Does God want you to be rich?

November 7, 2010

Back in the day, ministers were ministers. They did the Lord’s work as a life mission and lifestyle. They lived simply and were moral role models.

But that “walking the talk” seems to have gone by the wayside among certain evangelicals, especially those who espouse the so-called prosperity gospel. Their concerns are more secular: Attaining a luxurious lifestyle with fancy homes, cars, clothes and jewelry. Celebrity. Living the material good life and sometimes hedging moral boundaries. Or crossing them.

Followers believe that the attainment of wealth by their preachers is a sign that prayer works. And that they, too, can have the same, if they pray and study the Bible. If they follow their leader, they, too, can drive a Bentley. Have huge gemstones. Wear designer clothes.

This came to mind recently when I saw a trailer for a secular film produced by T.D. Jakes. He’s one of those evangelical Christian “bishops,” anointed by a fancy-sounding group that has no actual religious standing.

Mr. Jakes has written many books. He has his own Christian recording label. Last year, he was planning a secular talk show of his own that never came to pass.

But when a minister is heavily invested in the secular entertainment industry you have to wonder if that’s how he views his own ministry.

While I don’t think ministers need to live like paupers, full-time ministry work seems incompatible with building personal wealth. Corruption is too big a temptation. And ministers are only human.

Here’s what I think:

If you’re in the business of saving souls, then, damn it, save some! If you’re walking the talk, you should be saving souls night and day. Ministering to your flock. You should not be planning for fame and fortune, living in a $2 million dollar house or buying fancy cars.

My former cousin-in-law is a Nazarene missionary. She has few luxuries, but she is blessed in so many other ways. She has done meaningful work. She has strong family ties.

She’s a faithful Christian in the business of saving souls. She walks the talk. No question about her integrity. I don’t hold her beliefs, but I respect her as someone who has lived her faith.

I think we’d be wise to remain suspicious of people who claim to do the Lord’s work, while also doing a bunch of other things to get rich.

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