• Staci Sweet

Joel Osteen and $4.4 Million in PPP

So, I’m scrolling through the Gram® today (12/16/2020) and what do I see? A post that reads, ‘Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church Reportedly Received $4.4 Million PPP Loan Through the Federal COVID-19 Relief Program.’ Immediately I keep scrolling because I so don’t like seeing posts about us…Christians…in the news. So, I head back to my feed and guess what pops up first? ‘Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church Got $4.4 Million In Federal PPP Loans’. 😐 That did it. I had to get off the Gram® to see if there was any validity to these posts. And sure enough Pastor Osteen has once again made national news.

So Why Are People So Upset?

Why is Joel Osteen receiving $4.4 million in PPP a big deal? To some, it’s probably because the church is reportedly “taking in $43 million a year in collections” 1 while Mr. Osteen’s personal worth is over $50 million.” 2 Combined that’s roughly 93 million for one church. But what’s the big deal? Or an even better question is why would a church worth $43 million need an additional $4.4? That, my dear reader, I don’t know and to be quite honest, I don’t care. As a Christian, all I want to know is if it’s biblical so that when I see more posts or hear negative comments, I’ll be able to chime in from a biblical perspective. That said, let’s get to it and find out if the Word says anything about government funding. Interestingly enough, it does?

Remember in Genesis 41 when Joseph told Pharaoh about a 7-year famine where all the people would have to come to Egypt and seek Pharaoh for food? Pharaoh would have been the President Trump of his day with Joseph serving as his VP. Joseph’s job was to ensure the people had food throughout the famine or for the sake of our study but not limited to - PPP today.

So What is PPP?

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is ‘an SBA loan that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.’3 With that in mind, our question now becomes: Why would a church that averages $43 million annually need a small business loan? The first thing we need to establish is that there’s nothing wrong with business. Jesus even used the parable in Luke 19:12,13 which says, “A certain nobleman…called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’ Again, I know we like to hyper spiritualize Christianity, but God will even help us do business. Before Jesus went into ministry, even He was a self-employed carpenter. The apostles operated a food distribution/pantry/restaurant for widows. Paul was a tentmaker and Solomon was a serial entrepreneur who was a music mogul, real estate tycoon, and was a highly successful international freight broker who was responsible for building transportation infrastructure globally. So now that we have a few examples of businesses in the Bible, was it appropriate for Mr. Osteen to acquire a $4.4 million dollar loan? Well, that depends on what the loan was for.

According to the PPP guidelines, it should have been used to ensure the 368 full and part time staff members4 of Lakewood Church received their paychecks. Now we can get a better understanding as to why there’s such an upheaval about the loan. The REAL (or underlying) ISSUE really isn’t the fact that a megachurchreceived $4.4 million but that a megachurch used the $4.4 million to ensure its staff, (i.e. ministers of the gospel) were paid. You see how tricky that is. It’s easy to jump to conclusions and only see the megachurch side of it but what did the megachurch do with it? Now that we’ve gotten that out the way, the question now becomes…

Should Lakewood Staff Members or Ministers of the Gospel Be Compensated For Their Work?

Well, according to the Bible, they should! For that matter, Jesus was! Luke 8:3 says, ‘…Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others…ministered unto Him of their substance.’ 1 Corinthians 9:4, 7-1 says, “Do we have no right to eat and drink?... who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?...if we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar?” That means that if the staff members of Lakewood labors or works for the church, then they too should be compensated. But should the government or the church help pay their salaries?

Well, as a member of your church, do you help pay the salaries of those who minister to you? And are you supposed to? Welp, according to Malachi 3:10 which says, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house”, you are. The food God is talking about is spiritual food. The storehouse is the church and the tithes are the ten percent you’re supposed to contribute (bring) to your church every time you get paid. If you or members of Lakewood Church aren’t faithfully tithing, then perhaps a little government assistance is needed…especially in a pandemic! #nojudgment #noshade

So let’s ask the question again: Is it appropriate to receive government funding i.e. $4.4 million in PPP? Again, in the Old Testament, when there was a famine – a pandemic of sorts – the people had to apply for aid. They had to explain their situation (i.e. apply) to Joseph, the Vice President, who would then make the decision as to whether each person had met the qualifications. So yes, it is. Yet some might argue and say, “Yeah, but those were individuals, not small business owners or megachurches!” And you know what? You’re right! But how do we know that all of those who received aid, weren’t? According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, Egyptians were known for farming.5 Hence, many of the recipients back then could have very well been small business farmers who could used the aid to pay their farm hands (i.e. staff).

So again, let’s ask the question but lets up it a bit, shall we? Instead of asking is it appropriate for a church to receive $4.4 million in government funding, lets ask IS IT BIBLICAL? As we already discovered in scripture, YES IT IS! So if someone asks you about Mr. Osteen, cite this post or better yet, tell them to search the scriptures because if companies like Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Taco Cabana, Pizza Inn and Pie Five – who supply natural food - can receive millions of dollars in PPP, then most certainly churches who provide spiritual food can as well.

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