Recently, I was thinking about how much of Charismania has been taken over by the “prosperity gospel.” Their divorce aside, Paula and Randy White already had an unflattering spotlight turned on their ministry last May for living their rich-and-famous lifestyle on the backs of their people’s offerings.
More close to home for us is Pastor Smith, who preached a bizarre sermon recently about how his people “need to find out who God is blessing, and bless them.” He literally told people to give him, personally, money!
And by the way, I find it fascinating that that particular sermon disappeared off of iTunes the other day. All of the other messages he’s preached are still there, except for “Reverse the Curse and Loose the Blessing.”
In one way, this disappearing sermon makes me hopeful. Maybe someone on the church staff actually had the good sense to realize that it showed Pastor Smith’s crazy side, the side that is sickeningly greedy for money. Maybe someone at the church actually has a sense of what’s proper and dared to speak up about it. Maybe.
At any rate, I was wondering what it is that makes so many “Charismatic” or Pentecostal preachers buy into the “Prosperity Gospel.” Why is it that if your church believes in the continuing gifts of the Spirit (like speaking in tongues or prophecy), it’s quite likely that your church will also have an unhealthy focus on money?
If you have an answer to this question, post your thoughts in a comment below.
I was also marveling at how – the removal of that “Reverse the Curse” sermon off of iTunes notwithstanding – it seems like these prosperity preachers, the more successful they become, lose absolutely ALL sense of what’s appropriate.
While you can’t get legalistic about something like a pastor’s owning a Mercedes – it would NEVER be Biblical to say that, in and of itself, it’s a SIN for a pastor to drive a nice car – I think it’s safe to say that instinctively, we just KNOW that there’s something inappropriate about a preacher who lives in luxury.
I mean, if your paycheck comes from a pool of money that was originally “given to God,” you have a unique responsibility to manage that money in a way that would line up with God’s own Word. You owe it to your people to live out God’s priorities. I know it’s cheesy, but I can’t help but ask the question, “What would Jesus do?” And I can’t help but be reminded of that old song, “Would Jesus Wear a Rolex on His Christian TV Show?”
When my mom was a teenager, one of her best friends was a PK – a “Preacher’s Kid.” My mom remembers how this friend’s mother would talk about what a tough life they had. If she wanted a new dress, the congregation would talk. If she wore a fancy hat, the church ladies had something to say about it. If she and her husband (the pastor) bought a new car, the deacons wanted to confer to make sure their pastor had gotten the best deal for their money.
Obviously, that is the other extreme.
But now, for those of us in Charismaniac Christendom…well, the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction! Now we’re treated to megastar preachers who think there’s nothing wrong with blasting in hundreds of thousands of their ministry’s dollars on private jets, fuel for those jets, plastic surgery, designer clothing, and big houses.
Our former “First Lady,” Pastor Smith’s wife, Mary…well, if it hadn’t been so sad, it would have been a real hoot. Mary often said that she had a unique calling to minister to ladies of a certain status in society. Our former church held ultra-elaborate themed ladies’ events – where Mary would teach – that were proudly touted from the pulpit as rivaling anything put on by our local downtown historical luxury hotel.
One such event, in fact, centered around the theme of “designer purses” and involved all the members of Mary Smith’s special decorating committee – and Mary herself, because she said so – bringing in their Chanel, Gucci, and Prada bags to be used as part of Mary’s stage setting. I sort of recall that her message for that event had something to do with how we ladies were designed by God for His glory.
But truly, the overwhelming focus, the main thing that I remember from that meeting, was the feeling that it must be nice to have that much money.
I couldn’t help it. As the First Lady prattled on about how God has uniquely created each of us as a special designer masterpiece, all I could think of was how it must be nice to have the kind of money where it didn’t bother you to blow hundreds of bucks on a Prada purse.
(And we weren’t exactly “hurting” in the money department, either, at that point. I can only wonder at what the out-of-work teacher sitting next to me was thinking!)
But the most ironic thing about all of the First Lady’s obvious taste for luxury – and her supposed “heart for the unsaved rich folk” – was that the very society she was so eager to be a part of, so eager to “reach,” would instinctively have sneered at her once they heard what her husband does for a living.
You see, because God’s law is written on our hearts, even the unsaved have a sense of what is fitting for so-called “servants of the Lord.”
Your most hardened, jaded society matron wouldn’t need anyone to read Bible verses to her for her to KNOW that Jesus wouldn’t have been obsessed with wealth and status. Jesus wouldn’t have felt the need to drive the sleekest little Mercedes so that he could fit in and “reach” the unsaved people around him. Jesus wouldn’t have boasted of His French manicures or gloried in shopping at Nordstrom.
Jesus didn’t NEED that sort of stuff, because what Jesus did come to give was so much greater than that!
I just wonder what’s wrong with these prosperity preachers, these men and women who are supposed to be focused on the eternal, who ought to know that there is far more to our existence than money. Why don’t they understand how inappropriate their obvious taste for the “good life” is?
Moreover, how can they think we’re not going to notice when the very “gospel” they preach – that you can have whatever you say, that your miracle is right around the corner, that God wants to mend your marriage – doesn’t seem to work for them when it comes to their own relationships?
How is it that they still think that we’re going to keep on “sowing into” their ministries even when they callously demonstrate their obliviousness to their own people?
I think these prosperity-preaching megastar pastors are seriously deluded. And I hope more of their people call for them to straighten up. Tighten those purse strings. Give your tithes to ministries that actually preach about Christ’s work on the Cross. Send your offerings to organizations that feed the hungry or provide care for orphans.
But don’t fork over any more funds for Pastor’s jet or the First Lady’s new Prada purse!