Thursday, October 23, 2014

What Is The Big Deal About A Pastor's Big Salary

And so it begins... again.
After a rubbish report on Pastor Prince in a top ten richest pastors list, criticisms on his alleged (former) salary of $700,000 (as reported by  Yahoo Singapore) have surfaced from all manner of people all over the internet... just like in 2009.

Yes, the same circus had happened in 2009 when it was reported in our local newspapers that Pastor Prince's annual salary then was estimated to be around $500,000 in 2008. 5 years later, even though Pastor Prince is no longer on the church's payroll since 2009, Yahoo Singapore in their news report has raised Pastor Prince's salary to $700,000. Regardless, whether $500,000 or $700,000,  considering that the median household annual income in 2013 in Singapore is about $95,000 (monthly $7,870), that level of income is considered very high, even more so when it is a pastor's salary as there is a general expectation (misconceived or otherwise) that pastors should be modestly paid and lead a frugal lifestyle.

So what is the big deal about a pastor's big salary? Let us examine the following:

1. What level of salary should a pastor receive? On what basis?

Many Christians feel that they are paying the pastor's salary through their tithes and offerings; hence they feel resentful when they discover that the pastor is earning many more times than they. So what level of salary should the church pay the pastor? What is the basis?

You ask 100 Christians this question and in all probability, you will get 100 different answers. This all boils down to an individual's own perception of values and the worth of that pastor. However, as an analogy, let me use the example of teachers' salary in Singapore as a pastor is in a way a spiritual teacher.

Teachers in Singapore are paid according to the salary scale of their respective civil service grade, so teachers within the same grade are paid around a narrow band. I'm sure during your schooling days, you would have encountered different subject teachers of varying teaching capabilities, yet they are all paid around the same salary regardless of their level of competence if they are in the civil service grade.

Is that fair? Shouldn't more capable teachers be rewarded much more? However, this system can't do that as there's a narrow band of salary to adhere unless that teacher is promoted to a higher grade. However, the same situation will still surface within that higher grade. How about scrapping the grades and salary bands altogether? Well, this is for the Ministry of Education to decide.

Similarly, should all pastors be expected to receive a salary within a narrow scale on a low service grade? Every church has its own council or board of trustees which will have to decide for themselves.

How about the individual Christian? What can you do? Well, you can walk out! Find another church which pays the pastor peanuts! Before you do that, maybe you should spend two minutes to read this blog post which I wrote 5 years ago during the same circus then:

A Family Dinner 
Last night, to celebrate April Fool's Day, I took my family out for dinner at a very nice restaurant in the city. The waitress led us to a table and we sat down and waited for her to hand us the menu. However after some time, we still did not receive the menu. I managed to catch the attention of the waitress and asked her for the menu. She replied,"I am sorry, sir. In honour of April Fool's Day, our restaurant is serving only the Chef's Special Set Dinner today. Your dinner will be served shortly." 
True enough, while the waitress was still explaining to us, the first dish arrived. All in all, we were served a seven course dinner plus dessert (mango pudding). Man, was the dinner good! We thoroughly enjoyed the food and my kids were pestering me to come again soon, even though we still haven't left the restaurant yet! 
Then suddenly, something caught my mind: I had not asked about the price of the dinner! I quickly signaled to the waitress for the bill and crossed my fingers that I have enough money in my wallet to pay for it. To my surprise, the waitress walked over empty-handed and said,"We have no fixed price for our set dinner, sir. You just pay us whatever you want." 
My surprise turned into shock. I thought this was too good to be true. Could this be an April Fool's Day joke? I asked,"Is it ok even if I pay $2?" "Yes, sir. Any amount you pay is fine with us." came the smiling reply. Of course, I didn't pay $2 but I did give what I thought was an appropriate amount. 
I asked the waitress,"I am curious. Since the customer can pay any amount he wants, how much does your chef actually earn a year?" She replied, "$500,000". I was flabbergasted; "What? $500,000 just to cook food? This is too much! I am never coming to this restaurant again!" 
My dear wife (God bless her) said to me,"Darling, we really enjoyed the dinner just now, didn't we? How much did you pay for it? Just $20, not $500,000! For a seven course dinner plus dessert! Why should you be concerned about how much the chef earns?"

2. Can a pastor be rich?

Many Christians cannot accept a pastor with a huge salary because they feel that he is getting rich at their expense. I can understand that kind of sentiment, it's just human nature. However, can those same Christians accept a pastor who is rich without receiving a single cent of salary from the church?

Pastor Prince has not been on the church's payroll since 2009; his main source of income is from the intellectual property rights of his books and sermon CDs and DVDs (I have heard from a reliable source that the royalty income from his sermon CDs and DVDs are channeled to a non profit organization to purchase TV airtime, some of which is donated to other grace preachers).

Even if Pastor Prince is truly a very rich man, maybe the tenth richest pastor in the world, is there anything wrong with earning a good honest income from writing books and preaching life changing sermons? Has anyone condemned JK Rowling for earning millions of dollars from her Harry Potter series? Has anyone condemned Nick Vujicic for earning his keep from his motivational books and talks?

Is every book writer automatically rich? Of course not! Therefore, do not begrudge the success of those who managed to write books which people love to read for whatever personal reasons.

Do you, for whatever peculiar reason you might have, believe that a pastor is not allowed to be rich, full stop? I thank God you are not God!

Psalm 35:27 (AMP)

27 Let those who favor my righteous cause and have pleasure in my uprightness shout for joy and be glad and say continually, Let the Lord be magnified, Who takes pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.

(For those scornful of my views because I attend NCC, may I recommend another article on Pastor Prince's salary by a Christian who is not attending NCC - "Working With Grace")


The said...

/// You ask 100 Christians this question and in all probability, you will get 100 different answers. ///

Yes, but most probably 95 or even 99 of them will give a salary of less than $500,000.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link! And wonderful story about the chef - it sure got me thinking! :) ~Grace

ForeverEver said...

Joseph Prince receives a lot of money from book royalty. He owns private property assets. This makes him one of the richest pastors in the world. Hands down.

Lee lee said...

You got psalm 35 wrong. Read the entire chapter. It is a singular recipient to prosperity. And it is not referring to personal wealth. There is no justification for personal wealth because it puts power in the hands of the...devil!

Stanley Wong said...

Hi Grace,
Thank you for writing an excellent, reasonable and logical article ... I really liked it... I hope my link will lead to even more people reading it... 👍

Stanley Wong said...

Hi The,
You are most probably right. However, the key is not just the $ amount but more importantly the basis on which you determine the $ amount... And I'm sure you will probably get 100 different answers to that.

Stanley Wong said...

Hi Lee lee,
The word translated as "prosperity" in the verse is actually "shalom" in the original Hebrew.
According to Strong's Concordance, it is a word with deep levels of meaning:

1. completeness, soundness, welfare, peace
A. completeness (in number)
B. safety, soundness (in body)
C. welfare, health, prosperity
D. peace, quiet, tranquillity, contentment
E. peace, friendship
i) of human relationships
ii) with God especially in covenant relationship
F. peace (from war)
G. peace (as adjective)

Lee lee said...

Peace(shalom). A kingdom of peace. Christianity does not and cannot bring peace to the world  because it is fundamentally a religion. And her messengers are not worth even a penny. 

christan said...

Is there really an issue for one of God's children to be blessed with the earthly riches of this world?

Abraham, King David, King Solomon to name a few were endowed with earthly wealth by God Almighty.

The question one must seriously be asking is: "Is your pastor teaching the Truth from the Word of God or is he preaching something else that will only profit his bank account. Which in today's context seems to be the norm.

For such, there's are very grave warnings and admonishment from the Word of God:

"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." - Exodus 20:7

"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" - Mark 8:36,37

"For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." - Revelation 22:18,19