December 15, 2020
On Tuesday, #TaxTheChurches was trending on Twitter after news broke that Joel Osteen’s church in Houston received more than $4 million in Paycheck Protection Program loan assistance earlier this year.
Osteen is the senior pastor of Lakewood Church, one of America’s most recognized megachurches. Neither Osteen nor his wife Victoria received any of the money personally. The church’s spokesperson says the loan was used to continue paying the salaries and benefits of other staff members after their congregation could not gather for church because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many tweeters responded in anger upon hearing this news. So instead of looking at the facts, they’re using this story to promote a dangerous agenda that would dilute all churches in their efforts to feed the hungry, clothe the needy, house the homeless, care for the brokenhearted, and oh, by the way—spread the gospel of Jesus Christ! Their goal of taxing churches is shortsighted at best and evil at worst.
I don’t know the specific financial circumstances of Lakewood Church and I am not defending their decision to apply for and accept the funds, nor am I defending the lavish lifestyle of Osteen. I’m defending the law that provides churches exemption from most taxation.
The church our family attends donates multiple thousands of dollars each year to local, national and international missions. It’s not just money we send, either. It’s people. Our people go and tell the world around them or the world abroad what Jesus is all about. Taxing a church like ours would mean a significant cut in the amount of outreach we’re able to do each year. And our church is not alone. Thank God that churches all over America do the same. It’s not only churches, but synagogues, mosques, and other religious institutions that provide care to millions of people.
If you are dismayed by a pastor’s lifestyle, the size or influence of a particular church, the wealth of its congregation, etc., then by all means, please find another Bible preaching church. But if you’re going to lump all churches into the same mold as Joel Osteen in an effort to create anti-church sentiment when it comes to taxes, please just go ahead and admit what you’re really targeting—the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ!