“…maybe your soul you’d sell to have mass appeal”
Today is the deadline for six well-known ministers to hand over records of their spending to Senator Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. Two of the so-called ‘Grassley Six’ are Atlanta-area preachers: Bishop Eddie Long of Lithonia, and Rev. Creflo Dollar of World Changers Church International in College Park. Of those two, only Dollar has agreed to participate with the Committee’s investigation.
So just who is this Senator Grassley and why is he after these ministers specifically?
A Republican from Iowa, one of Grassley’s self-professed missions as a Finance Committee member is a “crusade to ferret out tax avoidance schemes and shelters”. According to the press release on his website, Grassley had received “complaints from the public” that prompted him to launch a more detailed investigation into six media-based ministries to ensure that money given to them has been “spent as intended and in adherence with the tax code”. The other ministers being scrutinized are: Benny Hinn, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, David and Joyce Meyer, and Randy and Paula White.
When this story first broke in November of last year, ‘god-children’ and ‘dirt-worshippers’ alike were all riled up about it. Those who supported the ministers called Grassley’s probe a modern-day witch hunt, just another way that the devil was trying to silence the Word from spreading among the people. Those who supported the investigation thought it was high time that these flashy ministers were taken down a peg or two and lambasted anyone who would ever follow their teachings as blindly faithful sheep.
What’s my opinion?
Gee, thanks for asking.
I have to admit that I’m a bit biased. For a large part of my life I was Catholic. The priest of our parish always had a decent car and a decent place to live – all of which was paid for by the diocese. It just instilled in me the notion that the members of the church should provide the man of god with the basic essentials so that he can focus on his duties of religious study and service to the church. And why would a truly focused spiritual leader require anything other than the basics?
If you take a peek at the Bible, you’ll notice that the prophets of old weren’t big ballin’…they lived austere lives with the most meager surroundings. Many times, they didn’t even know where their next meal would come from, but they were always provided for (1 Kings 17:1-16). The kings (a.k.a. politicians) of the Old Testament were the ones living in luxury, and quite often fell victim to the trappings of excess. At which point, the wild-eyed, threadbare prophet would come in and admonish them from straying from their faith (2 Samuel 12:1-7). You see the same dynamic play out in the New Testament, where the Sadducees and Pharisess have taken on the role of the opulent leaders of the community, and Jesus and John the Baptist are the revolution-minded ascetics who dare to wake them from their spiritual sleep.
“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24)
Spiritual parallels aside, what’s really the crux of the matter is this: these ministers are the heads of very large, very visible non-profit corporations, and just like the executives of for-profits, they are bound by certain regulations that have nothing to do with Biblical principle per se, but have everything to do with ‘giving unto Caesar’. So when good ol’ Caesar (a.k.a. Grassley and his friends at the IRS) comes a-knocking and says they got some ‘splaining to do…well, what’s the problem with that? It’s no different than the SEC investigating the side dealings and intermingling of personal and corporate finances by the heads of companies like Enron, Tyco, and Worldcom. The heads of those companies bilked thousands of people out of their retirement funds and 401k monies, all because they wanted to keep getting richer on the backs of the people supporting them.
At least they weren’t doing it in the name of the Lord.
What’s your opinion?
Intent is a very hard thing to uncover. If these ministers were acting in a predatory manner on their congregations, then I hope their abuses are uncovered. But in the end, they will have to answer to God. Will be hard to hide behind non-profit status then.
There’s probably nothing wrong with the gov’t asking for an honest accounting of a minister’s finances, but I just don’t like the implications of this because it can be interpreted as a breach of the separation of church and state. I’m not saying it is a breach, per se, but it can certainly be seen as one.
It’s not the the pastor, he is just a man. Many say they are called but called to what? I think they can keep their stuff without going to hell if they call themselves motivational speakers. Other than that, they ain’t gettin my money. I will pay the rent for some poor family and fill up the tank of some stranded traveler, but support some pimp….Ah ain’t!
This is a risk I am willing to take. Jesus preferred to ride on a donkey when he could have used an arabian horse. Why are we so silly to pay into this foolishness. My former pastor is about to go to jail because of this greedy selfish non God fearing crap….Pastor Ron Sailor Jr of “Christ the King Baptist Church” in Dacula GA. I felt something was wrong and told my wife we had to go….she was reluctant but followed my lead….now we look at the news and go “Thank God” we listened and left. My dad in Chicago is going through the same thing….so he fills up members cars on Sunday with Gas and grocery to go and visit and feed the sick and shut in. He puts a dollar in the basket. He understand lights need to be paid.
The common day church is so foolish and silly ….that is those caught up in prosperity. If people would read the bible, there would be a lot less of these rich preachers out there.
I think that it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. But I do believe that Copeland is correct in fighting for his rights, and also for wanting the government to use the process that is already in place for such an investigation. The IRS is the agency that would normally handle this type of situation, not a single Senator. Here is a good read I want to pass along…
I don’t deny that often people in power have a hard time handling that…Abraham Lincoln even made statements to the fact that authority is a true test of a man’s character. There have been instances where church leaders, as in any organization, have misused money/other property.
I have to agree with some of the other statements about process. This investigation should take place through proper channels (i.e. IRS) if it is necessary, and not be the results of someone’s personal mission. How would you like it if an elected official, like say your mayor, decided to launch an investigation into your business “just in case there might be something wrong”. A mayor alerting IRS and going through legal channels would be different than just requesting that all your records be made available to him/her.
Also, scripture addresses money quite a bit, and says the love of money is the root of evil, not money itself. I think most of these ministries have still shown that it is their heart to love people. I’m not saying there isn’t a chance that someone misused funds, but couldn’t you say that about every single human and every organization? Do we randomly start investigating every person and demanding records? Is this happening because people have the expectation that pastors should have to wear shoes from K-mart and buy used cars?
Jesus rode a donkey in order to fulfill a prophecy. If the prophetic word in Isaiah had said the Messiah would ride into town on a camel or chariot, it would’ve been so. It’s easy for us to think of riding a donkey as being a status of being poor, because we compare it to driving cars now. Don’t you think the poorest people would have to walk and couldn’t afford a donkey in Jesus’ time?
If you peruse the scripture well, Elijah wasn’t necessesarily homeless. God told him to go camp out for a while so he could show him that He was the provider for Elijah. The widow fed Elijah so that God could bless the WIDOW and show her the same lesson…she was blessed for obeying and all her needs were met. Elijah wasn’t starving and wouldn’t have died if she didn’t do it. It was a lesson in obedience and not living in meek means.
I think most instances related to money in the Bible show that the true downfall comes when people make money thier god. If these ministries make their records avaialbe to their members (who are in fact the ones doing the giving) then let the members look into it and pray to know the truth. God gives us wisdom and expects us to be wise. If it must be investigated by the government then at least let the process deemed in the law be followed and not a blatant disregard for rights and the freedoms that the church is guaranteed.