Jesus gave us a high standard for our words, thoughts and actions. None of us can live up to his standard all the time, but most of us try. One area where western christians seem to be tested is financial honesty.
And it seems that some of us, including some leaders, are failing the test.
According to Christian Headlines Blog, researchers from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity estimate that Christian religious leaders around the world are collectively committing $34 billion in financial fraud.
The culprits range from televangelists to priests, and many others. Known examples of fraud include:
- embezzlement of $2bn by a church leader in Brazil;
- 23m euros in a Vatican bank account as part of a money laundering scheme;
- allegations that $1bn was laundered annually by board members of a christian university;
- skimming off money from lucrative collections before the money is counted and banked and wrongful use of credit card accounts;
- use of churches as tax shelters and overpayment for services and goods.
The Blog also details examples of how some leaders, notably prominent US televangelists, appear to have paid themselves excessively, engaged in dishonest or devious financial accounting and reporting which mislead their supporters and defraud the Government of taxation.
What can we learn?
- Western christianity, especially in the US, appears to have become too comfortable with material wealth and too associated with capitalist values. We have become greedy and a few take this greed to excess.
- We cannot, unfortunately, always trust those who claim to be following Jesus. We need to be careful who we donate to, and who we entrust with financial responsibility in our churches.
- Each of us needs to examine our own practices, especially when we prepare tax returns, and rigorously submit our actions to God’s scrutiny.
It may be worth noting that the investigators also noted financial irregularities in non christian and even atheist organisations.