Friday, January 3, 2014

My View On Rich Pastors! Hmm...this should be interesting.

Recently I saw this Facebook post on a friends wall:

I was not surprised by the responses that he got for posting it. I won't copy and paste the responses but basically they were rants about how they can't stand pastors who drive around fancy cars, live in fancy houses, take expensive vacations to the Bahamas and wear expensive jewelry while many in the congregations that are paying their salary live in modest homes and can't afford a vacation in the U.S. let alone one to another country. One even commented something like "that's prosperity gospel for you". \

I have seen these types of posts before and have done much thinking about this type thing. First of all, the Bible, contrary to popular belief, does not say that money is the root of all evil but in 1 Timothy 6:10 says this:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

I could have quoted that verse but I am not sure if quoting verses would have done much good with the folks that I was responding to. So I tried another approach. I tried to reason a little with them. I know! I know! My wife says that whenever I start responding to comments mad by folks that differ with me in any way it doesn't go well. However, I did it anyway. I did some research on Joel Osteen and started to respond and the more I wrote the more I thought to myself that this is turning into a blog post. So, since, I have been thinking about resurrecting my poor forgotten blog anyway, and since I figured a lot of folks might be surprised at my response due to the fact that I work with low income folks, I decided to post my response on my blog. So, here it is, with just a few changes to remove names of the folks I was responding to and to correct some grammatical errors.

***** and ***** (the removed names) You do realize that Joel Osteen takes no salary from his church, does not ask for money on television, lives pretty much solely on his book deals, and gives millions of dollars to charity a year don't you. And that's just him personally. I'm not talking about the different ministries to the homeless and poor in both the United States and around the world that his church has and supports. 

On the other hand, there is a pastor in my small town that receives 80% of the offering that comes in and, in the past five years, has gone to the Bahamas twice. Oh, but perhaps I should mention that his church is a fairly new church, has a total congregation of 60, and that he has another job as does his wife. The two trips made to the Bahamas? They were gifts given to him by a friend that lives in the Bahamas. Neither one of those times, though, did he feel the need to stand up, wave his arms and make it public that the trips were paid for by a friend and not by the church (although there were many in the community that thought that). I didn't expect him to because, quite frankly, it was nobody's business but God's, his and the friend that paid for the trip. The only reason I know is because I am a good friend of the pastor. 

There are preachers that are on TV that have done wrong and many that haven't. There are politicians (on both sides of the aisle) that have done wrong and many that haven't. There are business people, corporate people, sports people, poor people, rich people name it...that have misled folks and done wrong but most don't. If I don't like what a business does, I don't support that business. If I don't like what a personality does. I don't watch his shows or buy his books. If I am going to a church and I don't like what's being done with the money, I don't put money in the offering plate, but do try to get on the finance committee or complain to someone that is. I have a choice.

Now, to compare. Our current president just took his umpteenth vacation to Hawaii (just as his predecessors took vacations except maybe not to Hawaii). He is also worth millions and last year's public disclosure forms said that he owed between $500,000 and $1 million on a 30 year mortgage on his home so I would assume that his home is worth around $1 mil. Yet his previous job was as a community organizer who wanted to help people. I wonder how he got his money. Did he dupe anyone? No, he got most of his money from speaking engagements and his books. However, his vacations are pretty much all tax payer funded (Just as the vacations of all presidents are. I'm not trying to pick on anyone). But, while I have a choice as to whether I buy his books or attend his speaking engagements, I don't have a choice as to whether I am going to fund his vacations. I wonder what would happen if I decided I didn't like the way my tax money was being spent and that I wasn't going to pay my taxes this year. 

And don't get me started on the fact that you think that a million dollar home is just too much. Well, I happen to direct a ministry to low income families that live in the projects in my town. I live in a very modest, way under $100,000 home. Most of the people that live in the projects would just love to live in my home. Maybe I should sell it and spread the wealth so that we could all live in a $10,000 shack. For that matter, how much is your home worth? $100,000? $200,000? More? Boy would I like that! You have way too much compared to them. How about selling your house and sharing some with me and the people in the projects and we can all  live in shacks. Some better than they lived in before and, poor you and me, some not as nice as they lived in before. After all, shouldn't it be the goal of all mankind, religious folks or not, to serve others and want better for others? So shouldn't we all just sell all that we have and practice what we preach? 

That sounds pretty ridiculous doesn't it? Would you do that? Maybe a million dollar house is a little extravagant but where do you draw the line? No matter how little you have there are always going to be people worse off in this world that have less and, compared to them, you are rich. Believe it or not, most pastors that live in wealthy homes don't dupe their congregations to get the money. Are some dishonest? Yes, but, as we said before there are some dishonest folks in every profession. If we find out that someone is dishonest in any profession we have a choice - report them if they are doing something illegal or just don't support them or buy their products if we just don't like what they are doing with their money. Other than that, when you realize that most of these people that are wealthier than us are giving far more than we ever could to good causes maybe we should lay off of them a little bit. Let them do what they feel is right for their fellow man and let us do what we feel that we can.

So, that was it. What do you all think? Am I way off base? Trust me, I've been way off base before and I'm sure I will be again. Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts. Are all wealthy pastors wrong? Should there be a line drawn? If so, where should that line be? Before you write, though, let me just tell you that, even though I feel that Joel Osteen and other wealthy people should be allowed to do what they wish with their money I am in no way condoning or not condoning what he or any other pastor preaches. We can save that discussion for another day. I'm just wondering if you think a pastor, or any Christian for that matter, should be wealthy.