There is one dangerous thing I have lately observed in the African Church, more especially, in Charismatic and Pentecostal circles and would like to raise an alarm. Some ‘men of God’ are giving or selling out anointed water, stickers, handkerchiefs and what have you so that people can use them to receive various miracles from God. The miracles include jobs, special favors, success, healing, deliverance from demons etc.
The most dangerous thing I have noticed concerning this development is that these anointed objects are slowly and steadily taking the place of Christ in the lives of people hence ending up being idols. John Calvin once remarked that ‘the human heart is a factory of idols’ and indeed due to our fallen nature, we easily make idols of many shapes and sizes and worship them thereafter.
The anointed items are fast becoming idols for many. What is happening with this anointed stuff is that people are told to use them whenever they want to experience a miracle or blessing from God. Recently, I met a relation who is a Christian and he greatly boasted about a certain anointed sticker bearing a face of ‘man of God’ and said:
“You know, this sticker is very powerful. I always travel with it in my car and if the devil had plans for me to get involved in a road accident, it doesn’t work. I am also told that next time, I am invited for job interviews, I should just put it in my shirt’s pocket and before entering the interview, I should pull it out, gaze at it for a while and then say a prayer and I will be successful.”
It is evident that my relation’s life is revolving around this anointed sticker. To him this sticker is his life. Now, where is the place of Christ in his life? Are not our lives supposed to revolve around Christ? I hope you get my point. I will not mince words here: placing our faith in this anointed stuff is superstition and nothing else. It is not different from relying on charms or ‘small pillows’ (zithumwa) from witchdoctors.
My fellow Africans will understand this better. For most Africans who are not Christians, they rely on witchdoctors. For instance, when one wants to get a job, they might go to a witchdoctor who would give them some charms which they are to put in their trouser’s pocket when going for job-interviews. The charms, they are told, will guarantee success in the interviews.
I believe this is similar to how some Christians are treating these anointed objects. Only that this time around we have sugar-coated them with the name of Christ. Please, fellow Christian, think twice about your involvement with these anointed objects.
But some will quote for me Acts 19:11, 12 which reads: “And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.” They will then ask, isn’t this passage supporting the use of these anointed items?
No, it isn’t. A couple of things need to be pointed out here. First, Paul never asked for any amount of money for the handkerchiefs and aprons. But the ‘’men of God’ today are asking for a certain amount of money for one to have these anointed stuffs.
Secondly, Paul never sat down and packed these aprons and handkerchiefs and sent them out to be used for miracles rather it was the people who came to Paul who took these items and used them on the sick. As a matter of fact, these aprons and handkerchiefs were used ones. New Testament historians tell us that the handkerchiefs were wore around Paul’s head to absorb the sweat as he worked as a tent-maker while the aprons were used to cover Paul’s clothes to protect them from dirt and dust(The Acts of Apostles: The Daily Study Bible ©1966, The Saint Andrew Press).
Thirdly, let me borrow the words of R.C. Sproul and point out that “This was not Paul’s doing; because of their pagan religious background, the Ephesians were used to employing superstitious means (v.19). God accommodated His gracious work to their ignorance” (Reformation Study Bible, Ligonier Ministries © 2005).
Fourthly, it is very important to note that what is recorded for us in Acts 19:11, 12 was never a trend. You don’t read this anywhere else apart from this passage which means that this was not a regular occurrence and I, strongly, believe that this was done in Ephesus only.
However, some ‘men of God’ today have made the giving or selling out of anointed items a trend, thereby leading our fallen nature to turn these objects into idols. It’s very heartbreaking to see that some Christians can’t live without this anointed stuff. Oh Lord, may you deliver us from these idols.