The news today reports that 6 prominent televangelists are being investigated by the Senate Finance Committee. Paula White, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, and Eddie Long are all being investigated for potential financial misconduct. They have until Dec. 6, 2007 to turn over their ministry financial statements to the US Senate.
Why are they being investigated? The Senate wants to know if they are using their tax-exempt status as churches as cover for financing their lavish lifestyles. Jets, Bentleys, multiple million-dollar homes, six-figure incomes, extravagant hotel and travel expenses, all add up to the appearance of financial impropriety.
The question is: Are they breaking US tax law? A lot of us have been wondering that for awhile now, so I guess we’re about to find out.
We do know that they are making merchandise of men’s souls, taking advantage of poor people, proclaiming heresy, promoting themselves, and living luxurious lives off of the backs of their gullible donors. We do know that all of that dishonors Christ and His Gospel, and we do know that they will give fearful account for themselves before God on the final day.
I think it is really unfortunate that these “preachers” have never been able to be brought into the accountability of the wider church, despite the efforts of organizations like Ministry Watch and Trinity Foundation, and despite the near-constant decrying of them as false prophets by evangelical pastors and scholars for decades – not to mention the multiple exposé’s done by 20/20, etc. Despite all of those efforts, few of these misleading lovers-of-money have ever fully been brought to task.
I think it is really sad that they are so self-willed and above correction from the wider church that a worldly court is having to exercise its authority over these abusers of people, to investigate them to see if they are abusers of the law.
They have brought this upon themselves. They have been very conspicuous in their
use abuse of money. They have raised eyebrows among believers and unbelievers alike, and they have done it without shame, apology, or pang of conscience. They have dishonored Christ, they have embarrassed Christians, and they have caused unbelievers to scorn the Gospel and the church. Now even the secular authorities have serious questions about the legality of what they are doing.
Yes, I find it quite ironic that politicians, of all people, are investigating preachers for misusing donations, abusing the public trust, living lavishly off other people’s money, and even breaking the law. Pot, meet kettle! It’s pretty sad when a group of people widely known for those deeds feel outdone by someone else, and in this case, those who call themselves ministers of Christ.
That’s what makes me wonder if anything productive will come out of this investigation. Politicians investigating other people for corruption isn’t a scenario that offers much hope. Like Kim Riddlebarger wonders, which is worse here, charlatans or Caesar?
So, the jury is out on whether this will turn out to be a good or bad thing. Who knows what kind of negative ramifications this will have on legitimate law-abiding, Christ-honoring churches. I can only hope that the long arm of the law will bring some needed accountability to these televangelists, especially if they have indeed broken the law. It’s too bad they appear to need that kind of scrutiny.