27/7/2010

A sense of priorities

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:22 am

This article from Paul Syvret is mostly about tax exemptions for churches, and is pretty satirical in tone: http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/its-your-chance-to-pray-for-pay/story-e6frerdf-1225897081649.

But some of the numbers he brought out struck me. Hillsong gives $1m tax-free expense accounts annually to 5 of its senior staff – that’s $5m. And that’s in addition to million-dollar houses, cars, free flights and other benefits. Hillsong raised over $50m in revenue last year, and spent less than $3m on charity. Less for the poor than for the wealthy pastors.

I’ve had this discussion about wealthy Christians with my friend Polar before, and she doesn’t necessarily agree that it’s a problem. I should clarify that my problem is not with the wealth per se, but with the sense of priorities. Could the pastors stand to live a little more simply, and pass on a bit more to those in our society who are doing it tough?

Here’s what their founder said about himself: “And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. – Matthew 8:20.” Bit different to the Palm Beach mansions the Hillsong folks inhabit.

And here’s what He said to someone else (from Matthew 19):

16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,

19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

5 responses to “A sense of priorities”

  1. Doctor Crankenstein says:

    Churches are houses of business, not houses of the lord.

  2. Polar says:

    It is important to clarify the source of the income here. In the conversation we had Bravus, you were referring to televangelists making extreme profits. If the money that is used to live on is from donations, and the church staff or televangelists are living the high life on those funds, I have a problem with this. If however, the income that is keeping them in this lifestyle is from publication of books, cds, videos etc., then I think it is fair to say that it is part of their earnings. Donations are a completely different category. Donations need to be strictly for the poor, lost and needy that Jesus said would always be amongst us.

  3. Bravus says:

    I think that’s a sensible and reasonable distinction to make, and I don’t have any stats on to what extent those revenues were donations and offerings as opposed to earnings from sale of materials.

    I still wonder what the Jesus who threw the merchants out of the temple would think of the merchandising of faith…

  4. Glenn Weare says:

    Brian Houston said on TV recently that he received a salary of a little over $300,000 which is probably spin for $399,000. Are you saying that he gets $1mill in addition as an expense account.

    I’ve seen figures a couple of years ago that indicated that about half of their $50 mill comes from offerings and the other half from royalties on music and profits of book sales.

  5. Mark says:

    Dave, you could have included Jesus’ own comment on this incident in Luke 18:24 (NLT): “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God! 25 In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” The prosperity gospel belief that wealth is regularly God’s blessing is a pernicious belief, akin to The Secret and other direct karma type ideas, that ultimately end in a fatalism that is the opposite of the compassionate activism that Christianity supports. Like the good Samaritan, or the epistle of James.

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