Corruption…What Undermines Us?

The African Forum on Religion and Government (AFReG) calls on all Christians to increase our prayers as a faith community dialoguing on “Africans Rising Together: A Transformed Community for the 21st Century.” Our second 2021 Webinar is entitled, “Corruption…What Undermines Us?”

My one minibus was doing well on the road and earning me a good return. I suddenly had this idea that if I had a fleet of ten, I could have ten times the monthly income. Learning I was a pastor, a young police officer wondered how I’d manage the business given the level of corruption in the traffic police force. I was determined to run a clean business. My drivers would not pay any bribes. It didn’t take long for my dream to come crumbling down. My minibuses were specifically targeted because we had refused to pay back hands. That was ten years ago. It’s almost impossible today to run a clean public transport business in Zimbabwe as police officers are given targets of how much money to bring on a daily basis!

Our devotion today is centred around the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19. Tax collectors were rich Jews employed by the Roman government to collect taxes from their own people. They became rich through extortions. Luke gives us a dramatic narrative of how Zacchaeus has an encounter with Jesus through which a total transformation occurs in his life. Briefly, allow me to make three observations from this story.

First, corruption is endemic. It is everywhere. From the moment Mother Eve ate the forbidden fruit, cancerous corruption cells invaded human nature. What I find disturbing are not the moments when I’ve crossed the line, but the ease with which I do it. Sin has no respect for my profession as a pastor. It comes naturally without me having to strive. It takes slight relaxation and I am Zacchaeus all over. One of the devil’s tricks is giving new names to old sins. In the West we talk about lobbying and not bribery, removing a fetus instead of killing a baby, misspeaking instead of lying, misappropriation of funds instead of theft! The heart of man is the same everywhere.

Secondly, corruption is progressive and irreversible. Left to himself, Zacchaeus would have continued on his path getting richer and richer at the expense of the poor he was robbing. In 2 Timothy 3:1-9, Paul warns of perilous times in the last days! These perilous times will be occasioned by the degeneration of the character of man in these last days; lovers of themselves, lovers of money and lovers of pleasure. They will never have enough. Let me not discourage you, but you can’t stop it! It will get progressively darker and darker out there as they deceive and are in turn deceived themselves.

Thirdly, transformation came about in Zacchaeus’s life because of his encounter with Jesus. The heart of man cannot be reformed. It has to be changed completely. Only when a man is in Christ do all things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Only then is the old heart taken away and a new one put in its place. We have no hope of transformation without the gospel. The heart of corruption is man’s sinful nature and unless this is dealt with, no lasting change can occur. Jesus says we will know the truth and it’s the truth that will set us free (John 8:32). This cannot be legislated. It has to come from a personal encounter at the individual level. Jesus says although we are in the world, we are not of the world (John 15). In the midst of this growing darkness, God is raising pockets of light that will be demonstrations of His saving grace. Men and women who would rather go hungry than steal, who will not be bought or derailed. Those who will run from Mrs. Potiphar and her trap; men who will face the fiery furnace rather than bow; men who will rather be thrown into the lions’ den rather than compromise their spiritual disciplines. When the gospel touches a man’s pocket, it has gone deep into his heart! Witness Zacchaeus!

This is why our cry in AFReG is for leaders of integrity. Only when the continent has a few of these in the right places will Africa be transformed. Lord, give us more Zacchaeuses in Africa!

Let us pray:

Forgive us Lord where we have failed to stand up for what it right, true and just. Where the pressure of public acceptance has led to compromise, and where upholding Your righteous standard has been wearisome. Forgive us where we have turned a blind eye to what we knew was wrong and failed to take our responsibility. We ask you to forgive us for slackness and slothfulness which have resulted in injustices and wrongs flourishing all around us. Forgive us for partnering with the corrupt for personal benefit or security to self.

We renew our commitment to Your Kingdom Covenant. Our mandate is to represent the Kingdom and exhibit her values. Thank you that in You we are new creatures and old ways are gone. By the help of the Holy Spirit, we put off our former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception and put on our new nature which is created to be like God – truly righteous and holy. Offering our bodies as living sacrifices to You, Lord, we surrender our minds to be transformed so we can walk in Your will and way every day.