Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Financial Ethics for Pastors?

Over the weekend I had a conversation with someone who goes to a church in the same denomination as I do. Frustration was expressed about the pastor flaunting wealth. The pastor in question apparently takes trips all over the world, belongs to an exclusive fitness club frequents Starbucks and generally lives well. The frustration wasn't because this person could afford to live like this but rather how it was regularly spoken about in church. A congregation where many of the members who give to the church can't afford those sorts of things. I will point out that I don't know what is going on here for sure, I heard just a singular account of the life of this congregation. It peaked my interest though. It made me ask myself a lot of questions. I have always struggled with what is an appropriate sign of wealth for clergy. So what is ok?

Honestly my studies will prepare me to be a pastor if I so choose. The jury is out on that, but I will let you know. I am not going to lie, it is my hope that when I finish this next degree it will help open doors to a job that offers a stable income, to help bring us to a place in life where we can live more comfortably than we live now. It is not my intention to rake in the dough. I want to get to a place of stability, where we can give our daughter decent opportunities. A place where we can give more to those in need.

I have heard similar things said about the Pastor of my own church. However, I happen to be friends with with that Pastor. I think every Pastor has an inner circle with in their congregations membership. It's human nature, so in my case, I am very comfortable saying I am a part of the inner circle. Which is a first for me. So here is the flip side. I saw how the very nice house started out. It wasn't pretty, it was practical. It became beautiful with a lot of hard work over the course of several years. I share all that because I want to show the whole picture, if I hadn't seen the house evolve I might be tempted to pass judgement.

All that being said, I know of a lot of pastor folk, who live very well. Considering the pastoral life style myself, I am left with two questions:

1. What level of wealth is ok? Is there any level that is ok? Meaning should you starve in poverty?

2. Is it appropriate to regularly talk about your life which easily shows your life style, in a congregation where not everyone can afford to live as you do?

Bonus: What does it mean that we live in a culture where Pastor's can frequent Starbucks, travel abroad, buy nice cars, and new toys? If we live this way, is it ok to ask our Pastor's not to? What of the people who can't live that way? Lastly, what about what Jesus has to say about wealth?

If you think those are a lot of questions, you should have heard them pouring through my head in church on Sunday. It is an avalanche, if Pastors should have no sign of wealth, what about churches? Why are there names on our fancy stained glass windows? Why did we need fancy windows in the first place? Who are the people that put their names there?

I wish I could be interested in a field where I didn't have to ask about the ethics of money. I guess all these questions are just preparing me for what lies ahead.

Today I am grateful for all my questions.
May you be bless with some of your own questions.

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