Monday, October 08, 2007

Richard and Lindsay Roberts - Another Black Eye for the Kingdom of God

How many more times must we be embarrassed by the (alleged) improprieties of media ministers? The latest - and most likely not the last - is the developing scandal involving Richard and Lindsay Roberts. I won't list the gory details here, as you can find them on almost any news site or in any newspaper.

The skeptics of faith are having a field day, and it's time that we as followers of Jesus start demanding better of the people who are raking in millions of dollars to fund high-flying lifestyles. No one, in my opinion, should be giving money to the Roberts' and I have felt this way for some time. Their lavish lifestyle, funded by the tithes and offerings of millions, have long been an affront to the cause of Christ. No one - and I repeat no one - should be getting rich off the tithes and offerings of people.

And it's not just the high profile of people like Richard and Lindsay Roberts where we find financial questions. I wrote a piece on this site recently about how many churches no longer list the salaries of church staff. Personally, I would never give a dime to a church that does not make such information public. Has the church learned nothing from the scandals of companies such as Enron? The church should be the most financially transparent organization on the face of the earth. To hide information only gives rise to questions, suspicion, and more questions.

If you are a member of a church staff, you will never become rich. The reality is you will probably struggle financially. Paul writes in I Corinthians 4:11-13 that to this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. He says in I Timothy 6:8 that if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But this is not an excuse for churches to be stingy or to poorly pay those who dedicate their lives to the cause of Christ. In I Corinthians chapter nine Paul makes a case for supporting those who are in vocational ministry - Do we not have a right to eat and drink...Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard, and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock...If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we should reap material things from you...So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel (verses 4, 7, 11, 14). The scandal of the lavish lifestyles enjoyed by a few ministers is what grabs the headlines, but a greater scandal is the number of churches who starve their staff members or seek to manipulate them by holding back tithes and offerings.

Being a minister is not for the faint of heart. It is also not for those who want to become wealthy. If you want to make a lot of money, do something else. Let's end the scandals of lavish lifestyles by people like Richard and Lindsay Roberts be cutting off the donations. But let's not forget the scandal of the scores of faithful ministers who are drowning financially because of churches that refuse or fail to meet the needs of their families.

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