It is a well known fact that we are living in a world of materialism and consumerism. Today, every right thinker and doer of the word of God is fully disturbed and fed up by the environment of threat, criminal intimidation and demands by the use of force with the help of gun or without guns by various organization, unions, associations, factions, councils by the overground and underground in the name and style of various aims and objects. Such state of affairs goes endlessly in a state where 95 per cent of the population are Christians, although in name. They envision in the common slogan, ”Nagaland for Christ” free from all evils and crimes of the aforesaid nature.
Christian workers regularly visit the rich and powerful only who consist hardly 0.1 per cent of the population on endless donation drive leaving aside 99.9 per cent of the population who are mostly poor and needy which is considered nothing but just a worship of money without the living God.
Public leaders namely, Ministers, Member of Legislative Assembly, Head of departments etcetera are continuing to bargain and extort certain percentage of money from all sanctioned projects and budgets reserved for the development of the society as a whole.
The various factions of the underground continue to extort money at gun point in the name of independent movement without legal sanction despite the ongoing peace negotiation ever since 1997.
The various association, unions, councils, continue to extort money from the innocent poor public despite the ban imposed by the state Government, Thus, we live in an age of explosion of forcible extortion of money in the name of taxation, donation without any foreseen respite.
Considering the magnitude of the problems in question with the heart of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, let us examine as to what is the dictionary meaning of forcible extortion.
Meaning of forcible extortion
The Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners defines the term, ‘extortion ‘as a crime in which someone gets money or information using force or threats.
In view of the seriousness of the social menace of extortion-a serious crime against the public at large, let us examine the Biblical doctrine of money, death penalty for extreme love of money, how to rise above money, what money can and cannot, Naga culture on hard labour and conclusion.
1. The Biblical doctrine of money and its function
The Bible made it crystal clear that the salvation of God in Christ is without money (Isa 52:3).Hence , we must be hungry and thirsty after the knowledge of the Lord (Phil.3:10-13) and not after the perishable things of this world (Isa 55:15;1 John 2:15). But unfortunately, we are placing our priority on above God which is a serious sin against men and of God. The Bible however warn us not to serve two masters as follows:
“No servant can serve two masters for either he will hate one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one despise the other. You cannot serve God and mannon (Lk. 16:13).
Here Dr. Luke teaches our heart not to serve money. Mannon is closely associated with money-perhaps even naming the demonic principality dominating the world’s economy. Jesus equates love of money with the service of mannon. Money must be handled carefully and used wisely lest desire for it seduce us from true devotion to God.
Action that Luke invites is to employ material wealth for the kingdom, not for personal selfish ambition. Remember that such use of your financial resources has eternal results.
At one time, Simon offered money to the apostles. But Peter said to him, your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money (Acts 8:18-19). Constant renewing of sustained fullness of the Holy Spirit also are safeguards of believers (Rom.12:1, 2; 2 Cor. 10:4, 5; Eph.5:17:17-20).A restless desire to be rich overnight without works subjects one to great spiritual peril.
2. Death penalty for extreme love of money above God in the Bible
The Bible recorded that the chief priests and scribes together conspired to kill Jesus Christ and agreed to pay thirty shekels of money to Judas Iscariot in exchange for the life of Jesus (Lk.22:5).
The first instance of death penalty was found in the tragic death of Judas Iscariot. Judas out or remorse hanged himself and than fell headlong in the valley where his bowels gushed out (Acts 1:18). Lightfoot says that the devil caught up Judas and then threw him down dashing him to pieces in the ground.
The second instance of death penalty out of extreme worship of money in the Bible was found in the tragic death of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11).they were judged for their hypocrisy and lying to God, not for their decision to retain some of their personal property to themselves (Acts 5:4)themselves (Acts 5:4).the severity of punishment for such a small offence may be seen intolerant and graceless (Lk.9:54,55), but it was necessary both to establish apostolic authority in the early church and to safeguard the purity of the church. A sobering lesson is that Satan has the power to distort the thinking of Christians (Acts 5:3). Thus, affirming our need to allow him no place (Eph.4:27).
3. How to rise above money
Abraham Lincoln teaches as follows:
“You can see what God think of money, when you see the people he gives it to”.
St. John Chryostom also teaches us the following:
“The rich man is not one who is in possession of much, but one who gives much “.
St. John Baptist de la sale advised us as follows:
“It is not a sin to have riches, but it is a sin to fix our heart upon them”.
Ronald A knox show us the difference of two classes of people as follows:
“The world may be divided into those who take it or leave it and those who slits the difference”.
John Steinbech advised us as follows:
“If you want to destroy a nation, give it too much-make it greedy, miserable and sick”.
An old inscription on a mosque at Agra reads as follows:
“Jesus on who be peace, has said: The world is a merely a bridge; you are to pass over it, and not to build your dwellings on it”.
4. What money can and cannot
There are several things which money can and several things which money cannot achieve.
In this context, Henrit Ibsen said:
“Money can buy the husk of many things, but not the kernel. If brings you food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; acquaintance, but not friends; servants, but not faithfulness; day to joy, but not peace and happiness”.
Wall Street gernel also affirmed as follows:
“Money is an article which may be used as a universal passport to everywhere except heaven, and as a universal provider of everything except happiness”.
John Lennon sung a song as follows:
“For I don’t care too much for money “.for money can’t buy me love”.
Spike Milligan wrote in 1963 as follows:
“Money couldn’t buy friends but you got a better class of money”
Margaret Thatcher on 1979 wrote as follows:
“Pennies don’t fall from heaven. The have to be earned on earth”.
5. Nagas on dignity of labour-Past and present
The past Nagas who were mostly agriculturists by 90 per cent of the population who believed in dignity of labour in spirit and in letter”. They worked hard and earned their living from morning till evening. Even during the night they worked in the field with the help of bamboo torch. There was no question of money without work by percentage. There was no forcible extortion of money at gun point.
There was no prayer for big money with simple prayer. There was no taxation of any kind except house tax imposed by the Government by sanction of law. I have experienced such kind of hard life working in the field and seen such full independent life. Even independent movement in the late forties and fifties was undertaken based on self help as above without any kind of forcible extortion of money. I and my father have experienced such dignified independent struggle. Hence, we can proudly say that we were the only real independent workers along with our contemporaries. Today, after more than sixty years of independent movement, we are experiencing foreign independent movement with the support of guns which is totally against the fine culture of the Nagas on dignity of labour and the Biblical concept of labour.
Dear beloved brethren in Christ, We have already travelled one hundred and forty years of Christianity in the state mature enough to understand the standpoint of Christianity. God is a hard working and giving God. The Church and Christians are giving Church and Christians as well.
In the Old Testament, we see that God is such a hard working God. He worked so hard creating the whole world including men for six days. On the seventh day, He took rest (Gen.2:2). He is therefore not a lazy extortionist by force. In the New Testament , Paul who was a self help missionary like me who did his missionary venture by way of Tent making instead of begging from the Church and Christians . He insisted that Christians should not eat without work (2 Thess.3:10). If that be the case, let us imitate the hard task master-the Creator and not extortionists.
Jesus did not extort by force. Instead, He fed thousands by few leaves and fishes. Let us therefore, follow the hard task master, the provider of the whole world. Let us deliver abundant life to the poor and needy by giving them peace and not trouble like Jesus. So that one day we may be called “Blessed” by our Lord. May God help us to live peacefully without any more forcible extortion of money. Amen