Saturday, November 30, 2013

Radix Malorum est Cupiditas

Four times, I flew west across the Pacific, spending ten to twenty days each time in Seoul.  My business trips usually involved me working the night shift, so I had the opportunity to explore downtown Seoul.  
I visited the Korean War Museum (finding my grandmother's first husband's name on a memorial wall), the Korean National Museum, the 63 Building (once the tallest building in Asia), N Seoul Tower, and the rebuilding of the Nandaemun Gate.

But, I'd decided that, while in Seoul, I would visit Yoido Full Gospel Church, the famous megachurch with over 700,000 members.  I sat in the foreigner's section of the balcony, listening to the multi-lingual headset listening to Pastor Cho's sermon interpreted by an interpreter named Isaac. I took pictures of the church...I even went to their bookstore and bought a book for a friend of mine.  (St. Augustine's Korean)

Last week, while looking over the news, I saw that there were allegations of embezzlement at the church.  The elders of the church had announced that, in addition to the $10 million that is being investigated in relation to a stock purchase...

Quoting a Korean newspaper, "In total, the elders are accusing the Chos of embezzling as much as US$500 million or more in church money."  (Article from

My God.

It's mindboggling.

It's at least twice the annual income of YFGC - at it's peak in '08.

And...I'm left wondering...
Anomaly?  Symptom?  Pattern?

We ask to be judged on our intentions and our best days.
We are judged on our actions and our worst days.

We ask to not be judged based on the actions of a few.
But we sometimes judge a group by the actions of a few who disgrace the group, assuming that they represent the whole.

I've heard of preachers who make their money off their books.
I've heard of preachers who put everything from their books back into their ministry.
I've heard of preachers being called on the carpet about their finances.

And I'm left thinking back to a simpler day, when the church I attended would keep the members up-to-date on the business of the church on a monthly basis.  (3rd Wednesday, as I recall)

So...what is a church supposed to spend their income on?
  • Evangelization
  • Care for the poor
  • Staff salaries
  • Property upkeep & utilities
  • ?? ?? ??

By the way, why did the itinerant Jesus and his apostles require a treasurer?


  1. Great post, and wow to that final question. WOW! I have never wondered about that. What is the answer?

    1. Why did Jesus need a treasurer? I'm not sure. Off the top of my head, the only expenses listed in the Gospels ... none listed. Not sure whether Philip meant to pull 200 denarii (at denarii = day's wage = $100) ... out of the account of Carpenter Ministries, LLC (ha!)

      Once upon a time, I attended a church that preached ... prosperity theology lite. The vocation of the most infamous of the apostles, Judas Iscariot (who's almost always mentioned as the betrayer, and the embezzler) - he carried the purse...and thus it was asked, occasionally, if there was enough $$ for one of the apostles to take a discount...