THE CONTEXTUALIZATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT IN THE GHANAIAN ECONOMY The New Testament is a collection of books written for and by believers of Jesus. It was originally written in Greek and over the years has versions in different languages. It is made up of 27 books in the order of the 4 Gospels, 1 History of the Early Church, 21 letters and 1 Apocalypse. The New Testament was written thousand years ago. It was written in a world with gaps such as historical, linguistic, cultural, religious and socio-political. It has passed through two stages in its formation; the oral transmission and the written transmission. The oral transmission talks about evidences in the New Testament which proves that tradition was passed on by word of mouth in the various communities. The written transmission emerged years after the need was realized. It was during this time that members of the community decided to make a documentation of written tradition. This was influenced by the death of eyewitnesses, the delay of the Parousia, geographical gap, theological reason etc. Contextualization is simply “presenting the Gospel in a culturally relevant way”. Contextualization deals with the New Testament and the tradition of the group of people in a community. Many lives were impacted through the New Testament because it gave hope to the poor, needy and women who were less recognized in the society. This is because excerpts from the New Testament was contextualized by these people with respect to their tradition. It is important to contextualize in order to make meaning out of the New Testament and make for it to make greater impact. It is also important because we live in a world which mankind is not eternal, timeless and live in a dynamic society. Over the years the New Testament has been used in Africa and to be precise Ghana. The Ghanaian economy is natural resource based. It is largely focused on the agricultural sector. The GDP as estimated in 2015 was $116 billion and GDP per capita $1,381. The rate of inflation as at 2014 was 14.5%. The labour force of 12.83 million with labour force by occupation with services of 28%, industry 20% and agriculture with 52% as at 2011. Goods exported as at 2012 with $13.73 billion and imports of $17.56 billion. The Ghanaian economy fluctuates from these analyses over the years and also, we can see that its economy is agriculture driven. New Testament had a society which focused on areas related to issues on the economy and work. The New Testament shows an interest but the order is not clear with issues of money and wealth, government and authority, work, benefaction, slavery, giving, taxation, financial ethics, church and mission finances, and poverty. It is quite difficult to have clear statements in the New Testament. The following paragraphs evaluates the contexts and contextualization of the New Testament and with the Ghanaian economy.
To begin with, 2 Thessalonians 3:10 which says “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either”. This was probably said in a time when some believers waiting on the second coming on Jesus and they decided not to work. So, the believers in this verse were advised to disassociate themselves from such people. Who have put on laziness and idleness. This command focuses on those who refuse to work instead rather than those who are unable to do so due to circumstances beyond them, example, having a deformity. This can be contextualized with respect to the Ghanaian economy that people who make up their minds not to contribute towards the GDP of the economy because they are believers and are waiting on Jesus’ second coming to be left out when it comes to feeding themselves. This is not addressed to the needy without the physical means of transacting and business to make income. This means that a believer can offer help to people who have the means by helping them to find something to do which is legally acceptable under the constitution of Ghana. By this, the labour force in the country’s economy can increase to a marginal percentage as all Christians find for themselves profitable business opportunities as they live as true believers.
To continue with, another scripture that we would use in our evaluation is in Luke 12:15 which says; Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” This was used by Mark; saying that this was said by Jesus after he saw what has caused two brothers to quarrel against each other which was greed. He took advantage of that occasion to present a warning against it. The greediness of man makes him think a meaningful life is based on the material belongings. To contextualize this in the Ghanaian economy, many people equate their success to the material possessions they have acquired for themselves. These involves the houses, cars, businesses etc. In their pursuit for these things makes them to act greedily which sometimes involves cheating and corruption. Those who are highly exposed to these are the higher class consisting on government officials, religious leaders and individuals in private organizations. As believers of the New Testament in Ghana, we are not to focus on acquiring for ourselves these material possessions but rather live in content and according to God’s will. One of the main reasons for the downwards fluctuation in Ghanaian’s revenue despite the input is because of the mismanagement and self-centred attitude of individuals who perform their assign duties with respect to the gains they may get. Example, A leader who is appointed a minister of Road and Highways gives contracts to individuals and organizations not because of their efficient and effective methods of implementing their tasks but because of their personal gains and relationships with these people. It involves striking a percentage like 30% for the minister and 70% for the contractor. These attitudes result in government spending more money in years to come because social amenities mostly built on these kinds of agreements are not durable. The government of Ghana will need to renovate such amenities again after some years which costs even more, therefore causing financial losses to the Ghanaian state.
Another scripture of the New Testament that we would evaluate is that of Luke 6:38 which says “Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you mete with it shall be measured to you again”. The first which talks about good measure, pressed down create the image of grains that are pressed down in a container which can not hold any more gains when added to it. Into your bosom brings into light an Eastern dress which covers the chest with a large pocket. With the same measure that you mete is seen as a form of mercy. In Matthew 7:2, this kind of mercy is seen which talks about giving as a habit. As a man gives generously, so shall he also receive in such mercy and generosity from God who is seen as the ultimate rewarder of such actions. This can be contextualized in the Ghanaian economy as believers of the New Testament should maintain an attitude of constantly showing mercy to people they come across in their various situations. One can show such generosity by contributing to developmental projects in their community if they have or can create the possible means. It can be in the form of donations to the authorities in the community for the construction of social amenities like schools, clinics, etc. Such amenities provide the less privileged people in the society with their basic needs. As these needs are met, the rate of social vices in that community decreases. Also, the government can use the budgeted money for such projects for other developmental projects or trade with the money to generate revenue. Again, such amenities can raise revenue for the government since it will employ people in the community and the use of such facilities may attract some forms of payments. On the individual level, when a Christian comes across someone who needs help can render generosity to them through giving of alms. Example, you can give to someone who has a health need by helping them purchase a prescribed drug.
Furthermore, another scripture in the New Testament which we would evaluate is in 1 Timothy 5:8 which says “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel”. From but if any provide not for his own, we can tell that the circles of believers in the New Testament grew larger, Paul said in the great church of Ephesus that believers could keep for themselves wealth and look at their other relatives and close friends to be in poverty. Another statement in the verse which is “and specially for those of his house” further explains that this circle has to do with close relations such as his children, mother, grandparents etc. Paul means that his help should also be extended to distant relatives and those who are connected to the family and have become poor and oppressed. Another statement in the verse “and worse than an infidel” talks about a Christian leaving such duties of his will bring disgrace to Christ’s loving nature, himself and the family from which he belongs. This is because the Pagan who is morally inclined would not accept such act. To contextualize this verse with respect to the Ghanaian economy, A believer of the New Testament generally has obligations to family and those around them. It urges them to perform their duties towards these individuals who are closely related to them or the family. These may involve providing their basic needs; food, shelter, clothing, etc where as others like education helps the person to improve upon the use of their faculty. This in tend develops the person’s skills which qualifies them for job opportunities with higher earning potentials. Their contributions at their various place of work may generate revenue for the government. Also, the earnings they make from their work can be used to cater for other family needs in times of joy and moments of sadness due to a departure of a family member from the world.
Lastly, our final verse if focused on that of 1 Timothy 6:10 which states that “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows”. The evaluate the context of the scripture, we use statements in the text. So, “for the love of money is the root of all evil” is translated quickly in Greek as “root of all evil” instead of “root of” therefore creating a confusion. But it may probably mean the source of all evil. These are the kind of destructions that comes unto a person because of their failure to resist their lusty desires which causes them to covet that which belongs to others and make it theirs. Also, the statement that “which while some coveted after” This kind of coveting is not on the “love of money” only expression only but on money itself. This is because money can help them in carrying out various activities in a field. “They have erred from the faith” looks at people who for some little money have given up their faith. Also, “and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” presents the language and thoughts of Psalm 16:4 in the mind of Paul. This kind of sorrow is focused on “gnawings of conscience” which disturbs the mind of the man who coveted and has left a path which is associated with the path of Christ. To contextualize this in the Ghanaian economy, a believer of the New Testament is to pursue Christianity without having a longing desire for money and covetousness because it leads him away from the Christian faith and troubles their minds afterwards. Example, some people as a result of their longing desire for quick money have offered human sacrifices, made some money and have not had a peace of mind since. Some of them have confessed in some churches for spiritual help from pastors because of their great distress. Such activities draw the economy backwards because the government together with the security services would use valuable time to address and prosecute offenders instead of investing such time in more important issues.
In conclusion, contextualization synchronizes with the traditions of a community.
Contextualization is a tool for massive impact in Christian communities and can have a positive or negative influence of the community. Also, with respect to the economy, the New Testament helps one to identify good association with hardworking believers, live a life of content instead of being filled with greed to acquire material possessions, act with generosity with individuals and organization and the government, helping others who are closely related in various forms, and activities must be performed with natural interest instead of partaking in get-rich-quick schemes.
King James Version
http://www.scielo.org.za: Reading the Bible in the African context: Assessing Africa’s love affair with prosperity Gospel, STJ vol.1 n.2 Stellenbosch 2015