place to do anything, the people there are expecting you to appreciate them. If you drive in through a security checkpoint, the personnel there are greeting you with smiles and asking you, ‘anything for the boys?’
I do not want to go on sharing stories of my encounters in these areas, as many of you have had more experiences than I have. However, I wish to ask and I want us to sincerely answer, ‘what would Jesus do?’ If Jesus were a supervisor of schools, a security personnel, a secretary in a government agency, a technologist in a laboratory, what will he do?
John the Baptist spoke to the tax collectors and told them, ‘don’t charge more than the government approved rates’, and I am much more interested in his last words to the soldiers, “be content with your pay”.
I wish I can reach out to every Christian civil servant and say to them, this is the word of the Lord to you, let your pay satisfy you. There is a dearth of true Christians in our world. We have lots of tongue talkers, mighty worshippers, great tithers, powerful defenders of the faith, wonderful analyzers and followers of preachers, dedicated men of prayers and fasting, but we have few, just a handful who think and act like Christians in their daily life. That is why we have a lot of professing Christians in Nigeria, but little Christian influence. I doubt if true practicing Christians in Nigeria are up to critical mass (social analysts say a critical mass for exerting an influence on society is 5%). That is the challenge of discipleship today. I do not know if Mighty is a Christian, one day I will pay him a visit and find out, but that day, he won a soul in me.
Beloved brother, be content with your pay. If you do not like the pay, then resign. Find another work to do, but you are not to join this company of evil doers. If the government pays you to do a job, then do it happily, expecting nothing. In fact, I believe that sometimes you should reject appreciations (even when not demanded) just to let people know that men like you are still existing in this world who can do something for others expecting nothing. Some people are just slaves of sheer greed. With all the salaries they earn, they cannot help a student without charging the student or expecting appreciation.
Now, if what the person wants you to do is outside your work specification, you may decide to charge a fee, I’m not condemning you on that, but when you just did what you are being paid to do, why expect an appreciation? See, it is because of all these many appreciations that some civil servants will never get a reward from the Lord for all their years of civil service. Nobody genuinely told them ‘thank you’ without having to say it in cash (or maybe too few people). I bring you John’s charge to the soldiers, and it is still relevant to you dear civil servant. Be content with your pay. Do your job and go. Stop expecting financial ‘appreciations’, stop demanding financial encouragements to do the job you are paid for. Be content with your pay, and let the Lord be your final rewarder. He will not fail you in life if you trust in Him.
My burden is exhausted. God bless you.