Begin Free Online Ordination

100 Dollar BillThere’s a story in the Bible about a woman anointing Jesus’ feet with an expensive oil. It’s one of the few events recorded in all four Gospels. Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha, poured very expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and dried it with her hair. In Matthew 26, it’s recorded that the disciples were indignant. They believed that the perfume could have been sold for a great deal of money to be donated to the poor. Jesus chastised them, saying, “She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.”

In a modern-day twist, a South Carolina Mega Church pastor is facing criticism for buying his wife a Lamborghini. John Gray purchased the $200,000 Urus SUV for his wife as an anniversary gift. Gray himself has said that he used money from his book deals and television reality show to purchase the gift, and that none of it came out of his congregants’ pockets. Still, he’s been lambasted on social media for the purchase, with some commenters speculating that, despite his words, he used money from the church to pay for the gift. Gray, of course, vigorously denies that allegation. Even if the funds for the Lamborghini Urus weren’t lifted directly from the church coffers, should someone in church leadership, who spread the message of charitably helping the less fortunate, have a luxury vehicle? A mansion? A private jet?

Churches Fall Under Higher Scrutiny

In 2007, six wealthy evangelists were the subject of Senate investigations seeking to ensure that the organizations weren’t taking advantage of their non-profit status. Two of the church leaders under investigation, Benny Hinn and Joyce Meyer, cooperated with the investigation and provided complete documentation to the Senate and were not found to have done anything wrong. The other four church leaders opted not to fully comply with the Senate investigation, but were found not to have definitively committed any wrongdoing at the investigation’s conclusion. 

A frustrated Meyer is reported to have said, “You can be a businessman here in St. Louis, and people think the more you have, the more wonderful it is ... but if you're a preacher, then all of a sudden it becomes a problem.” She also refused to defend her spending habits, saying she was blessed and would not apologize for it.

Creflo Dollar, who also found his organization under scrutiny by the Senate and who opted not to cooperate with the investigation, drives a Rolls Royce provided by the church. He said, “Just because it (my life) is excessive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong.” The Senate probe did not bring any charges against his church, but he has been criticized for his luxurious lifestyle and is a proponent of prosperity gospel. Recently, he created a failed crowdfunding attempt to get his church an expensive private jet.

For their positive contributions to society, churches are given tax-exempt status. And the Senate has a duty to the American public to ensure that those organizations are following the law. It’s understandable for a pastor to be upset that their personal purchases come under public scrutiny; It must be frustrating living under a microscope. But when you run a tax-exempt organization and so much of the public’s trust is put on your shoulders, scrutiny should be welcomed, encouraged, and expected.

A Higher Standard?

Pastors often live in a fishbowl, with every member of their congregation having different expectations on how the pastor should live. Some people believe that the pastor should project a certain image by driving a nice car and wearing expensive clothes. Others believe that the pastor should live humbly.

Rightly or wrongly, much of the scrutiny applied to church leaders is related to their personal purchases. As in the case of John Gray and his $200,000 Lamborghini, the public is often outraged when they see such an extravagant display of wealth. Indeed, it’s easy to see how such a spendthrift purchase could be construed as a flagrant display of pride and greed, two of the seven deadly sins. 

True, if that money was earned fairly then they have every right to spend it how they please. And it is also true they may also have other income streams beyond their church salary. But shouldn’t those who claim to speak for God live up to His expectations of charity and good will? And if there is little oversight of Mega Churches, the church needs to be transparent in its spending so the public can maintain confidence in the organization.

Because if these Mega Church pastors truly want to enter the Kingdom of God they so often speak of, there’s a quote from Jesus about a camel and the eye of a needle they may want to revisit.

Category: Society Church

minister culture money legal finance

Add Your Comment

To post a comment you must log in first.
You may alternatively login with your credentials, below.
Have a question? Ask us now!
Welcome. If you have any questions, I'm happy to help.