Christian Commercialism

A post at b4G analyzed the success of Rick Warren’s latest bestseller, The Purpose-Driven Life.

The book’s a great resource for introducing the Word of God to non-Christians, but I share the uneasiness others have expressed. How wealthy should Christians be? It’s a difficult question for me, because the Bible offers a number of points that I have trouble reconciling.

The Bible makes it very clear that pastors should be paid for the work they do. The problem is a limitation found in the Amplified version that changes the meaning somewhat: “[On the same principle] the Lord directed that those who publish the good news (the Gospel) should live (get their maintenance) by the Gospel” (emphasis mine). Maintenance, used in this context, makes me think it’s okay, and even expected, that pastors should live comfortably on the funds of their congregation; unusual wealth, however, doesn’t seem justified by this verse.

It’s also very clear that money can cause a lot of problems. Christians can be led astray by the want of money, and non-Christians can be blinded to the truth by it.

So, where do Christians draw the line? My first thought, and the one that’s been rattling around in my head despite all attempts to purge it, is advertising. Wait, don’t misunderstand me – I’m not equating advertising with sin. I’m just saying that if you’re a Christian author or artist and you rely on advertising to promote your product, it might be a good idea to do a self-evaluation of your motives once and a while. Remember, according to this site, “Advertising is mass communication an advertiser pays for in order to convince…the public to…take actions of benefit to the advertiser” (again, emphasis mine).

So, back to Rick Warren. In case you don’t know, he’s the senior pastor of one of the largest churches in America, Saddleback Church. A quick search at comes up with 50 products. Purpose Driven ® is a registered trademark.

This post has turned out to be a lot of rambling about nothing, unfortunately. Sorry about that. I think ultimately, your economic situation is between you and God, and it’s largely based on your attitude toward the resources He gives you. You may want to think about the widow while you’re working this out.

4 thoughts on “Christian Commercialism

  1. It is a interesting article ,something I have ponderd myself.. I always had a problem understanding my pastor going home to his big beautiful home and I to an empty frig. Cat

  2. Thanks for writing.

    Yes, it is true that pastors are like this, but I want to make sure it’s understood that this doesn’t apply to all pastors, and it certainly isn’t limited to pastors. It’s something we all need to be careful of.

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  4. The first century christians were all ministers. There was no seperate class of evangelizers known as the clergy. The gospel was spread free of charge. Christians worked for a living and during the hours they were not engaging in their work, they taught their fellow man the truth of God’s word. The only persons recieving a stipend for their preaching were traveling overseers such as Paul, Timothy Silas and others. The were happy living with the basics.
    So-called preachers of the truth like Hank Hanagraff (Bible Answer Man) who write a book a week for which they charge lots of money, and who make appearances like celebrities charging to hear the Gospel, unfortunately represent the crass entrepreneural side of religion today.
    A Muslim co-worker once asked why preachers, especially broadcast evangelists are revered as demi-gods by Christians. He said the Imam in the Mosque is considered no more than one who is an authority on Koran and not someone to whom you shower with great wealth and worship.
    I have neighbors who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. The whole family spend much time preaching for free, in fact, they will even study with anyone who is interested, free of charge and sacrifice their own time to do so.

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