Televangelists: lifestyles that contradict the gospel
A couple of weeks ago a news story came out about a televangelist who was asking his followers to donate 54 million dollars to buy a jet that would go faster and farther so he could get to destinations quicker. This particular televangelist (name not put in on purpose) also owns a 37,000 square foot home and has an estimated net worth anywhere from 40 million to 150 million.
These are the facts that I can confirm as accurately as possible. As a result I began investigating several other well know television preachers. I discovered lavish lifestyles supported primarily on the backs of working people who have a hard time just making a living.
The issue for me is not that a lot of money comes into a ministry. That is something that one doesn’t plan or know ahead of time. The issue is that these “preachers of the gospel” are not living a modest life style, which should be what they model.
In our culture it is hard to know where the line is of being financially healthy or financially glutinous. Jesus taught us to be aware of all kinds of greed. Luke 12:15states, “Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’” NIV). One of the best ways that preachers can be accountable to exhibit financial prudence is to set up a board that establishes policies of salaries for the ministry. This way the preacher doesn’t take what he or she wants out of the offerings given. Billy Graham did this early on and it served his reputation well his entire ministry life.
There are other guidelines from Scripture and research on how much is enough. For example my favorite passage on how much money I should have is found in Proverbs 30:8b-9 which says, “…give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.” NLT
A Princeton University study that was done in 2010 and then relooked at in 2014 concluded that an overall benchmark figure of $75,000 is the point at which people were the happiest financially. If anyone made more than this figure they weren’t any happier. So if secular research says you aren’t any happier, why would you want more?
In Justo Gonzalez’s book, Faith and Wealth, he studied the money beliefs of the church in the first five centuries. One of the core beliefs was that rich people were to be pitied. A second belief and the most important driving force in the church’s attitude about money were the needs of others. If someone had a need and you were in a fellowship that could meet that need, then you didn’t think twice about giving financial help.
So then how should televangelists, and by extension the rest of us, live financially speaking? Ron Blue, a noted Christian financial teacher, says to pick a figure that meets needs; include such things as vacations, Christmas presents, etc., and then give away everything above that figure. Since meeting a need is defined as being able to function in this life without depending on others’ help that is a benchmark that can be measured.
My concern and dare I say even disgust with many televangelists is the very violation of the faith that they claim to preach. If Christians want riches to be their goal, then the outcome is temptation, evil, sorrow, and even wanting to leave the faith. 1 Timothy 6:9-10 says, “But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” NLT.
We all sin and have our issues, but when we are in the public eye, then it is incumbent that our example be as blameless and above reproach as possible. I plead with my brothers and sisters in ministry blessed with untold wealth to heed the truth of Scripture. For the sake of the gospel, be an example of a modest lifestyle so outsiders are not justified in their criticism of our faith.