On October 18, 2010, Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral voluntarily filed for bankruptcy protection from its creditors. Schuller and his congregation built the Crystal Cathedral in 1980 for $18 million. Thirty years later the Cathedral is financially ruined, owing creditors $48 million amid revelations that the church leaders lived luxuriously.
What might Jesus say about such circumstances? Here’s Jesus speaking in Matthew 6:24 (NIV): “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
The Crystal Cathedral appears caught in the money trap. According to a Los Angeles Times December 2, 2010 article:
The documents show the church paid out more than $1.8 million to 23 insiders and members of founding pastor Robert H. Schuller’s family in the last year. That sum included $832,490 in tax-exempt housing allowances given to eight people. The U.S. Trustee overseeing the bankruptcy proceedings has already objected to the $132,000 housing allowance paid to one insider, saying there was “no justification whatsoever” for an allowance of that amount. The insider, Chief Financial Officer Fred Southard, said it was a benefit he is entitled to as a minister ordained by Crystal Cathedral.
The newly filed documents show that at least three additional people received housing allowances of more than $100,000: Schuller’s son-in-law Paul Dunn, who writes and directs the annual Glory of Christmas pageant; Schuller’s daughter Carol Milner and his son Robert A. Schuller.
Founder Robert H. Schuller, who still sits on the board with his wife Arvella, also received an allowance, as did Schuller’s son-in-law James Coleman, who is president of Crystal Cathedral Ministries; James Penner, another son-in-law who produces the “Hour of Power” television program; and CFO Southard’s son-in-law William Gaultiere, who is part-time pastor of Spiritual Formation Ministries.
Dunn, who lives in Hawaii, received more than $300,000 in housing allowance and vendor payments in the last year and was still owed $64,758, according to the financial statement filed Wednesday.
It’s no mystery religion rakes in money. Jesus knew that money would compete for our deepest devotion. This is why He taught, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
And Jesus knew that some “leaders” within Christianity would teach falsely on the Money issue as well as other matters. For example, consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:15-27 (NIV):
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord did we not prophecy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house, and it fell with a great crash.”
No one objectively viewing the Crystal Cathedral issues noted above could conclude anything other than its leaders fell prey to money’s seduction. And as Jesus says, serving God and serving Money are mutually exclusive. Neither allows moonlighting at the other master’s shop.
But rather than sit smugly and watch the Crystal Cathedral sink into the sand of its foundation, we would do well to ask where we stand in service to God. Is Money our master? If so, God calls all who can hear to pursue something far greater—a Creator who willingly embraces the poor and downtrodden. God’s unimpressed with newly minted billionaires, millionaires or those who want to be so. In God’s time line, we’re here then we’re gone and all that matters is whether we truly worshiped the Almighty—that’s Almighty God rather than Almighty Dollar.
 This equals approximately $46,250,000 in 2010 dollars, when adjusted for inflation.
 Matthew 6:19-22 (NIV)