Televangelist Joel Osteen has faced a lot of scrutiny over his income and ministry, seemingly raking in tax-free money while others suffer. That's not to say Osteen and the Lakewood Church congregation don't give back to their community. They've just faced some pressure during events in past years.
Most recently, Lakewood was under fire for receiving around $4 million in PPP loans during the COVID-19 pandemic. These loans are forgivable for those who request forgiveness and are approved, raising eyebrows online. Today saw a new flare-up due to a photo of what is allegedly Osteen's Ferrari that made the rounds Sunday. The $325,000 vehicle seems to be a questionable expenditure for a pastor, especially in light of the PPP loans and the actions of other televangelists.
Joel Osteen has made religion a lucrative career and the fact that he drives a $325,000 Ferrari as he asks people to send him money only shows how morally bankrupt he is.
His $10.5 million dollar house isn't too shabby and shows why he clearly needed that $4.4 million PPP loan. pic.twitter.com/Yc50BOwssL— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) July 19, 2021
"In Joel Osteen's defense, Jesus also drove a $325,000 car and lived in a eight figure 17,000 square foot home," Franklin Leonard wrote on Twitter with a photo of Kanye West's home. Osteen's home is actually 17,000 square feet, though, and is valued around $10.5 million. Others joined in with their shock and anger over the apparent viral vehicle.
"Ferrari is trending. That means either someone won a race or Joel Osteen took some of the money Jesus told him to give to the poor and went on another shopping spree," one user wrote. "Remember that one time Joel Osteen helped the poor instead of himself? Yeah, me neither," another added with a sharper edge than other comments.
The $4.4 million in PPP loans Lakewood Church received amid the pandemic stuck in the minds of many. The church defended the decision, noting that tie money went to supporting its employees and families. "As the shutdown persisted month after month, given the economic uncertainty, Lakewood finally applied for the PPP loan and has been able to provide full salaries and benefits including health insurance coverage to all of its employees and their families," Lakewood's statement read.
And while Osteen is part of the church, he doesn't take his salary which would be around $100,000 a year. This is due to his net worth allegedly around $100 million, earned from his TV broadcasts, public speaking events and book sales.
The issue at hand is the validity of the claims about Osteen's car and the use of his wealth. The $325,000 Ferrari 458 Italia pictured in the meme with Osteen isn't actually his vehicle. According to Snopes, the image and rumor are closer to assumptions by critics that are likely fueled by past incidents with other TV preachers and pastors.
"It should also be noted that reports about Osteen owning a Ferarri 458 Italia have not been verified," Snopes writes. "In short, we have not been able to find any verified reporting that Osteen owns a $325,000 Ferrari. There don't appear to be any photographs of Osteen driving this exotic sports car, and we have not been able to find any statements from Osteen in which he talks about an exotic collection."0comments
Snopes also points out where the images used in the meme actually come from, far from Osteen's garage. That said, Osteen could own one and an associate pastor at Lakewood was hit with criticism in 2018 for buying his wife a $200,000 Ferrari.
According to chat with PennLive, Osteen defending his wealth and assertions that he's part of the controversial prosperity gospel movement that is seen with many televangelists. "I don't really know what the prosperity gospel is," Osteen said (via Snopes). "The way I define it is that I believe God wants you to prosper in your health, in your family, in your relationships, in your business, and in your career. If that is the prosperity gospel, then I do believe that."