Should pastors get rich?

Sometimes I tag questions at the end of these posts for a variety of reasons — to promote thoughtful discussion or generate feedback, for example.

Today’s topic is one that I genuinely struggle with and would appreciate hearing what you think, especially pastors. Hopefully, I have build up a little audience by this point and you’ll jot me a note with your thoughts.

The topic is known as “prosperity theology.” To me it comes down to whether it is wrong for serious theologians to gain wealth. I first discussed this on Oct. 12.

The topic then, and now, was/is Joel Osteen. Senior pastor for Lakewood Church in Houston, Osteen, 48, is also a best-selling author whose ministry reaches over seven million broadcast media viewers weekly in over 100 nations around the world.

He is a millionaire who unabashedly espouses prosperity theology. Huffington Post has a new blog entry on the best paid pastors in America. Of course, Osteen is on the list.

According to the article, he has made tens of millions of dollars off his numerous books. He and his wife, Victoria Osteen, moved to a luxurious $10.5 million, 17,000 square-foot mansion in the River Oaks neighborhood of Houston in 2010.

Sorry, I just can’t see someone faithfully administering the teachings of God while living in that kind of obscene opulence. There’s a conflict there for me. And I’m not suggesting that only a vow of poverty will permit me to trust your motives, but who needs a 17,000-square-foot home?

The home has three elevators and five wood-burning fireplaces. Because, you know, who can get by with just four wood-burning fireplaces?

That’s not all. The Osteens also own a 5,600-square-foot, four-bedroom home valued at $2.9 million. They were already in the 1 percent, but felt it necessary to join the 0.01 percent.

I just can’t rationalize blatant compensation grab when the ministry by nature is supposed to be about helping others and sharing God’s word. Instead, Osteen seems more concerned with pumping out self-help books in order to keep the bucks flowing in. I would like to know his philanthropic works. Perhaps I am being unfair.

So tell me what you think? Can a man or woman of God also pursue riches? Or are the two ideas fundamentally at odds?



About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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2 Responses to Should pastors get rich?

  1. Robert Robinson says:

    I realize there are books on wealth being condoned in verses of the Bible. There is also the passage about a wealthy man can no more get into heaven than one can fit a camel through the eye of a needle. Hopefully, Joel Osteen meets the latter criteria and he rots in hell.

  2. Dianne says:

    The “eye of the needle” refers to a smaller gate in the wall, a pedestrian gate. Both Jerusalem and Damascus had them in the great walls. A camel COULD enter through the “eye of the needle” gate, but it would be more difficult and (a camel) would probably need to kneel in order to do so.

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