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March 14th, 2014
11:42 AM ET

$600,000 stolen from Joel Osteen's megachurch

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
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(CNN) - Talk about thieves in the temple.

Some $600,000 in cash and check donations were stolen this week from Lakewood Church in Houston, according to the city's police department.

Incredibly, all of the money was from one weekend's donations, the church says. For many American churches, $600,000 in tithes would be a good month or even year.

The church, which is pastored by bestselling author and preacher Joel Osteen, told congregants the stolen money came from contributions on March 8 and 9.

The theft occurred between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. About $200,000 in cash and $400,000 in checks were stolen from a church safe, said Houston Police Department spokeswoman Jodi Silva.

The investigation is ongoing and no arrests have been made, Silva said.

Lakewood Church also warned congregants to keep an eye on their credit and bank accounts, since some of the stolen goods include envelopes with credit card information on them. The church said there was no electronic data breach, though, and the stolen money is insured.

Officials at the evangelical church declined further comment.

According to Christian researchers, Lakewood is the largest church in the country, with some 43,500 members attending Sunday services. It meets in a former sports and entertainment arena just outside downtown Houston.

The church's popularity has been built on Osteen's relentlessly optimistic, and some say unbiblical, teachings, which often focus as much on self-help as eternal salvation.

"Part of my ... success is that I've stayed in my lane," Osteen told CNN in 2012, "and my lane is lifting people's spirits."

MORE ON CNN: No, Joel Osteen has not renounced his faith

Pastor Joel Osteen on the power of prayer

Osteen: I stick to issues I understand

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • evangelicals

soundoff (556 Responses)
  1. mikeyjt

    [$600,000 "stolen" from Joel Osteen's megachurch]
    Oh, yeah...right...wink, wink! "Stolen". Uh huh.

    March 15, 2014 at 12:28 am |
    • jaxx7883

      The guys worth $40 million dollars I can't imagine it would be worth his time to get dressed in all black throw a mask on his face and break into his own church

      March 15, 2014 at 12:30 pm |
  2. kellsbellsfrompc

    Don't look at me.....I'm just dining with friends in Houston.

    March 14, 2014 at 11:36 pm |
  3. edlf2014

    I believe it is written somewhere that it is easier to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter heaven. Too bad, Joel. Of course you may be 600K less wealthy than you were but I am sure you are still a rich man.

    March 14, 2014 at 11:04 pm |
    • edlf2014

      Opps, I should have read more closely, clever rich Joel hasn't lost a penny, he had his sucker donations insured. What a scam artist, just how his worshipers keep listening to him is a mystery. He preaches the same sermon over and over, his worshipers love it, send him more money.

      March 14, 2014 at 11:21 pm |
  4. chloekitty

    Why was this $600K just sitting around? I am thinking it wasn't for charity..

    March 14, 2014 at 10:32 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      In a "safe" isn't just "sitting around". You didn't even read the article.

      March 14, 2014 at 11:17 pm |
  5. skammyfresh

    Its only $40 million less than he's stolen from those mindless sheep who follow him...

    March 14, 2014 at 10:30 pm |
  6. scootfl78

    In other news, Joel Osteen's friends have just put large down payments on new houses and cars.

    March 14, 2014 at 10:04 pm |
  7. Reality

    Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

    Current problems:
    Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology

    March 14, 2014 at 9:55 pm |
  8. jimatmad

    When I get to heaven I don't expect to run into any televangelists.

    March 14, 2014 at 9:10 pm |
  9. Doris

    “Theology is ignorance with wings.”

    “The problem with religion, because it's been sheltered from criticism, is that it allows people to believe en masse what only idiots or lunatics could believe in isolation.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWJfdRpHWuk

    March 14, 2014 at 8:51 pm |
    • Doris

      "Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived." – Isaac Asimov

      "It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand" – Mark Twain

      "The Way to see by Faith is to shut the Eye of Reason." – Benjamin Franklin

      "The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one." – George Bernard Shaw

      "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." – Stephen Henry Roberts

      "So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence" – Bertrand Russell

      "Why should I allow that same God to tell me how to raise my kids, who had to drown His own?" – Robert G. Ingersoll

      "[If] the nature of... government [were] a subordination of the civil to the ecclesiastical power, I [would] consider it as desperate for long years to come. Their steady habits [will] exclude the advances of information, and they [will] seem exactly where they [have always been]. And there [the] clergy will always keep them if they can. [They] will follow the bark of liberty only by the help of a tow-rope." – Thomas Jefferson

      "I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history." – John Adams, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson

      March 14, 2014 at 9:00 pm |
      • djangoboy

        “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

        ― Mahatma Gandhi

        March 16, 2014 at 5:18 pm |
  10. SeaVik

    Jaxx may be the new biggest idiot on this board. Not an easy feat. Congrats Jaxx!

    (Jaxx is a guy who thinks Obama is a Muslim!)

    March 14, 2014 at 8:23 pm |
    • jaxx7883

      Is that all you got tough guy? You got nothing to dispute my statement so that makes me an idiot, you must be a phuqeing genius so then answer my question their Einstein Would an American president who is for American values and the American people write the following statement: “I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.”

      March 14, 2014 at 8:33 pm |
      • Doris

        Claimed statement: "I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction."

        This statement is a rewording of a passage from page 261 of The Audacity of Hope, in which Barack Obama spoke of the importance of not allowing inflamed public opinion to result in innocent members of immigrant groups being stripped of their rights, denied their due as American citizens, or placed into confinement, as was done with Japanese-Americans during World War II. The original contains no specific mention of "Muslims":

        "In the wake of 9/11, my meetings with Arab and Pakistani Americans, for example, have a more urgent quality, for the stories of detentions and FBI questioning and hard stares from neighbors have shaken their sense of security and belonging. They have been reminded that the history of immigration in this country has a dark underbelly; they need specific reassurances that their citizenship really means something, that America has learned the right lessons from the Japanese internments during World War II, and that I will stand with them should the political winds shift in an ugly direction."

        March 14, 2014 at 8:40 pm |
      • feynbongo

        Hey Einstein, Obama didn't say that. But then the right has always had problems telling the difference between reality and delusion.

        Read the last section:

        http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/coilofrage.asp

        March 14, 2014 at 8:40 pm |
      • bostontola

        2 possibilities:
        1. jaxx is a troll screwing with people.
        2. jaxx is an ignoramus that has no understanding of politics and social dynamics.
        It's all good either way.

        March 14, 2014 at 8:42 pm |
        • observer

          bostontola,

          All of the above.

          March 14, 2014 at 8:48 pm |
        • bostontola

          Good observation, the choices are not mutually exclusive.

          March 14, 2014 at 8:52 pm |
        • tallulah131

          Whether a troll or an idiot, this jaxx person really isn't worth the bother.

          March 15, 2014 at 12:05 am |
      • Akira

        For someone who was just complaining about atheists using things out of context, it would appear that jaxx is guilty of it.

        March 14, 2014 at 8:47 pm |
      • realbuckyball

        It's "there" Einstein. People who can't write a coherent sentence in the language they use shouldn't be ridiculing the intelligence of others.

        March 14, 2014 at 11:20 pm |
      • lewcypher

        Stop regurgitating anonymously written urban legend emails about Obama (or anything else), it makes you look ignorant and stupid.

        March 15, 2014 at 12:11 am |
  11. SeaVik

    Is there anyone who supports tax breaks for religious organizations who can explain to me how this isn't a violation of our const.itution? How is it ok for our government to subsidize religious organizations?

    March 14, 2014 at 8:20 pm |
    • bostontola

      I support tax breaks for non-profit charitable organizations. There are defined criteria to qualify. If a religious group qualifies, then I'm ok with that.

      March 14, 2014 at 8:46 pm |
  12. neverbeenhappieratheist

    The still photo above from the video is obviously Joel Osteen throwing some donations in the air to see how much God wants to keep for himself...

    March 14, 2014 at 7:39 pm |
  13. feynbongo

    Evangelists are nearly all crooks, the rest being merely crazy. I'd wager he had the money stolen so he could beg for more from his flock.

    March 14, 2014 at 7:30 pm |
  14. buddyedgewood

    To my fellow humans who identify themselves as Christian: Is Joel Osteen a person who God/Jesus envisioned as His spokesman here on Earth? I think not. As hedonistic and ostentatious as Mr Osteen is, he can only be a worshiper of Satan himself!

    March 14, 2014 at 7:06 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Jesus didn't "envision" any such thing. In fact he was one of many apocalyptic wandering preachers who ran around "doing miracles", (magic tricks), and who thought the end-times were immanent. There would be no need for a "spokesman". He told his follows "THIS generation shall not pass away, until all these things are accomplished".

      March 14, 2014 at 11:23 pm |
      • djangoboy

        And they're still waiting. And waiting. And waiting ...

        March 16, 2014 at 3:33 pm |
  15. tet1953

    Add to the list of things that make you go hmmmmm...

    March 14, 2014 at 6:42 pm |
    • djangoboy

      Would that be a hum job?

      March 16, 2014 at 5:18 pm |
  16. jarbow

    Oh the irony! Mega-church gets robbed, after robbing church goers for years!

    I'd like to know how much business that place does in a year, and how much of that $$$ actually goes to helping others in need. I 'believe' the results would blow the mega-roof off that place!

    March 14, 2014 at 6:19 pm |
    • ausphor

      True, could have been a slow week, what with the bad weather and all!!

      March 14, 2014 at 6:31 pm |
      • neverbeenhappieratheist

        It wasn't one slow week, it was ONE WEEKEND. Over $600k in a weekend takes a whole lot of guilt to produce which is religions largest export...

        March 14, 2014 at 7:44 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      If $600k is an average weekend, they bring in at least $30 million per year – tax free!

      Joel Osteen is worth $40 million. Reputedly he gave up his $200k salary from Lakewood Church in 2005 and is back account is now mostly from his book and TV busineses.

      It cost $75 – $105M to remodel the Compaq Center area to become the Lakewood church in 2003.

      March 14, 2014 at 10:01 pm |
  17. lewcypher

    $600,000 stolen from Osteens church?

    That should be more like Osteen stole $600,000 from people

    March 14, 2014 at 6:09 pm |
  18. jaxx7883

    @ kudlak yeah so are you trying to convince us that you can read one line in a book and figgure it all out and the entire message? If that was the case then Huckleberry Finn is one of if not the most racist peice of drivel ever produced and Mark Twain makes hitler look like a Sunday school teacher and should have been hung from a tree for the hate filled things he wrote.

    March 14, 2014 at 5:41 pm |
    • kermit4jc

      GREAT point! ITs sad that many of these atheists don't know how to use context when reading the Bible..seems as if they think the bIble is exempt from using context...for example..Matthew 19, Jesus was showing that even the rich are not saved because they are "blessed" with money, but that God saves them..He saves all who will come Him.

      March 14, 2014 at 5:44 pm |
      • TruthPrevails1

        kermi: Jaxx is apparently not one of your ilk, so slow the religious hormones down a little, don't go getting your prayer shawl in a bunch.

        March 14, 2014 at 5:48 pm |
      • kudlak

        And here I thought that Jesus and his disciples had given everything to their mission, and fed the poor out of their few funds and that he was telling this rich guy to follow their example.

        Peter answered him, "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?" Matt. 19:27

        And then he goes on to say that those who leave possessions and even loved ones behind to follow him will be rewarded 100 times more in Heaven, right?

        Prosperity Gospel doesn't ask people to leave any of their earthly riches, does it?

        March 14, 2014 at 6:05 pm |
        • ausphor

          kudlak
          Come back to this blog often you are making points much better than I could. Like Redzoa, I think you may be frustrated by the weak responses, quite right, carry on.

          March 14, 2014 at 6:22 pm |
        • jaxx7883

          @ausphor

          Yeah most of the crap he spews on here he steals from other people. What he has to say really isn't that interesting.

          March 14, 2014 at 7:57 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          First of all....I don't know all the details of prosperity teaching..second...we are to give..but we cannot do it to save oiurselves..that was the point Jesus was making..even the disciles gave yo everything..yet that doesn't save them...only God saves..as Jesus says With man this is impossible..but with God it is possible

          March 16, 2014 at 1:52 am |
      • the0g0to0the0t

        "ITs sad that many of these atheists don't know how to use context when reading the Bible." That's one type of context, trying to find meaning within the context of the piece. But another way is to take into account in what order these works were written, how reliable they are in regards to historical accuracy (and whether that was even a goal for the author), the history and culture of the region/time and the distortion that can occur through copy/editing/translating/transmitting these stories.

        March 14, 2014 at 7:16 pm |
      • realbuckyball

        Yeah right. Ok to use "context" when it's convenient, and not when it isn't. LMAO.

        March 14, 2014 at 11:25 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          I never do it that way..I always use the context with ANY part of the bIble....don't make silly claims unless you see me actually doing such...

          March 16, 2014 at 1:55 am |
        • sam stone

          Free people do not need to be saved. Only slaves need to be saved.

          March 16, 2014 at 6:33 am |
  19. Dyslexic doG

    Ti.thing is just one of the many proofs that religion is a scam designed and authored by greedy men.

    March 14, 2014 at 5:38 pm |
  20. kudlak

    Not every religion gets rubber stamped as tax exempt. Remember the legal battles that Scientology went through? That leaves the federal government in the position of determining what is a proper religion and, if that isn't a clear violation of the 1st Amendment, then what is?

    March 14, 2014 at 5:18 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      WELL SAID!

      March 14, 2014 at 5:32 pm |
      • kudlak

        I'd like to take credit, but I picked up that argument from The Atheist Experience. Excellent show!!!

        March 14, 2014 at 5:35 pm |
    • jaxx7883

      You mean like how Obama is attempting to turn the US into the largest Islamic nation out of the middle east? Yeah seeing as how the US was founded and based upon Christian principles that kinda puts a hole in your theory, or whoevers theory it is that you stole.

      March 14, 2014 at 5:52 pm |
      • TruthPrevails1

        What??? How is Obama doing that?
        The USA is not founded upon christian anything, thus the reason for separation of church and state. You reside in a Secular country. Laws are based on what if good for everyone regardless of belief/disbelief. Time to read up on the history of the country.
        Talk about theft of quotes...don't christians do that exact thing when the quote the bible?

        March 14, 2014 at 6:42 pm |
      • eugenedanker

        You do know about separation of church and state, right?

        March 14, 2014 at 6:45 pm |
      • buddyedgewood

        To make such an allegation, I'm sure you have proof, right? Please provide proof that Obama is trying to turn the US into a Muslim nation. If you are unable to show proof, you are nothing but a shill and a troll. BTW, Fox News is not a valid source of proof.

        March 14, 2014 at 7:01 pm |
        • Akira

          He does have his Hannity approved talking points script down. I wonder how anyone in the world with an IQ over a squid could even remotely believe some if the pap that comes out of his mouth?

          March 14, 2014 at 7:30 pm |
        • jaxx7883

          Would an American president who is for American values and the American people write the following statement: “I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.” As did Americas first Muslim president in a quote from page 261 of his book “The Audacity of Hope”

          March 14, 2014 at 7:46 pm |
        • jaxx7883

          Dude I'm not a liberal I don't listen to anyone telling me anything let alone the lying corrupt media. Any time you want to compare notes on who knows what you let me know

          March 14, 2014 at 7:50 pm |
        • MidwestKen

          @Jaxx...,
          I don't know the context of that quote but if the rights of Muslims are threatened then I'll join him.

          March 14, 2014 at 7:54 pm |
        • jaxx7883

          @midwestken then I hope you burn with them you treasonist base tard!! But of course you didn't his campaign clowns and the rest of the libtards hid those kinds of shout outs to his Muslim brothers to get him re elected, not that it would have mattered once he had the welfare bums and the border jumpers in line the sheep were sure to follow.

          March 14, 2014 at 8:06 pm |
        • MidwestKen

          @Jaxx...,
          Although I suspect you're a Poe, you really don't understand the American ideal do you?

          March 14, 2014 at 8:30 pm |
        • Doris

          Claimed statement: "I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction."

          This statement is a rewording of a passage from page 261 of The Audacity of Hope, in which Barack Obama spoke of the importance of not allowing inflamed public opinion to result in innocent members of immigrant groups being stripped of their rights, denied their due as American citizens, or placed into confinement, as was done with Japanese-Americans during World War II. The original contains no specific mention of "Muslims":

          "In the wake of 9/11, my meetings with Arab and Pakistani Americans, for example, have a more urgent quality, for the stories of detentions and FBI questioning and hard stares from neighbors have shaken their sense of security and belonging. They have been reminded that the history of immigration in this country has a dark underbelly; they need specific reassurances that their citizenship really means something, that America has learned the right lessons from the Japanese internments during World War II, and that I will stand with them should the political winds shift in an ugly direction."

          Let me guess, jaxx – your from Florida and you get your political information from the Donald. 🙄

          March 14, 2014 at 8:33 pm |
        • Akira

          @jaxx,

          American citizens have rights in this country, jaxx, no matter what religion they belong to. All of them. Even Muslims.

          As you seem to be such an ardent fan of rights, someone who is obviously educated in the Constitution as you would know that.

          Muslim population comprised 2.1% in the US; hardly the voting bloc that assured Obama of reelection. And that's total; not those of voting age.

          Seriously, Alex Jones is not credible. Rush is not credible. They are both entertainers.

          March 14, 2014 at 9:13 pm |
        • kudlak

          Apparently, there's a new movie with persecution of Christians by the US president as its plot.

          http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/independent/persecuted/

          Looks like they're trying to cash in on some of those Hunger Games dollars, eh?

          March 15, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
      • Akira

        Jaxx,

        Stupid. Probably shouldn't be giving opinions on topics you are ignorant of.

        March 14, 2014 at 7:05 pm |
      • kudlak

        jaxx
        Muslims make up 0.8% of the total US population. If you seriously think that they are set to overthrow the Christian influence there then you need to start swimming back towards reality's shores, my friend.

        March 15, 2014 at 1:02 pm |
        • jaxx7883

          Yeah he can force white people to wear bed sheets and turbans and pray to Allah twice a day, he's already started to disarm you so you have no means to oppose his agenda. And you sheep keep throwing your guns at him and pushing his propaganda for him and you have the balls to call someone else a sheep.... That's phuqeing hilarious

          March 15, 2014 at 7:28 pm |
      • djangoboy

        "... the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion ..."
        Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1797

        March 16, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
    • jimatmad

      If the Waltons decided to declare that WalMart was a religion and therefore was tax exempt, wouldn't the government have a responsibility to investigate whether that was a valid claim?

      Would the government's looking into that claim be a violation of the First Amendment?

      March 14, 2014 at 9:13 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Wikipedia on 501(c)(3) organizations:

      Churches must meet specific requirements in order to obtain and maintain tax exempt status; these are outlined in IRS Publication 1828: Tax guide for churches and religious organizations. This guide outlines activities allowed and not allowed by churches under the 501(c)(3) designation.

      March 14, 2014 at 10:23 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.