I heard a pastor once say that when he goes to restaurants he doesn’t order smoothie drinks because the smoothies are placed in the same glasses as alcoholic drinks, and some of the drinks are the same except one is a virgin and one is not, so he sticks to water or soda so nobody can mistake him for drinking an alcoholic beverage. That’s real faith when a pastor will not do something just by the way it looks even if he knows he’s doing the right thing.
What if rich pastors took the same approach and didn’t live a luxurious lifestyle because it doesn’t look right to the public? Its not a good look when a pastor has a private jet and driving a Bentley, and people in his congregation are homeless, jobless, and experiencing other obstacles.
And that’s the problem. Most rich pastors become rich because they have a large congregation of wealthy people. And if pastoring is someone’s full-time job then it is legal to take an income from the ministry. But, how much income is necessary? There’s a difference between a salary that allows a pastor to live comfortably than a salary that allows a pastor to live outrageously.
Joel Osteen said in an interview that he doesn’t take a salary from the ministry, but his wealth comes from books and other things. That makes him sound humbled for not taking a salary from the ministry, but that is only because he doesn’t have to. Not every pastor can write books that make millions. So if your full-time profession is to preach, then you are obligated to take a salary from the ministry, but some people think that is greed and robbing the church.
One of my former pastors was a full-time priest, and he took a salary from the ministry. He lived a comfortable life, but his congregation was not big enough to make him rich. He had a two story house like most of his congregation and drove a car that didn’t make him stand out from the crowd. Some of his church members drove more luxurious cars than he did. He could have taken an enormous salary from the ministry, but I wouldn’t know because he didn’t live lavishly.
A pastor shouldn’t be far from his sheep meaning that if the pastor is driving a 2017 Mercedes and the majority of his congregation are getting by with hoopties, then it looks like all of the tithes are going to the pastor’s pockets and not to building the community. If the pastor comes to church in tailored suits and his congregation shows up with holes in their shoes, then it looks questionable about where the church’s money is going.
Its not a sin for a pastor to be rich, but Jesus wasn’t rich and didn’t pursue to become rich, so when we see a rich pastor, we think that his goals are misaligned with Jesus’s teachings. A pastor should enjoy the luxuries of life just like anyone else, but he shouldn’t let his personal life distract from the Gospel that he preaches. If a pastor owns a private jet, people are going to pay more attention to how can they get their own private jet than to learn the Gospel. People would be enthusiastic to learn the Gospel so that can buy a private jet rather than learn the Gospel to love God.