Contextual Bible Studies on Religion and Governance Booklet


A Project of the Religion and Governance Programme at the School of Religion and Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal and the KwaZuluNatal Christian Council Consortium

October 200

Copyright © by the School of Religion and Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal and the KwaZuluNatal Christian Council Consortium


This booklet contains a number of Bible studies held by the Religion and Governance Programme in the School of Religion and Theology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council Consortium. The overarching objective of the project was to raise awareness on issues of good governance in a democratic society to both students and the public at large. The hope was that such awareness would generate both orthodoxy and orthopraxis, resulting in lobbying, advocacy, and prophetic action on the part of the church and its membership.

This booklet is split into five chapters:

  • Chapter One A delineation of themes which came out of the response papers written by the participants on church, state, and governance in a democratic society of South Africa.
  • Chapter Two Bible study outlines addressing some emerging themes.
  • Chapter Three Bible seminars conducted by participants in their respective constituencies with the aim of raising consciousness on issues of good governance in a democratic South Africa.
  • Chapter Four Liturgies that are appropriate for a variety of settings in the context of raising awareness on issues of good governance.
  • Chapter Five Consists of our reflections and conclusions as a School as we engaged with issues raised by the participants.



The land issue

The issue of land remains a thorny issue for the South African Government. White settlers came to South Africa in 1652 and systematically dispossessed the indigenous black population of their land. This dispossession reached a crescendo in 1913, when the majority of the black population were driven away from their fertile arable lands and were crowded on non­productive lands, where they were exposed to the miserable conditions of poverty, food shortages, disease, and even death. This historical imbalance has never been rectified, and as such many black South Africans are still without land and continue to suffer regardless of the democratic South Africa that was installed in 1994. The church is urgently called upon to engage the South African Government on issues of land redistribution so as to improve the lives of the majority black population.

Poverty and destitution

The problem of poverty and destitution is inextricably linked to the issue of landlessness. While the Republic of South Africa is one of the African giants in terms of economic and infrastructural development, poverty still bedevils the nation, especially the black population. The South African Government must introduce a deliberate black empowerment programme to minimise poverty and suffering among its peoples. The problem of poverty and destitution is clearly demonstrated by the massive establishment of informal settlements. This is contrary to the United Nations “Universal

Declaration of Human Rights” (1948) which clearly states that shelter is one of the alienable rights of every citizen of every country.

Inequitable distribution of resources

While South Africa is considered as one of the richest countries in Africa, it is characterised by an unfair distribution of resources. We continue to have an economic system that is not tailored to eradicate the gross imbalances of the past. Instead, the prevailing economic policies seem to perpetuate the economic system inherited from the apartheid regime. The church therefore should challenge the government to correct such imbalances.


While we acknowledge that South Africa has good infrastructure such as roads and electricity, it is noteworthy, that there is a critical shortage of housing. This is clearly demonstrated by the huge population that continue to live in informal settlements. Such a situation calls for a radical and deliberate building programme that will ensure that enough accommodation is provided for the poor. The church should challenge the government and the private sector to join hands in providing housing for the poor.


The church and the government should have programmes to educate the population on HIV and AIDS, so that we can eradicate stigmatisation, victimisation and isolation of those living with the HI-virus. Another programme can be targeted at behaviour-change especially among the youth. The child grant scheme introduced by government must be reviewed for it seems to encourage unprotected sex among the youth in this world of HIV and AIDS. The government should make it a
point that those living with the HI-virus must have easy access to Anti-Retroviral (ARV) medication.


There is a very high rate of unemployment in South Africa. The government is called upon to be creative and to make sure that they pursue policies that attract foreign investment as well as skills development programmes so as to boost employment opportunities. The church should challenge the government to introduce unemployment and job-seekers grants as well as the Basic Income Grant (BIG).


Crime in South Africa has reached alarming levels. The church should call upon the government to take serious measures in a bid to eradicate crime. The South African Police Service (SAPS) must be both competent and professional so that each case receives maximum attention. Issues of missing dockets must be stopped forthwith. While there are many cases that take too long to be resolved in the courts of law, justice delayed is justice denied. A mechanism should be found to accelerate the judicial processes. Serious and prohibitive sentences must be handed down to offenders. The church must raise awareness among South African citizens not to harbour criminals and to cooperate with the SAPS where necessary.

Drug and alcohol abuse

The church and government must partner each other in organising campaigns and programmes to educate the youth on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. Where possible, moral rearmament programmes must be introduced in society. The government also should criminalise the selling of drugs
and alcohol to young people and stiffer punishments must be handed down to offenders.

Gender equality

The church and government must come up with programmes to educate society on issues of gender equality, in which the males are challenged to be able to see women as their counterparts and not as objects of abuse. There should be a deliberate move to empower women and to give them leadership positions in society. This means our education system must be tailored in such a way that it does not denigrate women. In other words, a culture should be created that is accommodative of all, regardless of gender.

Teenage pregnancy

The church and government must introduce programmes that alleviate teenage pregnancies in schools. There is need for education among the youth on the challenges that are associated with unplanned pregnancies. It must be noted that the state child grant scheme which the government introduced seems to encourage teenage pregnancy.

Shortage of hospital staff

The South Africa Government continues to lose medical practitioners to other countries due to poor remuneration and unattractive working conditions. The government must review the salaries, allowances, and working conditions in a bid to retain its qualified personnel. Additionally, if South Africa is to retain its doctors and nurses, then the problem of overcrowding in state hospitals and clinics may also be alleviated.


The church should challenge the government to deal accordingly with corrupt officials across the board. A case in point is the Ministry of Home Affairs, where corrupt officials are fraudulently issuing foreigners with residency permits or South African identity documents and passports. In addition, the church should challenge the government to improve service delivery in this ministry.

Compensation for the victims of apartheid

While the government introduced the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), there is a feeling that it should have gone further and demanded that the perpetrators of such crimes against humanity pay reparation to their victims.


The church should participate in government policy-making by submitting recommendations on issues that have a bearing on people’s lives. For example, the church should participate in preparing budget allocations, both at a national and provincial level.

Leaders with integrity

The church should challenge the government to take into cognisance the competence of the people elected and appointed into public office, so as to maximise service delivery. More importantly, the church should act as the moral custodian of the nation, challenging immorality in all its forms, especially with regard to government officials.



Theme #1: The land issue

Bible text: 1 Kings 21:1-16

What is the text about?

  • The text is about two conflicting land tenure systems.

o Jezebel, the wife of the king represents a system in Phoenicia where the land belongs to the monarchy, and whose office was vested with absolute power.

o King Ahab of Israel represents a system borrowed from Israel’s neighbours where land belongs to the monarchy against the popular egalitarian order, where land belongs to Yahweh who made sure that every tribe, every clan and every family in Israel had access to it. o Naboth the Jezreelite represents ancient Israel’s understanding of land, which maintained that land belongs to Yahweh and whoever holds it does so as the deputy to Yahweh and every member in Israel has access to it.

Who are the characters in the text?

  • Naboth the Jezreelite
  • King Ahab
  • Jezebel the Phoenician wife of Ahab
  • Nobles and elders
  • Two witnesses
  • The crowd
  • Yahweh (God)

Abuse of power and corruption

  • King Ahab and Jezebel abused their power by plotting the death of Naboth, killing him and taking over his land.
  • The king Ahab ignored the traditional understanding of land which taught that everyone should have access to it, and where the buying or exchange of land was contrary to the ordinances of Yahweh.
  • The use of the King’s seal on the letters that communicated the plot to eliminate Naboth was an act of corruption.
  • To engage the king’s messengers in sending out letters was itself an act of corruption and abuse of power.
  • The use of two false witnesses by the king’s wife is another indication of the extent of corruption and abuse of power by the monarchy.
  • To involve the elders and the nobles of the community in the elimination of Naboth again was an act of abuse of power.
  • To call the community into fasting in order to justify the elimination of Naboth was a pious fraud and abuse of a religious rite.

Application of the text

  • Do we encounter such issues in our communities?
  • If so, how do we deal with them?

o The prophetic ministry of the church should come into play. The church should engage the South African Government on matters of land appropriation, expropriation and land redistribution.

o The church is duty bound to conscientise its membership on issues of land redistribution,

through Bible studies, sermons, deliberations and liturgies.

o The church must support and empower the “Naboth’s” of our communities in their resistance against all forms of oppression and exploitation.

o The church must conscientise its constituencies

against the excesses of government.

o The church must support civil organisations

which are involved in lobbying and advocacy. o The church must desist from supporting abusive tendencies by government.

Theme #2: The equal distribution of resources

Bible text: Acts 6:1-6

What is the text about?

  • The text concerns the distribution of resources between the Hellenists and Hebrew widows.

o There was discrimination against the Greek- speaking widows and favouritism of Hebrew- speaking women.

o The early church decided to elect people who would administer the distribution of resources among these two distinct groups.

o Such people were selected according to their

given capacities.

o The apostles agreed to share responsibilities by creating the office of a deacon, so that the apostles could continue to preach the Gospel of Jesus of Christ unhindered by other important matters of social justice which are inseparable from the preaching of the Gospel.

Who are the characters in the text?

  • Hebrew-speaking widows
  • Greek-speaking widows
  • The apostles
  • The elected officials

Why were these women widows?

  • The husbands could have died due to many causes, for example:

o Some could have died in wars

o Others could have died in state building projects

o Some could have died due to the shortage of food

o Some could have died due to contracting diseases

o Others could have been victims of crime.

What paradigm of governance do we envisage in this?

  • This is a model of a good governance that listens to the plight of the people, regardless of their ethnicity, gender and social status.
  • The leaders deliberately took action to correct the misnomer.
  • They elected seven respected Greek nationals to oversee the distribution of these resources. This demonstrates the ability to delegate responsibilities by the leaders.
  • They elected people according to their gifting and capacities.
  • While this story is an epitome of good governance, it fails to recognise gender equality, in issues of leadership.

Application of the text

  • There is a certain caricature both within the churches and government, in which people are elected without considering merits or capacities but because of who they support.
  • People are elected because they are rich without considering their suitability to the post.
  • Some people are elected because they would have tithed better than others, albeit their character is incongruent to the expected faith.
  • Sometimes in government, people are elected because they offer brides to the electorate, or because they are feared.
  • Some people are elected on racial, tribal, ethnic, class, or creedal grounds.

The role of the church

  • The church should invoke its mandate of prophetic ministry.
  • The church should deal with elections within its structures to ensure that the elected have capacity to deliver.
  • The church should design programmes that aim at educating the electorate, on qualities of possible candidates for leadership posts.
  • The church should be able to transcend beyond artificial tribal boundaries and help all people in need.

Theme #3: Rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem Bible text: Nehemiah 2:1-20

What is the text about?

  • The text is about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, which was destroyed by the Babylonians who took the oppressor elite of Israel’s society into captivity.

o King Artaxerxes gave Nehemiah permission to

go back and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. o Nehemiah is concerned and takes the initiative

and asks permission from the King. o Jerusalem was considered to be the residence of Yahweh (God). The problem for the Jews was that land for them became holier nearer Jerusalem; and more profane further away.

Who are the characters in the text?

  • King Artaxerxes
  • Nehemiah
  • Nissan
  • Asaph
  • Sanbalat
  • Horonite
  • Tobia
  • Geshem
  • The people of Jerusalem
  • Yahweh (God)

Short explanation of selected characters

  • There was a group led by Nehemiah that supported the reconstruction of Jerusalem.
  • There was a group led by Sanbalat, Tobia, and Geshem, who were against the reconstruction of the city.

Application of the text

  • The church should be concerned with the moral, economic, social, and political decadence within our communities; it must come up with programmes that are aimed at alleviating such problems.
  • The church should be prepared to face opposition and be able to move on with its programmes.
  • The church like Nehemiah must take the initiative in designing programmes that are meant to introduce change in our communities.
  • We acknowledge that King Artaxerxes was prepared to listen to the plight of the Jews as well as to provide resources for the reconstruction programme; this should act as a model for the current leaders of our various communities.
  • The church should step out from its sanctuaries and into the public arena to address the needs of society.
  • As Nehemiah restored national identity, the church is called upon to participate fully in the restructuring and restoration of our societies ravaged by tribal and racial divides.

Theme #4: Oppression and suffering

Bible text: Exodus 3:7-10

What is the text about?

  • The text is about the enslavement of the Israelites by the Egyptians.

o It is about their suffering in Egypt.

o It is about their cry to God for freedom.

o It is about God’s response to their cry.

o God promises them land and freedom.

o God called and commissioned Moses to deliver the children of Israel.

Who are the characters in the text?

  • Israel
  • Egyptian taskmasters
  • God
  • Moses
  • Other nations

Application of the text

  • The church’s mandate is to call for the liberation of the oppressed.
  • The church should call upon the government to alleviate suffering and misery of all its peoples.
  • The government must introduce an economic system that ensures a fare and equitable distribution of resources.
  • The church must be able to listen to the voice of the suffering and to take their voice seriously.
  • The church should identify with the poor and suffering since God identified with the poor and the suffering so that God could liberate them.

Theme #5: Poverty and destitution

Bible text: Ruth 2:1-19

What is the text about?

  • The text is about two poor widows.

o They became poor after the death of their husbands.

o One of the widows went to Boaz’s field in

order to glean.

o Ruth found favour in the eyes of Boaz’s and was permitted to glean grain.

Who are the characters in the text?

  • Naomi
  • Ruth
  • Boaz
  • The gleaners (farm workers)

Application of the text

  • The church should challenge the government to make sure that the poor are catered for.
  • The church and the government must make sure the widows are provided for in the best possible way.
  • The church and government should make sure that the widows are able to retain property after the death of the spouses and this includes land.
  • The government should have contingent measures to address the problems of the less privilege.

Theme #6: Taking care of the children Bible text: Mark 10: 13-16 What is the text about?

  • The text is about Jesus embracing children.

o The disciples were steeped in the Jewish culture

of the day which looked down upon children. o Jesus introduces a radical shift in paradigm. Who are the characters in the text?

  • Jesus
  • The disciples of Jesus
  • Children
  • God

Application of the text

  • The church and government should make sure that children are cared for.
  • People who abuse children in any form should receive stiff sentences.
  • The SAPS units that deal with crimes associated with children should be child-friendly.
  • The government must make sure all children have access to schooling.

Theme #7: Politics and Theology of the belly

Bible text: John 6:1-11

What is the text about?

  • The text is about five thousand people who are hungry.

o It talks about how these people were fed by Jesus.

o The text talks about sharing the little that they had.

o The little boy that owned five loaves and two

fishes was willing to share with others.

o The disciples were of the view that food could only be found in the city, and hence they argued that Jesus should allow people to go back home to eat.

Application of the text

  • The church must be innovative and initiate feeding schemes for the poor.
  • Members of the community who are financially well- off should learn to share with others.
  • The Government should come up with policies that ensure the equal distribution of the limited resources available.
  • Companies and business people should participate in the sharing of what they have with those who have not.

Theme #8: On corruption Bible text: Luke 16:1-9

What is the text about?

  • The text is about the stewardship of money

o The manager is accused of wasting the owner’s possessions.

o To secure his future, the manager becomes corrupt.

o He reduces the debts relating to two debtors. o He does the above so that these people will accept him in their homes if he is dismissed because he does not have the power to till the land and to beg.

Who are the characters in the text?

  • The rich man
  • The shrewd manager
  • The first debtor
  • The second debtor

Application of the text

  • People who are corrupt abuse those who are in problems, like the two debtors.
  • Corrupt people use their positions to buy favour, position, and even protection from the law and police.
  • The church and government should beware of such people in our communities.
  • Some members of parliament and even church people ascend to positions of influence through scandalous means.
  • The church is called upon to support advocacy and lobbying against such corruption.

Theme #9: The injustice of homelessness

Bible text: Amos 3:14-15

What is the text about?

  • In the text God complains about the rampant injustice in Israel.

o Israel’s rich people are challenged, especially those who own multiple houses, some for winter and others for summer.

o God complains about the luxurious living standards of the rich, in full-sight of the poor who are subject to excessive suffering and misery.

Who are the characters in the text?

  • God
  • The rich
  • The poor
  • The prophet

Application of the text

  • God calls upon the church to take action against the excesses of luxury, yet there are critical cases of misery.
    • The Church must lobby the government against ownership of multiple houses, while others do not even have one.
    • There are many people within society who have summer and winter houses, while others live on the streets.




Topic #1: The Lord’s Prayer

Bible text: Matthew 6:5-15; Luke 11:1-4

Seminar Facilitator: Rev. Georg Scriba

In his introduction, the seminar leader emphasised that in the Lord’s Prayer we find support and assistance for our everyday life and remembering God’s constant care for us. But we also find encouragement and power to resist the forces of evil which stand against us in many ways. He explained that the Gospels contain two versions of the Lord’s Prayer. One from the Matthew’s Gospel and the other from the Luke’s Gospel. He pointed out that the Luke’s version is shorter than the Matthew’s version and probably the more original version as Jesus prayed it. However, because Matthew has two more petitions added to that of Luke, the number of petitions rose to seven. He therefore decided to use that of Matthew for our Bible study.

He stated that as with the Ten Commandments, the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer relate to our relationship with God as the vertical beam of the cross. The next four petitions represent the horizontal beam of the cross, our relationship with each other. With its seven petitions this prayer not only fits the seven days of the week, but also “the seven ages of humankind,” i.e., the stages of personal life and of the church. As a result, Rev. Scriba apportioned the seven petitions from the cross into seven days of the week as follows:

  • Sunday: “Our Father in heaven, Your name be hallowed”

Jesus approached God in his prayers in a new way. He calls God “Abba” which in Aramaic is equal to “daddy.” It is an intimate address to a trustworthy person. The Christian life begins with this fundamental request, that God’s name, praise, invitation, and word be spread and hallowed. Sunday is also the day in which we celebrate, sing and make music to the Lord, celebrating God’s majesty, sharing in fellowship and Holy Communion and commemorating Jesus’ resurrection. In addition, those who have no father or who might have had negative experience with an abusive father might address God in another appropriate form such as a “Mother” or “Friend.”

  • Monday: “Your kingdom come”

At the beginning of the working week we think of our own areas of responsibility, that which is our own, the areas we decide on. God’s kingdom is to come also into our everyday life, the working week. One’s kingdom is the area in which one has responsibility. For a pastor, the pulpit is her/his kingdom. In addition, we ask God for his leadership in our lives and in those in leadership in where these oppose his kingdom and persecute his church. Against tyrannical rulers this petition is a prayer of protest: God’s kingdom stands over human instituted kingdoms, or forms of state power.

  • Tuesday: “Your will be done”

We all have our own will, desires and ambitions which can determine our attitudes to others, e.g., by taking control, by misusing our strengths and status in society. A young person naturally has to find freedom their own will power from the security of home to stand up against the challenges of the world. However, a young person also has to know where the limitations of ones own freedom and will-power lie, i.e., where
they endanger the freedom and lives of others. We are to constantly question our own motives against the revealed will of God.

  • Wednesday: “Give us today our daily bread”

The middle of the week reminds us of the middle of our lives, when we are active in our work, in our families, in social and political affairs. Our “daily bread” includes the daily work and running of society and the church, including health, wealth and prosperity, a good political dispensation, peace etc. The old rules of the monks which stated, “Pray as if your work does not count” and “work as if your prayer does not count” applies. One achieves nothing without the other. This is a call to prayer and action, waiting in prayer upon God for insight, and yet not passively, but in an active sense.

  • Thursday: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”

In days of reflecting on profits and losses, what is the outcome of all work and achievement? It is time when we reflect on what we have and have not achieved. We pray for those who accept responsibility and confess also the sins of others and ask for forgiveness. But we should distinguish between true repentance and forgiveness on the one side and the call for or humbling attitude of submission in the disguise of forgiveness on the other. It should be noted that the forgiveness of sins brings new hope every day.

  • Friday: “Save us from the time of trial”

Friday reminds us of Jesus’ suffering and death. In our lives it might be the time of retirement, or of tiredness setting in. It can also be a time of temptation or suffering. We think of those ill with AIDS and being infected with HIV, as well as the many orphans. We live in days of trial and temptation in
the context of rampant unemployment, a rising crime rate, corruption and violence, the rape of women and misuse of children. We pray for just law enforcement and an impartial judiciary, for a ministry of compassion, for doctors, nurses and medical staff, for people trained in pastoral ministry and diaconal work, for people who emphasise qualities such as trust, commitment, conscientiousness, preparedness to assist and help.

  • Saturday: “Deliver us from evil”

The speaker emphasized that on Saturday we think of the end of the week, the end of life, the end of a millennium, the end of this earth. We have fears of death and destruction. In fact, we want to resists all forms of evil. Evil may here be translated as things which are evil, or the evil one, the devil=D-evil and his many disguises. At this point we pray for steadfastness, comfort and proclamation of the risen Lord and request strength also by receiving the comforting Holy Communion with one another.

The division of the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer into seven days was also seen to be related to the seven words of Christ on the cross. He argues that the seven words of Jesus on the cross might assist us through the different stages of dying and grieving, such as: non-acceptance, shock, isolation, anger, negotiation, depression, outpouring and acceptance. He outlined the seven words of Christ on the cross and asserts that Jesus thereby shows us the possibility of the following:

  • To free ourselves from hurt by forgiving;
  • Of assisting those who stay behind;
  • Of opening heaven to those who realise that they are lost;
  • Of accepting the small signs of loving help even from strangers;
  • Of that walking through the dark vale feeling God has abandoned us;
  • Leaving the unfulfilled matters in the hands of him who accomplished life;
  • Placing our life into the Father’s hands.

He ended with doxology which he said that is a typical ending of every Jewish prayer and was thus added when Christians prayed the Our Father. “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever” relates to the beginning of the prayer and summarise the prayer with its Amen which is equal to “Yes, it shall be so.”

After his presentation, the participants asked questions. Among the questions asked was: Should just because people have their experiences change the gender of a person to suite their needs? This question arises from the fact that the presenter said that some women or people because of their experiences in life use she for God. To the speaker, that is not a problem to him. He divided the participants into groups to discuss one of the petitions. That was done and each group came up with a prayer and action. They are as follows:


Churches, families under guidance of your kingdom and will. Taking care of the poor and needy, thereby bringing in the kingdom of God.
Wisdom and understanding, three dimensional wills: my own, of others, and of God. Freedom of myself and others as Moses freed the Israelites.
Necessary skills for production of food, employment and change in economy. Skills development and workshops.
Speak out against injustice, joined force with powerful, greed, pray against misuses. God’s vision to empower people to resist temptation, support the poor and needy.
Empower us to care for HIV infected people and people living with AIDS; restore the morals of humanity. To assist those infected, care for them and give them love. Giving them hope that there is life after HIV and AIDS. It is never the end.
Free those who are fearful to stand for truth. Conducting workshops on hope to the people.


In conclusion, one can see that the Bible addresses people in different ways depending on who and where one may be. We can relate to God in different ways. One of the papers given to the participants has a key drawn on it. This key was divided into three components: horizontal, vertical and a round hub at the right end of the vertical position. He told the participants to make use of this ‘keep on opening doors’ that need to open and to close the doors that need to be closed.


Topic #2: Jesus and economics

Bible text: Mark 12:38-13:5

Seminar Facilitator: Mrs. Immaculee Nyiraneza

Having read the Bible passage, the facilitator asked the following three questions:

  1. What is the text about?
  1. Who are the main characters in the text?
  • What is the relationship between the characters?

The participants were divided into groups to discuss the first and second questions. After the group discussions, the findings were presented group by group:

  • Group III was of the view that looking at what is happening in South Africa, the text is about Jesus associating himself with the poor. The characters in the text includes: Jesus, widow, teachers and Jesus’ disciples.
  • According to Group IV, the text was about economy because the story was between the rich and the poor. It was also about the law, poverty, democracy and temple. They assert that people that are oppressing the poor should know that there is time for freedom of the people. In addition, the main characters are teachers of the law and the rich, poor widow, Jesus’ disciples and Jesus.
  • Groups I and II agreed with the other groups on both the first and second questions.

On what was the relationship between these four characters, the responses from the groups were as follows: according to the members of group one, all the characters had relationship with Jesus because they all go places of worship. Jesus was a leader and a teacher to the disciples. But there was oppressive relationship between the rich and the poor, which resulted in a
win/lose relation. The relationship between Jesus, the poor and the rich was the same, but Jesus rebuked the rich for the way they deal with the poor. Group IV was of the view that the relationship between the four characters can be seen as that of pride vs. humility, wealth vs. poverty, materialism vs. spirituality. The report given by the group two on the relationship between the rich and the poor showed that the rich were mismanaging the poor, while the poor perceive the rich as better people, thereby cannot relate to them. The group three showed that the relationship between Jesus and his disciples was that of teacher-student relationship, and to the poor it was compassion.

According to the facilitator, the contextual Bible study is to help understand the Bible. Therefore, in our context today, what is the relationship between the rich and the poor? How is it? Where do the rich get their wealth from? What should be our response? What should be the response of the church towards the relationship between the rich and the poor? In response to these questions, the members of group four maintained that the relationship between the rich and the poor in our context is that of exploitation. The rich get their riches from the poor through exploitation. This exploitation could be in monetary form or through knowledge. For example, they do take research from the poor and make it their own. The poor do the research and the rich take it and make it their own information. Though they pay the poor for providing the information, but the amount is always very little. They suggested that the response of the church should be on educating the people on the way to be human and their willingness to earn a living. The church should organise programmes to educate the rich on the need for fair dealings with other people. Furthermore, the lazy ones should be ready to work. However, the group one point of view as it concerns the relationship between the rich and the poor is that of winner/loser. For example, the mining company, when they arrived, they remove the people from their land without paying
them. The workers in mining industry receive small money from the company owners. In the government establishment, government officials front their family members for contracts. They argued that the church should stop exploiting people through their pastors. This is because pastors today exploit their members. One of the participants narrated how he attended a service in one of the churches and the pastor told his members that he needed R600 for groceries before he could preach. Therefore, it is needful and important that the church should speak out against exploitation by having workshops to inform people on how to get out of exploitation and encourage those exploited to stand for their rights.

The members of Group III were in agreement with what other groups have said, but added that the rich do get their wealth by robbing the poor. They called for advocacy for the poor and the promotion of equality. But according to the members of group two, rich people dictate how life should be without consulting the poor. To them it is exploitation. Furthermore, decisions in the church today are mainly based on material, the committee members are the rich people. In fact, the rich dis- empowers the poor. They called on the church to listen attentively to the needs of the poor. In addition, the church can intervene by going into the community and see how they can help the people with sustainable livelihoods.

In conclusion, the facilitator told the participants that they can use the Bible to engage with the issues on economy. The facilitator encouraged the participants to go home and use this Bible study in their churches and communities.

Topic #3: The economics of Jesus in SADC politics

Bible text: Luke 19:30-48

Seminar Facilitator: Dr. Lucas Ngoetjana

  • What is the text all about?
  • Who are the characters in the text and what do we know about them?
  • In what way is the story illustrating diaconal work?
  • How can we respond to this challenge in our context— communities/churches?

Speaking about Jesus and the New Testament society, he alluded that the images of Jesus as revealed in the text read showed that Jesus was an authoritarian commander, triumphant king, violent revolutionary and teacher. He went further to speak about the conditions and significance of the temple during the time of Jesus. Jerusalem was the centre of every thing and the temple was the most important area. He stressed that within the temple, the holy of holy was the most important place as it was the holiest place. Followed in the same other is the priest place, the place for the Jewish Men, Jewish women, the proselytes (which was less holy). However, he asserts that the temple lost its religiosity, its redemptive vision and religious hope. The temple was the largest employer in the region with 1000 priest and 1800 workers. In his own word, the temple was just like our Malls today with shops around. It was the biggest place of investment. When Israel conquered the land through their conquest, the original land owners were displaced. So the place was not commercially viable and economically isolated by the Transjordan highway. They were politically hostile with their neighbours. The temple produced robbers, Essenes and Zealots etc.

According to the speaker, the categories of the poor produced by the temple were as follows:

  • Loss of spiritual, cultural and political identity
  • No land, no property, no means of production
  • No jobs, people deep in debt
  • Exploitation of labour
  • Wage earners economy
  • Beggars, the blind aged, women, children workers and the physically challenged

The socio-political conditions in Jerusalem at that time were bad. Politically, there was violence of Roman occupation, violence of Pax Romana, violence of the military, violence of indirect rule, violence of taxation and tithes and violence of the judicial system. Religiously, there was violence of holiness system, of Pharisaic holiness, violence of Essenes withdrawal and violence of Sadducee collusion with Roman forces. It did not end there, but rather touches the cultural aspects of life. According to him, the cultural condition also amounts to the violence of Roman culture, Greek culture, Persian culture, Babylonian culture, Canaanite culture and of the Egyptian culture. On the economic side, there was violence of land dispossession, tithes, the temple, Herodian rule, absentee Lords, and the Roman capital. Furthermore, there was violence of tax collectors and of wage labour. Moreover, the social conditions were also bad. There was division and racism (Jew/Gentile/Roman/Greek/Aramaic/Canaanites/Samaritan/He mharatz).On wealth, there was division between the rich and the poor and ultimately, the violence of the cross, rupture with the course, the just dying for the unjust.

It was on this context that the New Testament emerged. The society produced the difficulties in those days. It was therefore the condition of poverty that gave birth to Jesus. He maintained that whenever there is dire need, deliverance comes. Therefore, it is important for us in our days and context to do something to change the course of life. That is one reason we are here for this training.

This session was closed with prayers for Zimbabwe which were written in groups and submitted to Dr. Ngoetjana for uploading onto the internet.

Topic #3: Diaconal work

Bible text: Matthew 25:31-46

Seminar Facilitator: Ms. Bongi Zengele

The facilitator started by asking the participants to explain what they understand by the word ‘diaconal.’ Some responded by saying that it means: church work within the community, amalgamation of churches or collaboration of churches. Some were of the opinion that it means service, working together, helping people (the voiceless people), capability building.

  1. What is the text all about?
  2. Who are the characters in the text and what do we know about them?
  • In what way is the story illustrating diaconal work?
  1. How can we respond to this challenge in our context – communities/churches?

In response to the first question, the participants varied in their answers. Some of the answers given were as follows:

  • Contribution of believers.
  • The unbelievers and their success at the end of the story.
  • Two groups of people—believers and unbelievers.
  • Setting of standards of what was expected to be done.
  • It was about equality—everyone is equal before God.
  • It was about outreach—reaching out to people.
  • Consequences of doing good and doing bad.
  • The reward for doing good things.
  • Facing the challenges.

After the response to the first question, Participants were divided into groups to discuss on the rest of the questions. At
the end of the group discussions, the participants came together again to present their findings or answers to other questions. The following were the outcome of the group discussions:

  • Group IV was of the view that two characters are the son of man and people (represented by sheep and goats). According to this group, the title of Son of Man refers to the humanitarian side of Jesus. He is pro-poor. On the one hand, sheep are obedient and listen to the voice of the shepherd. They are also united. On the other, goats are not obedient; they scatter all over the place and do not care. Therefore, they sum it up by saying that what the sheep does is what diaconal is about.
  • Group III differed in its opinion. According to this group, the characters in this text include Jesus, nation, community (righteous and non-righteous), father and angels.
  • Group II agreed that the characters include Jesus, the righteous, the non-righteous (evil) and poor people.
  • Group I believed that characters in the text included Jesus, goats, sheep and the poor/needy. So the responses of these groups are similar.

With respect to the third question,

  • Group IV asserted that what the sheep does is what diaconal work is all about.
  • Group I was of the opinion that it was about social work. This includes ministering to those who are hungry, sick, lonely, in prison, spiritual and physically challenged. The church should therefore be practical and not theoretical on these issues. The church should speak out for the voiceless people. In addition, the church should be the place of hope for the community.
  • Group III thought the story is illustrated diaconal work through hospital visit, prison visit, and acceptance of strangers.

The facilitator asserts that we need to lobby all the spheres of government to deliver the services needed by the society. There is need to address poverty, health, education, justice issue, law enforcement and infrastructural development. The church must therefore develop programmes which will address their members’ needs for their development and upliftment.

In responding to the fourth question, it was agreed that the church will respond through advocacy work. The church should be the church of the poor and not the church for the poor. There is also need for capacity building and that God is working in and through us. The church should help to create a friendly environment comfortable for every person. At this point the facilitator thanked the participants and told them that they did very well and should keep it up.

Topic #4: Models of Democracy, Administration of Justice and Good Governance

Bible text: Exodus 18:13-27; Acts 6: 1 – 8.

Seminar Facilitator: Dr. Simangaliso Kumalo

There were seven questions that the speaker asked the participants to engage with. The lesson of the Bible Study was based on the governance of people by Moses. The speaker highlighted that Moses was using a dictatorship method in governing the Israelites. Jethro the Priest who was also his father in-law came as an outsider to instruct Moses on how the people should be governed. Moreover, the speaker explained three types of leadership, the first one is Authoritarian Leadership, the second one is Laissez-faire Leadership and the third one is Democratic leadership. Jethro encouraged Moses to involve people in his leadership. The new system came
with Jethro, where there is sharing of responsibilities and people understood their roles. At the end the story was related to our context today.

Six questions were raised by from the text:

  1. What is the text all about? Responding to this question, participants made useful contributions in identifying what the text is all about. Among the contributions are that the text is about sharing of responsibilities/duties, good service delivery, leadership, identification of the peoples need, apartheid, responding to the conflict, question of gender, elections, mobilization, inequality, complain and response, and economy. These are the issues participants identified as being the crux of the text.
  2. Who are the actors in this text? In responding, the participants identified the following people as the actors: widows, the elected, disciples/apostles, Greeks and Hebrews.
  • What form of leadership did we find in the text? The view of the participants was that the twelve apostles served as councillors, with Peter as the key spokesperson or chairperson.
  1. What role did the followers played? They identified their problems. They took action on the identified problems by identifying the right office to knock at, and reported the injustice.
  2. What role did the leaders played? They created space for the people to come and express their views. In addition, they respected the views of the people and laid down criteria to be followed for election.
  1. What does the text teach in terms of leadership/governance? According to the participants, the text portrays weak leadership council in the sense they could only wait to hear the people complain before doing the right thing. They lack procreative. In
    addition, the text teaches that the Church should not be quite in leadership/governance issues, but rather participate actively for good leadership/governance to emerge. The text also shows the gap between the council and the grassroots, as a result, they did not see what was taking place in the community. This should not be so. Nevertheless, the text as well showed the wisdom of the leaders by their response to the issues raised by the people. Furthermore, involvement of people is a sign of empowerment. We also see gender insensitivity (patriarchy).

Topic #5: Marginalised voices – Inventing spaces, Invited spaces and Invading spaces to facilitate active citizenship.

Bible text: 1 Samuel 8:1-22

Seminar Facilitator: Dr. Simangaliso Kumalo

  • What is the text about?
  • Who are the actors?
  • What is God’s response to the request?
  • Is there any relevance of this text in today’s monarchical system of governance?
  • What is your conclusion of monarchy as the system of governance?

The Bible study session started with songs of praise and worship, after which a word of prayer was offered by one of the participants.

Before looking into the text, the facilitator in person of Dr. Kumalo spoke of four different spaces. According to him, the spaces are:

  1. Invited space This is when government invites one
  2. Invented space We invite government to speak with them
  • Invaded space When government invade the space without invitation
  1. Involved space When the church seat with government to agree on a certain activities. In this case, both are equal partners. It is a negotiated space.

He was of the view that the church should be working for the involved space. This is for a longer time, not for a short period. He cited what his church (the Methodist Church of Southern Africa) is doing in Durban. According to him, the church organises for people infected with HIV to receive ARVs and supplements in their church after church service at the sixth floor of the church building. These drugs are supplied by the government. It serves them better than the pains they experience by leaving their working place when they are due to collect their medications.

Who are the characters in the text?

A number of actors were mentioned. They include: God, Samuel, Samuel’s sons, the people (Israelites), and elders of Israel. On what is the text about, various answers were given by the participants. The text is about good governance, about management of community, change of leadership, corruption and justice, about monarchy, the people need someone that will lead them to war because they were threatened by wars around them. The next question was on Samuel’s response to the people. He was displeased with the people because to him it amounts to the rejection of God’s leadership and demand for human leadership. Although Samuel was protecting theocracy—God’s rule, however, he was as well protecting his own interest as a leader.

What was God’s response?

God said to Samuel, why do you worry? They have not rejected you but me (God). God told Samuel to listen to them.

In fact, God gives the will to choose leadership system. He was also aware of the injustices that were coming from Samuel’s family. Give them a king. And what will this king do to the people? The text outlined numerous behaviours or actions of the king as follows:

  1. The king will take their sons and make them soldiers, forcing their sons to be soldiers. He will set up systems and groups to represent him in their communities. But is there anything wrong on that? There is nothing wrong in that if he does not threaten the freedom of the people. However, God was saying that their freedom will be controlled and limited.
  2. The king will make the people to work in his field. This is what is happening in Swaziland. Every November/December men works in the field of the king of Swaziland while the king will be enjoying his life with his many wives and children. This has been taken to be a culture. If you are a good Swazi, you must go to the king’s farm and work.
  • The king also will take their daughters as slaves. Taking South Africa as a case study, there is a law that one cannot take a child under eighteen years to be wife. But the kings’ point to the young girls they want. Kings will use this text to justify their actions. In Swaziland, there is a festival called “reed dance” where beautiful girls come to dance in front of the king and the king picks a wife from them. The king will not pay labola (bride price) as others will do.
  1. The king will take away their lands and fields – remember the story of Ahab and Naboath on the issue of vineyard.
  2. The peoples best fields will be given to the king’s officers
  3. They will be slaves
  • They will cry to God because of the king and God will not help them. It is not saying that to have a king is

wrong, rather if care is not taken, having king will ruin the people. God gave kings the right to rule, but the people should not allow kings to enslave them. In fact, democracy and monarchy should not enslave people. viii. What is the challenge of this text to us today?

Topic #6: The Widows Offering

Bible text: Mark 12:41-44

Seminar Facilitator: Prof. Gerald West

The process explained and issues raised

Prof. West conducted a Bible study in a democratic way where everybody participated; this being different from the norm in the church where ministers tell congregants what the Bible says as if they are the only ones who can hear God speaking.

The following six questions were asked:

  1. Read Mark 12:41-44. What is the text about?
  2. Now read Mark 12:38-40, the text that immediately precedes Mark12:41-44. Are there connections between 12:41-44 and 12:38-40? What are they?
  • Now read Mark 13:1-2, the text that immediately follows Mark12:41-44. Are there connections between Mark 12:41-44 and Mark 13:1-3? If so, what are they?
  1. Jesus comes to the temple at Mark 11:27 and leaves the temple at Mark 13:2. In this literally unit who are the main characters or groups of characters, what do we know about them, and what are the relationships between them? Draw a picture of the relationships between the characters in the temple. What does your picture say about the literary unit as a whole?
  2. Summarise in one sentence Mark’s message in this literary unit.
  3. What does this Bible study say to your context?

vii. What will you do in response to this Bible study bearing in mind that the temple that Jesus was attacking was a place of social, political, cultural, economic and religious issues of his time.


Liturgy #1: On poverty and destitution Sermon Text: Luke 16:19-31

Call to worship


Dear God look down upon the starving world, the homeless men, women, the widowed, and the children. God give us caring hearts. We admit we come from heartless world. Pictures of starving children hardly give us burden, the appeal for charity leaves us cold. Forgive us God. We are so eager to make our own lives comfortable while others suffer hunger and want.

Grant to your afflicted children, O Lord hope in their hearts and peace in their mind. Grant us who have enough of this world, the spirit to share with those that do not have.

For all who are starving God we ask for your saving mercy, help us to help them, move the government and the churches to give relief and to fight for their justice. In Jesus Christ. Amen.


At this stage a hymn or spiritual song that carries the message of the theme can be sung, which includes issues of destitution, misery, suffering, isolation, neglect, as well as hope.


What is the text about?

  • In the text there are two different worlds depicted, the terrestrial world and the celestial world.

o There are two worlds depicted: the world of the

poor and the world of the rich.

o In the world of the rich there are all kinds of foods, expensive clothing, expensive housing, expensive mode of transport, good health and life is just luxurious.

o In the world of the poor there are all kinds of suffering, there is no food, no clothing, no shelter, no means of transport beside foot, poor health and life is very miserable.

o Whilst the tables of the rich are covered by all types of appetising food, the poor survive by scrounging in dust bins and dumping areas often in competition with dogs and other animals.

o While the life of the rich man is characterised by nourishment, which means good health, long life expectancy, the life of Lazarus is punctuated by grinding poverty, malnourishment, disease and premature death. o The text says when Lazarus died he was carried by angels into heaven and when the poor man died he was buried and ended up in hell.

o The call for relief by the rich man was denied in the afterlife by Abraham.

Application of the text

  • The existence of massive poverty and suffering alongside massive wealth and luxury is indicative of a flowed economic policy.
  • This text teaches us to be able to share with those that do not have.
  • The text challenges us, to be able to assist the ill of our communities. People who live with HIV and AIDS, people suffering from cancer, and other diseases must be catered for.


  • The church and the government should come together, and work to eliminate poverty and suffering amongst the people.

Prayer of commitment

A prayer should be offered commending the poor to God and asking God to change the hearts of the rich so that they can be enabled to share with the poor. In addition, the church and State should be commended to God in prayer so that together they may be able to change the economic structures that perpetuate poverty.

Closing prayer

A prayer should be offered asking for strength and courage from God for people to go and transform society.

Liturgy #2: On Worker’s Day

Sermon Texts: Isaiah 61:1-9; Luke 1:46-54


The minister greets the congregation in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Purpose of the service

Brothers and sisters, today we join together as we commemorate and remember those who fought for the rights of workers in our country. We are aware that the struggle of workers is not yet over as there are other areas where workers are not yet free, for example conditions of service, salaries, and allowances to mention but a few.

Call to worship

The Lord God loves justice, and hates robbery and injustice (cf. Isa. 61:8)


  • A prayer that encompasses the conditions of workers, that talks about their salaries and their allowances.
  • The prayer must ask God to give human hearts to employers so that they can really become considerate when they pay their workers.
  • The prayer must remember the workers who died on duty.

First Scripture reading

  • Isaiah 61:1-9 Second Scripture reading
    • Luke 1: 46-54


The hymn must prepare people to remember those who work for a little or no remuneration at all.


What is the text about?

  • The text is about God who is concerned with justice.

o The same God opposes robbery.

o God who calls upon people to love one another. o God who takes the side of the oppressed descended and intervened to rescue the oppressed.

o God came to proclaim the period of grace in which all are put at the same level as in the jubilee year.

o He came to comfort the mourning.

Application of the text

  • The church as the ambassador of God must ensure that justice permeates all sectors of the society.
  • Those that have robbed others must pay back.
  • The church and government should listen to those that are groaning in pain.
  • The workers should receive sustaining salaries and allowances so that they may be able to take care of their families.
  • The employers should be challenged to make a deliberate move to better working conditions, to ensure the safety of workers at areas of work is guaranteed.
  • The employers must insure their workers so that in case of accidents they receive maximum treatment from the medical institutions.
  • The rights of all workers should be respected.

Closing prayer

The prayer must include specific prayer requests by workers. Blessing

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us now and forever Amen.

Recessional hymn

Fight the Good fight, Christ is your strength.

Liturgy #3: Peasants, Proletariat and Workers’ Day Sermon Texts: Matthew 20:1-16

Worship session

Three worship choruses were sung which introduced people into the atmosphere of worship.

Opening prayer

A prayer that focuses people on the purpose and essence of the day was given.

Text of the day

Matthew 20:1-16


What is the text about?

  • The text is about people who were seeking employment.

o The text features a different groups of labourers who were engaged at different times. Some at 9am and others at noon some at 3pm and some at 5pm.

o At the time of payment they received the same wages.

o Those who had worked the whole day complained why they received the same wages with late comers.

Application of the text

  • Employers must listen to the complaints raised by workers.
  • It was unfair to pay labourers who had worked for one hour only the same wage with those that spend the whole day working.
  • If the employer wanted to be generous, with these labourers he should have applied his generosity across.
  • This parable repudiates the doctrine of meritocracy, and as a result the workers were justified to complain against the farm owner.
  • People should be remunerated on pro rata basis.
  • The church and the government should make sure that the expertise of the workers should be remunerated.

Addresses by invited speakers

  • The purpose of the day was explained
  • The guests were introduced
  • A speech was delivered on behalf of municipalities
  • A speech was delivered on behalf of the Government
  • Music
  • Speech on behalf of workers
  • Speech from the Guest speaker
  • The speech covered the following:

o Problems faced by South African Workers o Problems of unemployment o Death at work places

Vote of thanks

Appreciated all who attended and the contribution of workers in the country

National Anthem

The service was closed by singing national anthem.

Liturgy #4: Gender equality Sermon Texts: Genesis 1:27-28

Theme of service

Gender equality Hymn

A hymn or spiritual song that highlights issues of gender equality

Scripture reading Genesis 1:27-28 What is the text about?

  • The text tells us that God created women and men in God’s image.

o The text tells us that the male and the female

are created equal.

o Both were given the responsibility to procreate o There were given dominion over the whole created order.

Application of the text

  • The church must acknowledge the equality between men and women which is God Given.
  • The church should educate the community including the government to respect this created order by God.
  • Humanity has been given the responsibility to take care of the created order.


A prayer that asks God to empower people to be able to accept that women are not inferior to men.


Offers a choral piece which encourages people to demonstrate equality between different genders.


Offering of the day was given and the proceeds were dedicated to women programmes.

Prayer for the offering

A prayer was given to thank God for his providence.

Closing prayer and benediction

The meeting was closed with words of benediction


The socio-economic and political context of the Bible in many ways resembles the context of Africa in general and South Africa in particular. As a result, the Bible provides an entry point in understanding the social and moral dynamics of our society. It is on this premise that the Bible can be used as a resource for understanding and dealing with issues that continue to weigh heavily on the people of South Africa and beyond. This said, it is noteworthy that South Africa, prior to the establishment of democracy in 1994, employed the Bible to serve selfish and parochial interests. The State theologians of the day worked tirelessly to prove that the kind of racist state that they advocated for, was theologically justifiable. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans chapter 13 was the text of choice that was often used to silence citizens even in the face of abusive and discriminatory laws. This text was interpreted as meaning that every government is coroneted by God and as such must be obeyed by everyone.

This motif was broken by the authors of the Kairos Document which sought to prove beyond all doubt that Romans 13 had been read out of context and was thus criminalised. They went on to chart a new paradigm where the Bible was used to liberate as opposed to oppress people. It is this understanding that redefined the relationship between church and state in South Africa as being one of critical solidarity. It seems therefore to us that the work of the Religion and Governance Programme in the School of Religion and Theology is invaluable in so far as it radiates this philosophy of critical solidarity. Indeed, in refusing to be just another academic discourse, we deliberately foreground critical engagement and solidarity as a powerful tool towards individual and communal transformation.

The other strength of the Religion and Governance Programme is that it impacts on the consciousness of both influential and ordinary people. It creates a responsible mindset for those in positions of authority and creates a way of thinking that is satisfied by nothing short of justice to all for those who are so governed. It is this equation that can result in a just society where the rights of individuals are considered sacred.

Duly actualised, the themes highlighted in this booklet will contribute to the building of an egalitarian and democratic South Africa. For us, top on our list, must be the issue of land which continues to haunt the poor black population of South Africa. The people of South Africa will continue to remain dependent until they have full access to land which is an inalienable right for every citizen. The church must continue to be the torch bearer in this regard until the land is delivered to the poor.

Furthermore, the church must not be co-opted by government; otherwise it will soon lose its prophetic voice. In addition, the church must not be married to the rich; otherwise it will become a perpetual widow without any rights.

Issues of HIV and AIDS, gender inequality, poverty, and housing, to mention a few, remain existential issues. The church must consider these as evil and the result of sin, which Christ through his death can transform. Consequently, the topical issues contained in these brief studies must be incorporated in the church’s Bible studies, as well as its liturgy. For example, pastors and lay preachers must talk about HIV and AIDS at weddings, funerals and graduation ceremonies.

Issues of corruption and bad governance have authored the failure of Africa. These have become a cancer upon our
fledgling democracy. The Religion and Governance Programme must continue with all vigour to equip Christians with skills to denounce corruption at every level. Religious people must stand together on moral grounds higher than those devoid of faith, and must lead by example by uprooting all undemocratic tendencies and promote justice and peace for all.

Religion must be used to create a society that affirms an egalitarian society. Indeed, when God created woman and man, God was signing a promissory note that all would be equal before God. It is on this basis that we continue to applaud and uphold the work done by the Religion and Governance Programme.