Joel Osteen to do Hershey; should pastors get rich?

The Bible is filled with passages related to greed. My favorite is part of Matthew 6:24, which reads: “You cannot serve God and money.”

It cuts straight to the point. I’ve written about prosperity theology before and my opinion hasn’t changed. Those pastors who reach for fame and fortune quite frequently find shame and sin.

Joel Osteen and his wife, Victoria. (The Associated Press)

The list is long. I return to this topic due to the recent announcement that megachurch rock star pastor Joel Osteen is bringing his “A Night of Hope” tour to the Giant Center at 7:30 p.m. May 31.

For the low, low price of $17.75, a press release promises “this Night of Hope will bring together people of all different backgrounds from across the region for an exciting time of praise and worship where lives are changed and hope is restored.”

The first part of that sounds like a normal Sunday at church. Osteen is going to lead “praise and worship,” albeit on a bigger stage. Not worth a long drive and twenty bucks for a ticket. But wait, the good pastor is promising that “lives will be changed” and “hope will be restored.”

The press release continued:

“Joel’s appeal is universal, allowing him to crossover to audiences that are diverse racially, politically and socioeconomically. His ability to speak directly to individuals and to connect personally with them is virtually unmatched today. And, his simple message that God cares deeply for each of us and empowers us to overcome and succeed resonates with millions, bringing hope and encouragement to a world that desperately needs it.”

Hmmm… I am recalling a comment by Newt Gingrich directed at the Democrats following Bill Clinton’s re-election in 1996: “I hope you folks aren’t overpromising what you can’t deliver.”

I will set aside for a moment my distaste for the arrogant suggestion that the world “needs” Joel Osteen to connect with it.

To be fair, I am sure Osteen will deliver a nice message and put on a good, glittering show. He and his wife, Victoria, are attractive folks and, compared to a typical “night with so and so…” twenty bucks is really a bargain, right?

No doubt. But when I first saw the news, I thought why charge anything? At our house, we sometimes watch a little of Joyce Meyer at 10 p.m. on ME TV weeknights. Meyer is a star televangelist who travels the country delivering her no-nonsense brand of Christianity. And tickets to her talks cost … wait for it… nothing.

And in case you are thinking Meyer has taken some vow of poverty, guess again. She is worth many millions. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, other than it doesn’t feel right.

Again, the fill Matthew 6:24 verse: “No one can serve two masters, for 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 God and money.”

As much as I wanted to believe Joyce Meyer is only interested in ministering to people who need it, a quick web search revealed the ministry star once owned a $23,000 commode.

It was part of a 2003 series by the St. Louis Post Dispatch exposing Meyer’s “$10 million corporate jet, her husband’s $107,000 silver-gray Mercedes sedan, her then $2 million home and houses worth another $2 million for her four children”, her $20 million headquarters, furnished with “$5.7 million worth of furniture, artwork, glassware, and the latest equipment and machinery, including a malachite round table, a marble-topped antique commode, a custom office bookcase, a $7,000 Stations of the Cross in Dresden porcelain, an eagle sculpture on a pedestal, another eagle made of silver, and numerous paintings”, among many other expensive items — all paid for by “her ministry.”

The article prompted Wall Watchers (a Christian nonprofit watchdog group) to call on the Internal Revenue Service to investigate Meyer and her family.

For her part, Meyer commented, “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.”

Yeah, I think it is. I still have a problem with it. Maybe Meyer does too, for she immediately took a pay cut and reshuffled her empire. Not sure why if she feels she wasn’t doing anything wrong.

What do you think? Should pastors be free to earn as much money as they can make? Or do you subscribe to Matthew 6:24: “You cannot serve God and money?”

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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One Response to Joel Osteen to do Hershey; should pastors get rich?

  1. JT says:

    There are many patient, loving, God-fearing, Christ-centered, Bible-believing clergy in this county who haven’t even seen so much as a cost of living increase for years.

    Will Joel Osteen visit you in the hospital? Will Joyce Meyer bring Communion to your dying elderly parent?

    THINK which hands really feeds you and give accordingly.

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