Is John MacArthur’s wealth a real scandal?

It was widely known that John MacArthur was a rich man. Pastoring Grace Community Church and being one of the most influential pastors in the United States undoubtedly comes with wealth from books, broadcasting, speaking gigs, and more. John MacArthur has a diverse portfolio of income streams tied to his brand as a pastor. All of this was known. So, is the extravagant wealth of MacArthur a real scandal?

Julie Roys would seem to think so. On February 3rd, she published her piece, “The Prosperous Lifestyle of America’s Anti-Prosperity Gospel Preacher.” This is a story with three basic elements and most people are only discussing the first one:

  • John MacArthur’s Wealth
  • The longstanding beef between Julie Roys and John MacArthur
  • John MacArthur’s teachings on giving

This analysis will treat everything Julie Roys reported on MacArthur’s wealth as true, not the narrative she is trying to cast. It will also give John MacArthur the benefit of the doubt.

  • Yet according to financial statements and tax forms obtained by The Roys Report, John MacArthur and his family preside over a religious media and educational empire that has over $130 million in assets and generates more than $70 million a year in tax-free revenue.
  • MacArthur and his family and related companies have been paid more than $12.8 million from ministry and donor funds. And MacArthur owns three luxury homes worth millions.
  • In one year alone, MacArthur made more than $402,000 for part-time work at his broadcast ministry, Grace to You (GTY), and another $103,000 from The Master’s University and Seminary (TMUS). This was in addition to MacArthur’s salary from the megachurch he pastors, Grace Community Church, as well as book royalties and speaking fees.

It’s clear the John MacArthur makes a lot of money from multiple income streams, which is a practice advocated at Evangelical Dark Web so that Christians are less reliant on the world. John MacArthur is doing this in practice, but the fact that he is in ministry makes his wealth distasteful to many. On principle, good pastors deserve to be well compensated. Obviously, this cannot always be the case. 1 Timothy 5:18 states:

For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

John MacArthur is a pastor of a very large church, Grace Community Church, which commands a six figure income. MacArthur is president of Master’s Seminary which is a job that commands a six figure salary. He wrote numerous books, which people bought, entitling him to more earnings. He created a network, Grace To You, which operates a store as well as receives donations.

Is it wrong in and of itself for John MacArthur to make money from all of these sources? No. However, does all of this corroborate a narrative that MacArthur is not free of the love of money? Possibly.

One of the qualifications for being an elder of the church is to be free from the love of money (1 Timothy 3:3). Titus 1:7 and 1 Peter 5:2 list the qualification “not fond of sordid gain.” The meaning behind this is to prevent someone with base mercenary desire from becoming an elder. Mercenaries fight a cause for gold, not conviction. They jump ship when not paid or prior to their immanent peril. So, what does this look like in a modern application.

Someone fond of sordid gain is someone who is willing to align with notorious false teachers when it benefits their financial interests. Someone fond of sordid gain is someone who will scrub their books of biblical sexuality to not offend their audience of people with pronouns in their bios, like Beth Moore.

It’s true that it would be in John MacArthur’s fiduciary interest to maintain orthodoxy, but MacArthur famously changed his teaching on Romans 13 at a time when it would benefit him financially to do so. However, it cannot be proven that this was out of financial interest as opposed to his prior teaching being incorrect. I find it unsubstantiated that John MacArthur’s decades of ministry reflect base mercenary desires.

Julie Roys

The factor in this story that comes across as petty and tribal is the apparent feud between Julie Roys and John MacArthur. Roys decries in her reporting that Grace Community Church would not turn over their financial documents. This would ultimately result in GCC’s departure from the Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability, according to Roys. But is this a culture lacking transparency, or was Grace Community Church wisely withholding information from a scandalmonger?

When it comes to John MacArthur, Julie Roys has a long history of being a bad actor. She is a panic porn peddler with regards to coronavirus. Her reporting targeted Liberty University for having a snowball fight, as well as repeated articles attacking John MacArthur for faithfully opening his church.

Moreover, she is also a PC language police that weaponized cancel culture. Recently, she targeted Rick Warren’s church for creating a video featuring Kung Fu, decrying it as racist. She also went after MacArthur for telling Beth Moore to “go home.”

Lastly Julie Roys has an agenda against powerful men in ministry. Now, many of these men deserve it. However, it is difficult to trust the objectivity of someone who clearly has an agenda. Great reporters are activists and upfront about their biases, as neutrality does not really exist. However, the agenda of Julie Roys, in promoting panic porn and PC culture, is not congruent with a Biblical worldview.

With all of this said, it was completely reasonable for Grace Community Church to blow her off as much as possible.

John MacArthur’s Teachings on Giving and Tithing

One of the reasons, the Julie Roys story is particularly sensational is that MacArthur has been a notorious critic of the Prosperity Gospel which teaches that one of the promises of the Christian life is health and wealth. The narrative Julie Roys is trying to cast is that MacArthur is a hypocrite in this regard. But is this true? My colleague Jeff Dornik, who I just interviewed made reference to teachings by John MacArthur that sound comparable to the Prosperity Gospel. It is worth evaluating his claims because he is actually asking the salient questions on the matter. Consider this article on Grace To You that summarizes MacArthur’s teachings on tithing.

Today many conservative evangelical pastors are reviving and promoting the practice of tithing. They argue that this Old Testament pattern—giving one tenth of your income—is still a requirement for New Testament Christians.

Unlike the crass forms of indulgences we’ve encountered thus far, the modern tithe has an air of biblical credibility. Tithing actually precedes the Mosaic law and first appears in Genesis 14:20. Abraham returned from a victorious battle—rescuing his nephew Lot—and gave Melchizedek, the king of Salem, one tenth of his victory spoils (it’s worth noting that Abraham’s first tithe didn’t come out of his own personal wealth).

After comparing legalistic pastors who preach on tithing to those who sold indulgences, MacArthur’s views on tithing would be summarized as such:

In his book Whose Money Is It Anyway?, John MacArthur explains that tithing was an Old Testament form of taxation that supplied the necessary funds to operate Israel’s theocratic government. He concludes that the principle of Malachi 3 does not apply to believers under the New Covenant.

Compare this about what he says about giving in a 2013 article.

Greedily storing up wealth and resources limits their usefulness to your own selfish purposes. It’s far better to surrender them to the purposes of God and reap the tremendous blessings of being part of what He’s accomplishing in the lives of His people.

Faithful, sacrificial giving also knits you into the life of your church. In one simple act you’re helping support your pastor and the rest of your church’s staff, meet the needs of missionaries supported by your church, provide for the maintenance of your church building and other facilities, fulfill physical and financial needs within your congregation, and much more. And on top of all that, the Lord uses your support of ministries like Grace to You to reach people in your part of the world and beyond with the truth of Scripture.

That doesn’t mean we should recklessly give away everything—God’s Word clearly advocates wise management of your money (cf. Matthew 25:14-30). But if we’re going to store up treasure, we ought to store it “in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys” (Luke12:33). Give generously, and count on the Lord to be generous with you.

The context of this article is that John MacArthur is using Scripture articulate a transactional blessing upon giving, in an appeal to readers to give to Grace To You where MacArthur evidently makes six figures. It is true that giving to the church helps support the life of the church. It is also worth noting that there is no fixed amount specified to give. It’s clear that John MacArthur makes a distinction between his teachings on giving and tithing, but it’s also true that a Prosperity Preacher could have written everything MacArthur wrote in this post.

Ultimately, the only proof will come from MacArthur personally. Does he give as generously as he informs other to give? If so, then there is no real issue here. If he truly is storing up great treasures here on earth from convincing people to give generously, a practice he ignores, then Julie Roys may have come to the right conclusion with the wrong evidence, as this question was something one could have asked without her article. The Roys article, therefore, serves little purpose other than drawing scrutiny to MacArthur’s prosperity, but unless we know the personal giving habits of John MacArthur then the answer to the most salient questions cannot be answered. Therefore, no meaningful conclusions can yet be made, but we should be watchful, like the Bereans.

4 comments

  1. I find it fascinating how someone can justify a man getting millions in perks and owning multiple luxury mansions by quoting 1 Tim. Big, “successful” church equals big, multi-million dollar salary? Hmmm.

    The Catholic Church has more than one billion members and a presence in every corner of the earth. Yet many of her pastors make between $20,000 and $30,000 and that amount is seen as mostly for expenses such as a vehicle, getting a meal or buying gifts for family and friends. I would imagine that was the kind of thing to which Paul referred.

    Until 20th Century American Protestantism, the idea of a self-described pastor and preacher of the Gospel making more than a modest living was unheard of and an obvious sign of treachery.

    I guess when one throws out 2,000 years of Christian tradition to establish new churches with new, innovative doctrines, the sky is the limit.

    Peace to you.

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  2. To use Catholicism, a cult which is devoid of biblical truth and the churches insistence on poverty for it’s clergy as an argument is illogical.

    Research mother Teresa and how she told the poor in India that it was their blessing to suffer in poverty and die in squalor but when she had heart trouble she sought out the best most expensive medicine available.

    Catholics have long been into penance as a way to try to buy God’s favor!

    How any Bible reading person can actually be a Catholic, a Mormon, a Jehovah’s witness, or a seventh-day Adventist is beyond me!

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    • Thanks for reading my comment.

      There was no “Bible” as we know it before the late 1500s and the printing press. Before 350-400 AD there was not even a complete, accepted canon. And the vast majority of people could not read or write until the last few centuries! So, where were the Christians for the first 400 or 1,000 years? Who was spreading the good news throughout the known world? What did those people believe?

      You may want to answer those simple questions before running around saying Catholics are not Christians. Until Protestantism was invented, Catholics were the ONLY Christians. Everything invented in 1600, 1700. 1800 or last week on TV is a new religion, not the church willed by Jesus Christ.

      Be well and peace to you.

      (I do not plan to respond to further comments out of respect for the host, since this is his forum, not mine. Thanks for understanding.)

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  3. There is smoke coming from John MacArthur. One plume is his belief and teaching that you can take the mark of the beast and be saved. The audio and transcript from Bible Questions & Answers, Part 11, 1301-i (24 September 1980) are still on the Grace to You website. This is a doctrine of devils. Revelation 14:9-11, 16:2 and 19:20 are very, clear that all the recipients of the mark will suffer the wrath of God and hellfire for eternity. Will you trust the Word of God (Jesus) or MacArthur?

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