A workman worthy of their wages, or a monstrous blasphemy?

Is he? Or is the heart of Hillsong a monstrous blasphemy?

A few days ago Mark Keown posted on The Income of Ralph Norris which generated lively debate, on Facebook though not on his blog. (Has FaceBook, just as the press is reporting users leaving in droves, ironically taken over from blogs as the locus of in/semi-formal discussion?) What galled Mark, and many others, is a huge salary being paid to a Bank CEO at a time when banks are seen as failing institutions gouging the less well-off to make money for the rich.

There is no debate, from Mark, or his commenters, that the notion of a worker being worthy of their wages is not only biblical but good and right. What is being questioned in that case is the scale of the wages (Tens of millions seems excessive by most people’s standards!) and the nature of the society (for banks do seem to epitomise Western capitalist societies). I’ll quote one line from Mark’s conclusion before moving on to the church:

Jesus said you cannot serve God and money, our culture serves money.

Now to another salary… a student in my prophet’s class pointed this one out. The Hillsong site contains Bobbie’s and My Finances… A letter from Brian Houston. This letter, dated last year1 reveals that Brian and Bobbie Houston earn roughly Au$300,000 plus a few perks like cars and homes and things. Roughly half comes from a trust they set up to manage their ministry activities beyond Hillsong, and roughly half from Hillsong.

The letter seeks to convince its readers that this is right and proper. I’ll again quote a one liner that perhaps sums up what I heard in the tone of Brian’s letter:

We are blessed and I would want the same for anyone else in our position and stage of life.

Is he right? Is this huge salary indeed God’s blessing on a good and faithful servant? Is it what other good and faithful servants at his stage of life who are blessed to pastor huge churches deserve?

Or is this a blasphemy against the Lord Brian Houston claims to proclaim?

I know where I stand, but then my salary is in the top 10% worldwide, and so is that of most2 readers of this blog…

Jesus said you cannot serve God and money, our culture serves money.

  1. So, of course, it may be out of date. []
  2. Except those who have temporarily dropped their earnings to study or for other reasons. []

2 comments on “A workman worthy of their wages, or a monstrous blasphemy?

  1. Mitchell Powell

    If you ask me, the massively inflated salaries that bankers get paid for a record of failure is merely a symptom. Our banking system runs on an inherently unstable and exploitative fractional reserve system, in which the primary profit for banks comes by using the reserve ratio to make new money out of thin air. The losers are the depositors, who see their dollars losing value, and the tax-payers, who bail out an ever-increasing series of banks. To simply rein in the high salaries would be equivalent to perfuming a gangrenous limb — it would make things smell better for a bit, but would do nothing for the problem.

    1. tim

      Agreed, it’s a symptom. Agreed some “official” action to rein in salaries would neither work (people with power are good at avoiding taxes and rules) nor address the real problem. The cause is materialism, in a culture that believes things are all there is greed is virtue, for the greedy “possess” more things.