For Halloween, I went to party at a mansion. I mean that in the fullest extent possible. One of those eight car garage, 10,000 square foot (not counting the full basement), 15 bathroom kind of houses. The ones in neighborhood that are gated with guards that have to have your name on a list to let you in, kind. Everyone’s reaction to the house was pretty much split into two groups, the jealous and the judgmental. There was a good bit of awe with people wondering what he did and another group that condemned him for him for the ostentatiousness of the house.
I went back and forth between the two. Obviously, I would love the kind of salary that would afford this house, but I doubt I could ever pull the trigger on something that nice or big and fancy. Regardless, it got me thinking about money and really how much you should spend.
This house was probably around two million dollars. That’s roughly $70K a year on a mortgage; which is more than I make in a year, but what if he makes a million? Then he is spending less as a percentage of his income than I am. What if he gives $100K to charity or $500K, then you are talking someone who spends less on his mortgage and gives more to charity than the average person. Take it a step further, say he makes $5 million and bought the house outright, then I’m the ostentatious person who took out a loan for a house.
Maybe that is too dramatic, but my point is, there aren’t clear guidelines in the Bible. No one can point to any specific verses that would tell you how big your house can be. All anyone can ever give you is the ‘love of money’ and not to chase money or serve two masters. On the other hand, there has to be a point that is too much, even if you don’t love money.
Another example, it would be pretty foolish for me to buy a BMW. I don’t think any of them are less than my annual salary. It would be poor stewardship of what God has given me to spend so much of my monthly income on that when I can’t even afford a Corolla. Someone else may be able to buy one straight up with no problems. If they did it for status or envy or some other reason, then I guess you could throw a stone. But if a guy just likes them, probably nothing wrong there. Again, though, where does it stop? What if someone can buy a Bentley? Surely there are better uses for our gifts. The issue becomes, where is that line? Should you be eating steak when people in other parts of the world don’t have clean drinking water? I really have no idea, and have struggled with this since I first read Richard Stearns ‘A Hole in our Gospel’.
It is also something I’ve been struggling with since the media storm around Steve Furtick. I know that part of what bothered people so much is that he is a pastor and I guess that means he should be poor (pastor pay should be another posts all together). If he is paying for the house out of his book sales, why should his salary matter?
But I get it. We hold our pastors to higher standards. Non-believers hold a Christian to a higher standard of living as well. Maybe that’s part of the take away here. When you appear so rich that it takes away your credibility to those who need Christ. You can’t blame someone for their income, but you have to be aware that when telling other people to give to the church and to give generously, maybe an 18 bedroom home is too much.