Mansions and Jets – Jeremy Austill
Mansions and Jets

It’s inevitable…

Sometime in the coming weeks a Facebook firestorm will ensue when a well known minister purchases a new home, is seen driving an expensive car or starts asking for financial help from their partners to fund a big project.

As a matter of fact, we haven’t had one of these in a couple of months so we are probably due one any day now. Before it arrives, I want to go on record…

I don’t care.

Let me rephrase that. It doesn’t move the needle for me when a person in ministry has wealth or has very nice things. It doesn’t cause me to want to teach whatever they are teaching so I can benefit the same, nor does it cause me to rise up in indignation. That person, and what they do, has absolutely no bearing on my life.

I remember when Steven Furtick’s house was scrutinized…Joel Osteen’s…Creflo’s jet…I’ve even seen one of our local Assembly of God churches be ridiculed because they have incredible facilities that “costs too much”.

The retorts, and faux rage are always the same…

“That is a bad reflection on the church.”

I hear what you are saying, but I think cannibalizing one another on social media is a bad look too. Not to mention the fact that it is Jesus’ Church, and He is more than capable of handling issues of greed as He sees fit. 

“That money could have been used to feed the hungry and bless the poor.”

To that I would respond, how do you know that they aren’t lavish in their generosity in feeding the hungry? An even better follow-up question…what percentage of your income do YOU give to feeding the hungry? Why are the wealthy held to a higher standard than the average? What do we actually know about their finances that isn’t based on assumption and the oh so accurate internet? Why do we presume the person ignores the needs of others?

Personally, when I start sensing a critical attitude rising up toward those with much, I generally try to consider that my context matters. The same scriptural tone about money that applies to “them”, applies to me. The context of “their” finances may be different than mine, but the expectations and heart of scripture does not change with the amount of money owned.

I am fascinated by Christians who are capitalists when it comes to financial policies in our government, but then we become socialists when it comes to the wealthy in the church. The idea of others “living off us” because the government “takes our money” is offensive to many. Many of those offended in that instance, turn around and demand that a wealthy minister should give all their money away to help others. (Ouch…Did I really just type that?)

In case you would take that last paragraph and jump to an inaccurate conclusion, let me be clear…I’m not advocating for socialism. I simply want to point out how often we are quick to rush to a strong judgment without considering where we fit in the narrative.

What is my point in all of this?

  1. Don’t make assumptions about people’s motives and actions. It’s unbecoming of a person who lives in a land called grace.
  2. Don’t get so caught up in what other people have, and what they are doing with what they have. It really doesn’t concern us. This isn’t just applicable to wealthy ministers. It’s also applicable to all the people who own nicer cars than ours in the pick-up line at our kids’ school.
  3. Before jumping in with a strong opinion, we would be wise to make sure our opinion does not contradict some part of our life. If you look in society, most of the “world’s” beef with Christians is not that we have an opinion…it’s that there are other parts of our life, and other ideas we have, that are incongruent with the opinion.
  4. I genuinely pray the Lord brings abundant provision to your life. You having much doesn’t diminish me…and it certainly isn’t capable of diminishing the Gospel.

5 Comments

  • Michael wilson says:

    I agree totally and really appreciate you in all you do and the fact that most need to hear what most wont say and you say it! I have had so many conversations on this very topic so many times and my thing is if God wanted you to have tons of money you would win a lottery with out even playing, so many of us say if I only had that kinda money I would do this for the church or do that and my reply is what are you doing now! The money you have is not yours anyways but you can’t even give the tenth on what money you have and if your a millionaire you think it would change ? God gifts those whom can handle this kind of fame and fortune . Sorry I can get on a soap box easy cause I use to be one of those people and the lord corrected me .. much love my brother in Christ … ever decide to get a tattoo I got you lol lol may the lord continue to bless you in all things and may the Holy Spirit forever guide you

  • Chapman Fowler says:

    Jeremy,

    I want to start by thanking you for your anointing and the time you take to pastor and teach with a true spirit of Christ. I’m a young 20s Christ-follower and have often shared your thoughts to fellow men I lead in Bible Studies. Below are a few of my thoughts in the aftermath of a certain pastor purchasing a Lamborghini for his wife for Christmas.

    1. I agree with your first point. Making assumptions without knowing the heart behind decisions can be dangerous and is often times sinful if done without discernment from the Holy Spirit. For example, If my Christian neighbor buys a large house with plans to fill up his empty space with foster children, I would be in error to judge his “big house” in ignorance. I get that. But aren’t there some purchases that are so devoid of any Kingdom utility that they would JUST fall into the category of “Luxury and Materialism” ($20K watches, $200K sports cars, and Plastic Surgury might fall in this category) and do those financial decisions warrant ridicule within our private christian fellowship if we are to guard our hearts against that same form of selfishness?

    2. In regard to your second point, to some extent, we should be concerned with what leaders in the faith and fellow believers are doing with their money. Jesus spent more time talking about Money then he did about Love. How we handle our money is extremely important to God and it is a direct reflection of what we love. I think if we have an opportunity to keep each other accountable, we shouldn’t avoid money-talk simply because that’s more taboo to talk about within American Christianity. If you apply that principle to Christian leaders and christian celebrities, it would seem that there is some danger in keeping our mouths completely shut to fellow believers when leaders of the faith are seemingly approaching the dangerous road of greed and materialism. So I have to somewhat disagree with point #2 because I think any un-Christlike decision that a fellow Christian makes should concern us, and greed or even the appearance of it warrants some fair dialogue between believers (in private) in my opinion.

    3. OUCH. Yes hypocrisy is the go-to buzzword in non-Christian circles for discussing disdain for Christians. I feel this point comes from the paragraph that you mention the question “what percentage of your income do YOU give to feeding the hungry?” OUCH AGAIN. I love the heart-check. However, I think this idea, while true, is unfairly represented in your body paragraph. I don’t think “percentage” is exactly a fair metric to compare how Joel Osteen spends his money compared to me or the average Christian. I’ll elaborate. If I make 50,000 a year and my wife makes 20,000 a year, we are doing pretty well for ourselves (especially compared to the average human on earth), but we are by no means comparable to Joel. If we provide the basic needs for our children (food,average shelter, safe vehicles, a few toys here and there) we are barely able to tithe comfortably. BUT Christ’s love in us still requires that we be as generous as we can. So rather than eating out twice a week, we go out once a month (a little other money saving here and there) and we are able to bless people in our community with the rest, even if it sacrifices our retirement savings (See Luke 12). If you took a percentage of what we were even ABLE to give without seriously damaging our children’s livelihood then you could get to about 25% of our income in charity. However, Joel Osteen is able to provide a larger home, more land for future generations to inherit, a nicer and safer vehicle, nicer clothes…etc and STILL he’s able to give lets say 50% of his income to charity. THAT’S AWESOME and we should honor him for that. BUT, if he was spending 10%, 15%, 20%, or even 30% of his income on luxurious things (sports cars, 10K dollar watches, Yachts, 20 empty bedrooms in his home, the most expensive entertainment center…etc), I think its fair to ridicule those financial decisions. In parallel, I think it’s completely fair for anyone to ridicule me if I was forsaking my generosity in exchange for luxurious living. I find that in direct contradiction to Luke 12 and Luke 18. What I’m trying to convey is that I believe the biblical-Christian standard for money is this: Thank God when He provides what you NEED, and THANK GOD when he inevitably provides more than what you need, but when he provides more… do EVERYTHING you can with your excess to serve The Kingdom and others, because it’s not your money, it’s His. I know you weren’t directly disagreeing with anything I just said, I just think some comparisons you previously suggested are not “Apples and Oranges” and I’ve already seen pastors utilize this blog and say something along the lines of “you don’t give near as much to the poor as ____ does, so you don’t have a right to disagree with their purchases.” I think that sentiment is completely devoid of the crux of the issue. The question isn’t “How much are you doing compared to —-” The question is “Are you doing ALL you can?” And that question applies to me, you, Joel, and every other professing believer.

    4. I’ll leave with this note. Christ says “it’s easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle then a rich man to enter into heaven.” I know there is some debate on whether or not it is a rope or a camel and whether or not this was an expression for a small opening the the city walls, but the concern is the same. Being wealthy CAN be a trap, and a very dangerous one at that. It can poison even the most honorable men of God, and if not stewarded correctly, it can destroy our reputation as generous Christ-followers. Over the years and in college, the number 2 reason non-Christians despised our religion so much was because of Christians who chased the American dream and forsook the dreams of the less-fortunate. They don’t understand how someone who claims to love someone like Christ could prioritize their own material-wealth over the needs of others, and I myself have a hard time understanding it as well. I don’t think I know where the line is for everyone. I only know where the line is for me because Holy Spirit is constantly correcting my ambition, but I do think it’s a completely fair discussion between believers to discuss how we each find that line for ourselves, and if those discussions happen to mention christian-celebrities and mega-church pastors who have made very public decisions with their money, I don’t think we should avoid the discussion simply because “it’s not our business.” We should however acknowledge we don’t know these ministers’ hearts and we may not have the full picture, and we should absolutely lift them up in our prayers because we know “to much is given, much is required” and the burden of success can cripple a man if he’s not walking in-Christ.

    Thanks again for all you do.

  • Michael Mooney says:

    Well written and I couldn’t agree more with your perspective!

  • Nick Jackson says:

    Super solid…good stuff!!

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