A British media source has run an extensive expose of Trinity Broadcasting Network. I believe many visitors to this website will be familiar with TBN, and will have watched their programs or patronized some of their outreach efforts. I myself once attended their Holy Land theme park in Orlando and found it to be an enjoyable and uplifting experience.
However, this article paints a picture of a secretive, international organization whose leaders lived lives of outlandish self-indulgence and financial extravagance which was concealed from their donors. The primary charges come from a former chief finance director of TBN, who was also a relative of TBN’s leaders. Since there are lawsuits and countersuits involved, the legal discovery process should determine whether the allegations are true. These allegations include TBN’s leaders, Paul and Jan Crouch, used donated funds to buy “a $50 millions jet, 13 mansions and a $100,000 mobile home for Mrs. Crouch’s dogs.”
Unfortunately, if true, this will not be the first case of extravagant financial self-indulgence by Christian leaders or televangelist ministries. Similar such cases have occurred in previous years. It is very unfortunate when such examples of financial self-indulgence occur as there are so many Christian ministries, churches, etc. which handle monies entrusted to them with frugality, responsible oversight, and good stewardship. However, this latest report of greed by Christian leaders has prompted this post.
Let’s ask some questions. Did Jesus Christ ever travel in a gold-plated, personal coach and was he accompanied by high-paid staffers? Did Paul ever travel via a gold-plated chariot or a private yacht in his evangelistic travels around the Mediterranean world? Obviously, the answer is “no.” New Testament apostles never asked for (or asserted any right to) the tithes of believers. Paul was clearly supported by donations only, and never even mentions the word “tithe” in any epistle known to be authored by him. Did the early apostolic church build big church buildings in their respective cities? There is no evidence that they did. Indeed, it appears the churches to whom Paul’s epistles were addressed were very inexpensively-supported house churches (I Corinthians 1:11 and 16:9, Romans 16:5, Colossians 4:15) with no church building at all.
The modern Christian church has a general understanding that modern believers “owe tithes” to Christian leaders even though there is no evidence that any New Testament leaders or believers in biblical times had any such belief. It is the dogma that believers “owe tithes” to somebody which can lead to the financial abuses cited in the article. The subject of tithing is incredibly misunderstood by the modern Christian church. I invite you to read my research report on the subject of tithing [PDF] which was recently posted at my website’s homepage to gain a clear understanding of Old Testament tithing and New Testament giving. Did you realize that there was a large category of personal household income which was not subject to tithing laws under the biblical tithing laws or that vast swaths of the ancient Israelite population paid no tithes even when “mandatory tithing” was in effect under the rule of the Judges? Did you realize the priestly tribe of Levi (supported by the tithes) essentially worked for “room and board” and not for salaries? If the modern Christian church understood the realities of how tithing was understood and practiced in biblical times, such abuses as the TBN scandal could not possibly have occurred. Reading my research report on tithing may be one of the most liberating experiences you will have as a believer. This report is well-documented with source material and its conclusions are supported by recognized Jewish reference works on the Tanakh (the Old Testament).
The reported TBN scandal also highlights the fact that while there are western Christian ministries that are lavishly self-indulgent, there are also vast numbers of Christians around the world who struggle to make ends meet, to avoid persecutions or even to survive at all. My article, A New Look at the Seven Churches of Revelation [PDF], available at my website’s homepage, examines and attempts to specifically identify the branches of the modern Christian churches which were prophesied to exist during the latter days just prior to Jesus Christ’s return. The TBN financial excesses would place them squarely in the “Laodicean” camp, which was a rich church with “deep pockets” and a trust in their financial wealth as a source of security and a symbol of God’s blessings. As the Bible shows in Revelation 3:14-22, that attitude couldn’t possibly be more wrong. Indeed, Revelation 3 reveals that latter-day believers who pursue and trust in materialistic wealth are so disgusting to Jesus Christ that he is ready to “spew them out of his mouth.”
Since this post is on the subject of Christianity and money, did it ever occur to you that Jesus Christ never asked the Jews of his day for tithes or offerings? He didn’t have to do so. He was wealthy. There is a common misconception in modern Christendom that Jesus was just a “poor carpenter.” If that was the case, how come he and his band of 12 future apostles, “the 70” or more traveled with him around Judea and Galilee for three and one-half years with no visible means of support? Jesus’ band traveled with so much money that they needed a treasurer to keep track of it all. Judas was the treasurer and he had control of so much money that he even embezzled some it, thinking no one would ever notice (John 12:6, 13:29). Indeed, John 13:29 confirms that Jesus traveled with so much money that he not only didn’t have to ever ask for “tithes and offerings,” their band was known to give away money to help the poor that they encountered. Where did Jesus’ money come from? That has an easy biblical answer. He was given a prodigious gift of “gold, frankincense and myrrh” by the Wise Men/Magi when they visited Jesus as a young child (Matthew 2:1,12). That money would have been held in trust for him until he reached adult age, so God the Father arranged for Jesus’ eventual ministry to be abundantly pre-financed when Jesus was but a child. My book, Parthia–the Forgotten Ancient Superpower, includes a lengthy chapter which dispels many such misunderstandings about Jesus’ life and reveals many things about his life and ministry that while mentioned in the Bible, they cannot possibly be understood in context until you realize his life and ministry was deeply-enmeshed within the superpower rivalry between the Roman and Parthian Empires. His biblical ministry occurred in Judea, part of the Roman Empire, but the funding for Jesus’ ministry came from the Parthian Empire (which was an empire dominated by the previously-exiled ten tribes of Israel who had risen to rule over the Persians, Assyrians and Babylonians, directly fulfilling a prophecy in Isaiah 14:2 that this would happen.) To order this book, simply click the Order Now button by the book cover on the books page and it will take you directly to the publisher’s shopping cart, or you can send $25 to Steven M. Collins, P.O. Box 88735, Sioux Falls, SD 57109-8735. (You can click on the link under the book cover to view a significant free portion of the book’s text).