One of the Bible’s most well-known verses urges Christians not to “store up for yourselves treasures here on earth” (Matthew 3:19). But one anonymous social media user is calling out America’s most influential pastors for doing just that.
Created two weeks ago and already boasting nearly 70,000 followers, @PreachersNSneakers features photos of celebrity ministers — among them Carl Lentz of New York’s Hillsong Church (who baptized Justin Bieber), John Gray (who stars in his own reality TV series on Oprah’s OWN network) and Rich Wilkerson Jr. (who officiated Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s 2014 wedding) — wearing expensive sneakers and other fashion items that cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
In one post, Gray is seen dressed in the much-hyped Nike Air Yeezy 2 Red October hightops, which sold out on Nike’s website in a mere 11 minutes following their February 2014 release and at the time were being auctioned on eBay for a staggering $2,000 to $12,300. Wilkerson, meanwhile, is featured in several posts wearing coveted styles such as the Nike Air Fear of God 1s and Yeezy Boost 700 Wave Runners.
Although PreachersNSneakers’ creator — who identifies as an Evangelical Christian — told the style website Fashionista that he started the feed as a joke, he admitted that it does stir up uncomfortable questions as to exactly what these pastors are doing with the money that their followers are tithing to their churches. “As somebody who has given money to my local church, personally, I would be a little irritated if I saw the pastor step out in some fresh Yeezys. I would at least ask the question,” he said, noting he has won praise from both religious leaders and atheists for shining a spotlight on the issue.
“I’ve had hundreds of pastors and people in ministry message me like, ‘Thank you, keep doing what you’re doing.’ It’s prompting a discussion around what leadership and stewardship look like within the church. I also have this whole other component of the secular, questioning or atheist community who are messaging me, ‘Dude, this is hilarious. It’s crazy the money that these preachers make.'”
And although he did point out that many of these high-profile pastors supplement their church salaries with book sales and speaking tours, the account’s creator said he believes spiritual leaders should be held to a higher standard and consider how their lavish wardrobes look to the outside world. “If you are leading a church that people are contributing money to and investing some amount of their trust in you to lead them spiritually, that’s a pretty heavy calling,” he told Fashionista. “I think you at least need to be aware of the optics of the things you’re wearing.”
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