I just watched the first episode of Preachers of L.A. and felt this was the perfect opportunity to discuss the wealth & prosperity of pastor/preachers.
Some of the richest men in history were from the Bible. King Solomon is considered to be the richest man that ever walked the earth (read 2 Chronicles 9) who preceded his own father King David (1 Chronicles 29) who was also a very, very rich man of God. And everyone knows the story of Job who was the greatest man in the land and lost all of his wealth only to be rewarded with double his wealth when he chose not to curse God (Job 42:10-17). Sure, there are many examples of paupers & beggars in the Bible but since God has no respect of persons this means that those in the body of Christ can be either be sick or healthy, have an easy life or a difficult one, or can be very poor or very rich.
The television show Preachers of L.A. highlights the lives of 6 preachers in the greater Los Angeles area. The purpose of this show is to explore the human side of these ambitious and very powerful men of faith. Many people may not agree with the “celebrity” status that these preachers have and feel like they may be exploiting the gospel by flaunting their fancy cars, tailored suits and lavish houses. But as Ron Gibson, one of the preachers on the show explains: “P. Diddy, Jay Z. They’re not the only ones who should be driving Ferraris and living in nice houses.” And he’s right.
Why should athletes and musicians be the only ones that can get rich & live a lavish lifestyle? As I’ve already mentioned, there were many rich men in the Bible so why should that change in today’s times? Instead of fatted oxen, silver & gold and exotic spices, today preachers can drive Bentley’s and make use of private jets. Don’t private jets help people travel faster? Wouldn’t a preacher be able to reach more people if he didn’t have to spend more time at the airport or on an airplane? Why do people think that the men of God should live a lowly or even “common” lifestyle? Is it because Jesus practiced humility so anyone who preaches His word must automatically live a humble lifestyle as well? Or is it because people feel like if there are church members who are struggling their pastor should be forced to donate their own personal wealth for the good of the church body? Well, as I wrote a little earlier there were lots of men in the Bible who had accumulated wealth & each and every one of them were men after God’s own heart. Yes Jesus himself lived a very modest lifestyle but he never called us to live in the same way. Other people in the Bible may have lived like that (like Paul), but he does not say that we ALL must live like that. Following Jesus means believing in Him and drawing others to Christ, not wearing a robe and sandals all day long. Do you see what I’m saying? Bear in mind, not all preachers are rich. There are some very poor pastors out there. But if all preachers were poor no one would want to be members of their churches. People would surely think, “If this pastor can barely pay his own bills then I don’t want to follow the same God that he’s preaching about.” Besides, giving money away to people in the church who need help doesn’t necessarily fix their money problems. You know the saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Should there be programs in place to help those that need it? Absolutely! Should there be other community outreach programs through the church? Absolutely! But does that mean it all has to come out of the pastor’s pockets? Absolutely not! A pastor’s job is not to donate all of the money that he has earned, it’s to win souls for Christ and lead the people of God.
There are many scriptures in the Bible that speak about money, greed, wealth and prosperity. Matthew 6:24 states “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” This means that there should only be one focus in our lives and that should be Jesus Christ, not money. In other words, we may work to get money but we work for Jesus Christ. Making money is good but it should not be our main focus. People are probably most familiar with I Timothy 6:10 where it tells us “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Notice the verse says the love of money is the root of evil – which is very different than saying having money it the root of evil. Although Paul proclaimed not to want anything for preaching the gospel of Christ, in 1 Corinthians 9 he clearly says that “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” Could there be any clearer statement supporting the idea that a pastor can indeed be paid for his ministerial work?
The concept of mega churches is not exclusive to the African American community either. There have been faith leaders all the way from Martin Luther in the 1500’s to present day Joel Osteen who have led droves of people to Jesus Christ. While all mega-preachers may not flaunt their wealth, they certainly have plenty of it. But contrary to popular belief, the majority of their amassed wealth does not come from their actual church salary. Most preachers at the “mega” level make their real money by writing books, traveling and receiving honorariums from speaking engagements. Just look at church leaders like Rick Warren, Paula White or TD Jakes. In many cases the pastor is the largest financial supporter of his own church, often donating much of his earnings back into the church that he’s leading. So no, preachers are not taking money out of the pockets of their own church members for their own financial gain.