God rewards effort and productive work; lazy habits and sustainable development goals will not mix

BY: Anis Haffar

Why do poor African countries continue to pray so much but choose to do so little? There’s the gnawing wish list – perpetuated by tithe hungry prophets – for the good things in life: nice cars, designer clothes, gold jewels, widescreen TVs, mobile phones, double decker refrigerators, good food and the rest; but why does the nation neglect to promote and develop the relevant vocations and industries that make those wonderful things possible?

No such thing as a free lunch
It’s so childish indeed, this business of wanting the good things in life without putting in the thinking and the work that goes into making those wonderful things possible. To crown such infantile attitudes, factories and industries have been bought and converted for all night and day prayer vigils daring God to leave His throne to come down to earth to grow crops, provide transport, clean the gutters, fill our potholes and then proceed to deliver the currency for the nation’s prosperity.

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Each morning, like so many others, I am besieged on WhatsApp by numerous incantations, prophesies and spells such as this one: “God will reposition you for breakthroughs, miracles, great and notable achievements … He will vindicate from you every physical and spiritual falsehood. Every decision that shall be taken up by any panel concerning your matter shall end up in your favour. Every unrepentant enemy of your glorious destiny shall be perpetually silenced …” on and on.

Meanwhile, the quiet prayer between me and God – before I go to bed - is very simple: “Dear God, please give me the strength and guidance to meet the deadlines in my work.” Finished! The idea is to focus, persist, and commit! I often cite for teachers and students American President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s admonition that: “The fear of fear is fear itself”.

In that regard, I restrain both the young and old as follows: “You need to be afraid if you peddle half-truths and malicious gossip about others: You need to be afraid if you are a male and you run after other men’s wives: You need to be afraid if you are a female and run after other women’s husbands: You need to be afraid if you trade in illicit drugs: You need to be afraid if you burgle other people’s homes. But if you do no such things, the blessings will tend to come to you naturally without some confident trickster preaching down your neck for your money.”

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President Nana Akufo-Addo

In a column, I noted that a leader’s unflinching grit to look at his people straight in the face and tell them the uncomfortable but necessary truths is the stuff of which greatness is made. That courage reminded me of a conference organised by the Methodist University College (in March, 2017) dubbed: “International Conference on Entrepreneurship, Business and Technology” (ICEBUT). In the opening remarks, the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, urged Ghanaians “to desist from hiding behind the cloak of religiosity to indulge in habits that have robbed the state of countless hours of productive time”.

He said, “We arrive at work late and then spend the first hour in prayer; we become clock watchers and leave in the middle of critical work because it is the official closing time. Everything comes to a stop when it rains and we seem to expect the rest of the world also to stop.”

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The President charged the leadership of the various religions and unions to lead a campaign to change that deplorable attitude: “We have no respect for the hours set aside for work. We pray, we eat, we visit during working hours. We spend hours chatting on the telephone. We take a week off for every funeral and then we wonder why we are not competitive.”

God rewards hard work

In 2016, I drove through the Silicon Valley to Palo Alto (California, USA) to visit Facebook and Stanford University. Enter Facebook and you witness the very epitome of “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. You start with the gardeners tending the flowers and lawns, and cleaning doors and windows. You see workmen painting the curb and clearing dust and dead leaves into garbage trucks.

Enter Stanford and the pride of ownership engulfs you. The commitment, the timeliness and the diligence with which functions are attended to are so deep that they put shallow prayers to shame. The toilets in a library, for example, are so polished that you see your face in the floor.
Miracles are created by God through the determination, commitment and work of ordinary men and women. Miracles are available to any person no matter the prayers or religion. As Mahatma Gandhi put it so wisely: “God has no religion.”

The sustainable development goals

There was such a hue and cry about Donald Trump calling African nations “S#@%holes.” That brought to mind the three sides of a coin. One side held the argument that the US President had no right whatsoever to insult Africans. The second side advocated that it’s time for Africans to call a spade a spade and accept the reality where the youth are scrambling in droves to escape poverty to places where they are detested and abused.

In considering the two premises, the third side, the edge of the coin, invites the critical thinker to think into the future: that is to believe, unequivocally, that with or without Donald Trump’s insults, Africa needs to focus and make the 17 sustainable development goals happen. That is where the continent’s future lay. Amen!
The sustainable development goals