the faithful ramblings a late bloomer. . .

the faithful musings of a four letter word user on a quest for authenticity.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Go Ahead, Call Me A Hypocrite

I live in a resort community on the eastern coast of Florida.  It’s a great small town with gorgeous beaches and the beautiful blue waters of the Atlantic.  Consequently, there’s loads of money here.  Old money, new money, lots and lots and lots of money.  

There is also no money.  Money and no money are quite literally divided by a set of train tracks here, the Florida East Coast Railway that runs parallel with US down the east coast of Florida.

I work with no money, but I worship and play with money.  I witness the great divide of the haves and have nots on a daily basis.  Often, I am unsettled about the world I live in, compared to the world I work in.  I try to take the feelings of shame of having what I need and most of what I want and counterbalance them with as much gratitude as I can offer up.  So far, that's the best solution I can come up with as I've never felt God's call to give it all up and move to a third world country.   

Generally, that does the trick, but when I pulled into a church parking lot last Friday evening at 5 o’clock to prepare for a dinner Habitat was hosting there, and saw the pastor and his co-pastor wife getting into there very gorgeous white BMW, I couldn’t help but pause and question the situation.

It’s the second time I’ve seen it, too.  My previous priest, drove a 2 door convertible Lexus coupe.  I remember the first time I saw him driving up to a church picnic and thinking to myself, “ToTo we’re not in Kansas anymore”.  Turns out that priest had a serious vanity problem. . . and an authenticity problem as it would later be revealed that he was involved in a 17 year relationship with a female priest who was not his wife. He is no longer a priest however, he is now driving that luxury automobile to the homeless shelter that he’s directing.

I am in the process of finding a new church and was considering visiting the church I was at Friday evening.  I’ve been there before and liked it and was considering giving it another try, but honestly, now I’m not so sure.  I've been burned once by an affluent priest.

I know these ministers have worked for many years to be where they are financially, just like the CEO of the local bank.  They have raised their children, likely paid off their mortgages and certainly have the disposable income to drive anything they like.  So why do I struggle with them displaying their level of financial comfort?

I should insert a disclaimer here.  I have a Saab. It is going on 6 years old, but having had newer ones, I will admit that I would probably be driving a newer one if I could afford it. Those with money don’t give THAT generously to Habitat though!  I like a luxury car just as much as the next guy, and generally feel that as long as you’re not over extending yourself for vanity sake, and you like it, then go for it.  

I really have no room to judge them though as I pull up to Habitat every day in a luxury brand and will fully admit to coveting those driving the new E-class Mercedes. Hello, have you seen them?  They’re gorgeous!

Anyway, I digress.  I’m wondering how YOU would feel if you pulled up to church and saw your preacher driving a Mercedes.  Perhaps you have?  Is it wrong? Is it fine?  Please, help me out with this one!  I could be missing a great church over this one!


  1. for me personally it wouldn't bother me. maybe it's because i feel like you kind of get what you pay for with a car??? i dont know.

    If there were multiple signs of extravagance...wardrobe, car, over the top house...then maybe i'd start to wonder.

    but being great friends with my pastor and knowing his heart and how much they give to missions and stuff, i feel like if they did own a nice car, i would be happy for them. but for the record, they drive a beater minivan.

  2. It definitely makes you stop and wonder how else that money can be used. I think everyone has thought about this subject before, nice post.

  3. Thanks guys! I definitely see both sides of the coin, but it always leaves me a little weirded out!

  4. Linds,

    On the surface, it does seem quite odd to see a person of the cloth enveloped in the comforts of a luxury automobile, but this may be a matter of judging a book by its cover.

    The true testament to faith and living a Christ-like life is one's actions. As you wrote, it's possible this pastor has lots of disposable income as a result of a now empty nest. Perhaps he's been a shrewd investor over the years. Perhaps a deceased member of the congregation left him the vehicle as part of his will. Yet perhaps this pastor also gives generously of his income back to the church, and perhaps he works many more hours than most people see with the homeless and spiritually lost.

    There are so many 'acceptable' possibilities for that specific situation, and we need to remind ourselves that perception is not always reality.

    If you don't feel at home in a particular church, then you definitely should seek out a new place of worship, but be sure you're doing so because you're looking for a community of people with whom you can connect and grow spiritually and not simply because the head of that community has too nice a ride.