Well, it was just a matter of time, right? America’s largest church, Lakewood Church, pastored by the well-coifed Joel Osteen, has been burglarized to the tune of $600,000! Last Sunday, according to the Houston Chronicle, something was afoot in the collections vestibule.
What’s that? Most churches have them. This is the holy of holies where designated church volunteers go to count the tithe for the bank deposit. While there is nothing morally, ethically, or biblically wrong with that, the shenanigans to come out in the news following this normal action were.
The ubiquitous quoted “church leaders” sent all members of Lakewood Church about the “missing” cash, checks, and written credit card statements. While that is responsible to keep church members aware about what’s happening with their donations, many more cynical people are focusing on something else.
Victor Senties, spokesman for the Houston Police Department, said $200,000 in cash and $400,000 in checks were stolen from the church’s safe sometime between early afternoon Sunday and Monday morning, when a church employee first discovered the money missing.
Churches are not-for-profit. Let’s be clear, they make a profit but they are not established as a for-profit venture. This is why this Old Testament concept called the “tithe” is vital to the needs of the church. Essentially, it keeps the lights on. The tithe was a requirement of the law in which all Israelites were to give 10 percent of everything they earned and grew to the Tabernacle/Temple (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy 14:24; 2 Chronicles 31:5)
Now that we have that out of the way, two things: 1.) Maybe shake these two visitors of Lakewood in the picture down for the money. I’m sure they can cover it. And 2.) Here is the chief focus for the trolls out there who hold a special source of angst against Joel and Victoria Osteen — this excerpt from said church leader statement:
It is important to note this was not an electronic data breach, but was instead limited to donations made in the services on March 8 and 9, 2014. You were not affected if you put your offering in a drop box, you gave online or through other electronic means, or you made a bookstore purchase. We are working with the police to fully investigate the incident. The funds were fully insured, and we are working with our insurance company to restore the stolen funds to the church.
Churches have a fiscal responsibility to the tithe, as well as an ecumenical one. And while just about everyone in the city of Houston are skywriting “Inside Job” over the I-10/I-45 interchange (close to the church’s footprint), many can’t stop thinking about the insurance on the money. I suppose it’s a no-win situation for PR because this money vanished without a trace; yet, the money is coming back because it was insured. And the fact that it’s not like someone dropped a $20 in the hallway has a few people suspicious as well.
Only one response here seems suitable for everyone involved. It’s from a philosopher and all-around great guy: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34 KJV).”
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