Pastor John Gray of the Relentless Church in Greenville, S.C., has been skewered for splurging on a $200,000 Lamborghini for his wife. Gray is also an associate pastor at Lakewood Church under the leadership of Pastor Joel Osteen, a megachurch minister who has also been criticized for living too well.
The video of Gray presenting his wife with the car has been taken down, but you can view snippets of it in an entertainment report by Inside Edition.
The rebuke for Gray’s largesse was swift and brutal.
Gray went back on social media to defend the right to spend his money on anything he wants.
“First of it all, it wasn’t a pastor that bought the car,” Gray said in a video responding to the controversy. “It was a husband that bought the car. Get that in your spirit, I’m a husband first — don’t confuse what I do with who I am. What I do is I pastor God’s people. Who I am is a husband and a father, and I’ll do anything to honor them and I won’t ask permission from anybody to do it. No man should.”
Gray also addressed accusations that he used church money to buy the car. He says the money came from the success of his books and reality show on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
“I have created and been patient my whole life for this moment — I’m 45,” he said. “I’m supposed to wait until I’m 70 to live my best life? And my best life is seeing my wife happy.”
Aventer Gray also took to social media to respond to the criticism.
"I don't see anyone screaming about how basketball players drive what they do while you paying $$$ to see them play in arenas and on fields,” she wrote.
Here’s my take on the controversy.
Personally, I don’t care what Gray does with his money. If he has the cash to buy a $200,000 vehicle, more power to him. We have no business in his business if the funds didn’t come from the church coffers or because of some malfeasance.
“Not a nickel, not a penny from this church, Relentless Church, went toward the gift that I gave my wife,” Gray said.
Further, Gray is not a priest who took a vow of poverty. If his books, speaking engagements and TV show afford him and his family a life of luxury, that’s called living the American Dream. And being a Christian does not mean you can’t have expensive things.
In Proverbs it says, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”
Still the question for many people of faith is how much profit is too much for a pastor?
Should ministers be living their best lives when so many in their congregation are struggling to make ends meet?
The same is said about top corporate executives who earn multimillion-dollar salaries while many of their workers don’t make a living wage. Or why are athletes paid insane amounts of money when teachers often have to take part of their modest salaries and buy supplies for their students?
The answer: Life is just not fair.
Some folks can sing, dunk or preach their way to prosperous lives. We can only hope that they give generously out of their abundance. I believe to whom much is given, much is required.
But having said all this, I do fault the Grays for one thing — bragging. Why did he feel the need to make a public display of his present?
When you hold certain positions, like that of a pastor, you should show restraint in the exhibition of your wealth. The optics of the anniversary gift was a mistake. It took the focus off his ministerial work and put it on his material wealth.
I’m not suggesting that Gray should hide his fortune, but in the video, as he’s presenting his wife with the car, he struts around and yells, “Lamborghini Urus.”
Later, when addressing the critics, Gray defiantly says, “I don’t really care what you think.”
That’s not true. He does care what the masses think. There were invited onlookers, and he posted the gift exchange online. If Gray didn’t want to show off, he would have presented the vehicle to his wife in private.
Yet the Grays aren’t alone. Social media is all about showing people what you have, where you eat or the amazing vacation places you go. Inevitably such displays of affluence make others feel less than.
Perhaps the lesson to learn from Gray’s conspicuous consumption is this: Live your best life without having to show the world how rich you are.
Last live chat for 2018
I’m live at noon (Eastern time) today to take your personal finance questions.
This week my guest is Margot Gilman, chief money editor at Consumer Reports. We’ll be discussing the December issue of Consumer Reports, “When Are Sales Too Good to Be True?"
So, if you’re looking for tips on how to spot a fake sale, join us for the live discussion.
It’s also “Testimony Thursday.” Share your financial success stories. Have you paid off debt? Did you finally reach your emergency fund goal?
To join the live discussion click this link.
Color of Money Columns This Week
Knowledge isn’t power. The right knowledge is power.
Stay informed about your money.
In addition to this newsletter, please read and share my weekly personal finance columns.
To readers: Please note there will be no newsletters on Dec. 24, 27 and 31. Happy Holidays.
Newsletter Comments Policy
Please note it is my personal policy to identify readers who respond to questions I ask in my newsletters. I find it encourages thoughtful and civil conversation. I want my newsletters to be a safe place to express your opinion. On sensitive matters or upon request, I’m happy to include just your first name and/or last initial. But I prefer not to post anonymous comments (I do make exceptions when I’m asking questions that might reveal sensitive information or cause conflict.)
Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested.
To read more Color of Money columns, go here.
If you’re viewing this post online sign up to automatically receive Michelle Singletary’s newsletters right into your email box: “Your Retirement” on Mondays and “Personal Finance” on Thursdays