Daily Devotional for Tuesday May 27, 2008
The Misguided Drive for Money over Souls
(Matthew 6:19-21; Hebrews 13:5; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 1 Timothy 6:10)
The misguided drive for money over souls has several major ministries in deep trouble and has given another black eye to the cause of Christ. I have told you for nearly 9 years now that the insatiable lust for money by many of the leading media ministries not only contributes to the stereotype that people only serve the Lord to get rich, but helps the unbelieving world justify their rejection of Christ. News broke late last year of a Senate investigation led by Republican Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance, into the financial dealings of Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Kenneth Copeland, and Randy and Paula White, who are in the process of getting divorced. You can read the article and details for yourself at: http://www2.tbo.com/content/2007/nov/06/na-without-walls-finances-face-senat ors-scrutiny/
I hate to say "I told you so," but how long was it going to be before someone in government decided having multiple multi-million dollar mansions, private jets, new Rolls Royces, and living like the kings of small nations....ALL ON THE MONEY PEOPLE DONATE TO A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION...might be legal but isn't right. Having operated a non-profit ministry for nearly 20 years, having been actively involved in the Christian television world for 4 years, and being responsible for raising and overseeing the Liveprayer budget of between $1- $2 million annually, let me give you some of my thoughts and insight into this and challenge you this morning in your giving.
When this investigation is eventually over and the dust is settled, my guess is that none of these ministers broke the law or will lose their tax exempt status. I am certain each one will be facing audits by the IRS and will be forced to declare as personal income and pay taxes on many of the expenses they have been charging off to the ministry. Sadly, their work is going to be forever damaged and never be as effective as it once was since they have lost the most critical asset a ministry, church, or any work of God can have, trust. I also believe that out of this government investigation will come new reforms to guide non-profits so that there is greater accountability and transparency in the finances and how donations can be used.
Let me say right up front that there is NOTHING in the Bible that says a man or woman of God is supposed to live in poverty. That is as incorrect as those who teach you are supposed to be wealthy. The Bible says that a servant is "worthy of their hire," and to "not muzzle the ox that treadeth the corn." For those who give their entire life to serving God, whose only work is the Gospel, how else are they supposed to live? Yes, I know Paul made tents, FOR A SEASON. Paul's ministry also survived on the sacrificial gifts of God's people. So this is not about calling God's servants to live in poverty, but to live modestly. The Bible says to avoid all appearances of evil. There are many sacrifices that you make to serve the Lord, and unless you are personally wealthy outside of the ministry, living an extravagant lifestyle off of those who donate to the ministry is simply not an option. I don't think anyone objects to their pastor or the head of a ministry being fairly compensated.
This is exactly why Liveprayer operates out of donated space in the back of a used car lot, why I have always made my financial records available to the press, and our most recent audited financials are open to anyone who wants to see them. We own no property, we own no cars, we have no stock portfolios or any other investments. The ministry literally operates month to month. My wife and I live in a $300,000 home that has a $305,000 mortgage on it, we have a 6 year old and 14 year old car, and my annual salary is less than $60,000.
Despite the fact I could have easily raised $1 million plus annually by asking my TV audience for money, I have refused to raise money on the TV program since being on secular TV, reaching out to a non-Christian audience, I know that the money issue is a huge one in the minds of most non-Christians. I can't even begin to tell you the thousands of emails I have received from viewers who said I was the only TV preacher they watched because I never asked for money and wasn't trying to sell them books or tapes.
Listen, I know I have probably gone a bit overboard in trying to be a good steward of the money people donate to Liveprayer and could certainly justify better offices and a larger salary, but my goal is SOULS and to take the Truth to this lost and dying world, NOT get rich and live a life of luxury. I've made these decisions based on my many years in the ministry and have done everything I could possibly do to distance myself and set myself apart from these other folks since I am trying to build God's Kingdom, not my own. I am here to serve, not be served. My only goal is SOULS, not to live like the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
Sadly, this is another black eye and scar on the Christian faith. The PTL scandal that was followed quickly by the Jimmy Swaggart scandal in the late 80s were huge blows to the faith. Even today people commonly refer to Bakker and his greed. The funny thing is he wrote a book after he got out of prison called, "I Was Wrong," denouncing his greed and constant drive for more money. He needs to go back and read his own book, since he is right back into his old habits, now operating out of Branson with his new wife, airing on a handful of Christian stations, and relentlessly hammering people for money again for his latest Christian theme park just like nothing ever happened.
I am very familiar with and have worked with most of the top Christian media ministries back in the 90s. I can tell you that every one started out with the purest of motives and a deep desire to serve God. God blesses their work, they started to grow, and one day they woke up and had this huge monster (the infrastructure) that had to be fed. Pretty soon it was not about ministry any longer, but the money. As more money flowed in, they started to believe they deserved it. They deserved a $10 million home. They deserved a new $30 million Gulfstream. They deserved to stay in $4,000 a night hotel suites when on the road. Satan totally corrupted their minds and money became their god and the ministry was simply their business.
I love you and care about you so much. The worst thing of all is that scandals like this will sadly lead many souls to eternal punishment. People will harden their hearts even more to the message of Christ because some of God's messengers made bad choices with the money God entrusted into their care. Pray for these ministers, their families and staffs. This will be a very difficult time for them. Pray that they will get back to their first love, the Lord, and let the Holy Sprit gudie them in bringing their financial houses in order. Pray for Senator Grassley and the other elected officials who will be overseeing this investigation. Pray that they will be led by God to do what is best for the public, without damaging the work of God and those men and women who are truly serving the Lord with the right motives and heart. Also, pray the press won't go crazy with this story and pollute the hearts and minds of the masses that money is all Christianity is about.
I encourage people all the time to pray about where they give some of what God has entrusted into their care. Make sure you know the ministry you are giving to and what the money is being used for. Yes we are blessed in our giving, but we have also been given common sense in where to give. Know the Bible. Giving money to some ministry is not going to get you out of debt overnight, it is not gong to save your children overnight, and it is not gong to heal you overnight, it is not going to make you rich overnight. If you are "giving to get," you are giving with the wrong motives. You should be giving as an act of sacrifice and worship, and giving to be a blessing. As a good steward, you should be giving to make an impact for Christ in people's lives.
That is why each month I have no hesitation in asking you to help me. I don't play games with you or try to manipulate you in any way. I openly and honestly share our needs and ask you to pray about helping me. The money we raise each month at Liveprayer goes directly to reaching souls for Christ and bringing God's Truth into the marketplace. I've told you many times, the time for playing games is over. SOULS ARE AT STAKE AND SATAN IS NOT PLAYING GAMES! God knows how to clean house when He has had enough. There is not much time left and God is raising up a new generation of voices to carry His Truth who are not bound by money or the things of this temporal world. They can't be bought like a tube of toothpaste and won't ever compromise the Bible for any reason. Their only goal is not the applause of men (or the money of man), but the "Well done," of the Father!