A young man named Tyler created an Instagram account called “PreachersNSneakers” that showcased church leaders wearing expensive designer shoes. The Instagram account features pastors and church leaders with large followings on social media, along with their shoes and the price tags of them.
“It started out as me being interested in sneakers and being involved with church culture…so those two things made for good comedic content,” Tyler told BuzzFeed News.
“This whole thing spun out of me sitting on my couch one Sunday. I was looking for this one song on YouTube and saw the lead singer in this worship band was wearing Yeezy 750s,” he said.
Tyler, who works full time in the tech industry and is also a sneakerhead, knew the Yeezy 750 boost sneakers were super rate and retailed for $1,800 or more. “This is crazy,” he thought.
What began as a joke he shared with his friends became a space of both celebration and controversy around pastor influencers and their expensive shoes.
“I’m a Christian and [have] been so for a long time and feel really strongly about the leaders of the church and how high of a calling they have,” the “PreachersNSneakers” Instagram creator said. “I started questioning myself, ‘What is ok as far as optics…as far as pastors wearing hype or designer clothing?’ I don’t have an answer.”
There has been a great deal of debate around the wealth of modern-day pastors. Some believe it’s ok that they live in excess because they’ve earned it. Others believe a pastor should never earn that much. Many Christians are uncomfortable with the idea of mega-rich pastors because of their lifestyles, especially when their lifestyles appear excessive. Can Christian preachers justify driving Lamborghini’s, owning private jets, and wearing designer shoes and clothing with the teachings of Jesus?
First, we should understand how God views wealth. The Bible doesn't say that it is a sin to be wealthy. In fact, the ancient patriarchs Abraham, King Solomon, and Job were all very wealthy. God made them wealthy. God placing them in positions of wealth shows us that being wealthy isn’t wrong as He wouldn’t have put them in that place if it was. God does tell wealthy Christians to share their wealth.
First Timothy 6:17-19 says, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
We know from scripture that God doesn’t rebuke Christians for being wealthy. He calls them to be generous with their wealth. God does rebuke those for not loving Him and for sin. We do see examples in scripture where God tells several people to give their money away. One of those people is a rich young ruler, referenced in Matthew 18:16-26. Jesus told them to do this because money was their God. These individuals loved their money more than they loved their Father in Heaven. It should come as no surprise that Jesus challenged these people to give their money away. Jesus helped these people to see where the hearts were, and they were not fixed on God.
When asking the question, “Is it ok for pastors to wear designer clothes,” or “Is it ok for pastors to be wealthy?” we can also turn to the Bible. The Levites or the priests in the Old Testament were not given an inheritance of the land. They were also not able to grow their food. These priests lived with the people, and the Jewish people supported them with tithes. We don’t know how much wealth the Levites had, though they likely had more money than others. Matthew 6:24 is a good verse to apply to members of the clergy.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24). The best way to understand this text is to look at the word “serve.” Some poor people are more obsessed, fixated, and controlled by money, some as much, if not more, than rich people. Some give their money away, with little regard to how much they own. Ultimately, money isn’t the issue. The issue is the attitude of the heart towards the money we have.
First Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” You may notice in the verse that the ownership of money is not the root of evil, but the love of money is.
People will always wonder what motivates wealthy pastors and where their hearts really are.Church leaders and their congregations should have discussions about what is appropriate. It is only natural for people to ask if the money they are giving to the church is going to the salary of the pastor and church resources, or is it being spent on designer clothes and sneakers? If it is going to the latter, it will only cause disappointment and distrust of the ministry.
Some will find themselves in positions of wealth, and others will find themselves in poverty. These situations can change throughout their lives. The Bible teaches that we should not be obsessed with money because we can easily become slaves to it if we are. Pay attention to the behavior and actions of those who lead your ministry. Are they more focused on the optics, like the expensive clothes, shoes, and jewelry, or are they focused on using the money to advance the Kingdom of God?