Faith and Luxury: Debate ignites over Church leaders driving high-end vehicles

P Achumse Yingbithongru
Kiphire | April 14

In a society where spiritual guidance and material possessions often cross paths, the recent trend of religious leaders driving high-end vehicles has sparked debate and interest in public domain, especially in social media platforms on the intersection of faith and luxury.

The sight of pastors, priests, and other religious figures cruising in expensive cars has raised eyebrows and ignited discussions about the appropriate display of wealth within religious institutions.

Possibility of sending wrong message
Speaking to The Morung Express, Thsisepi Yingbithongru said, “this trend of buying high-end vehicle by religious leaders is a stark departure and deviates from the core principles of humility and simplicity that many religions preach and profess” stating that ‘flaunting wealth contradicts the essence of religious teachings, which emphasise the importance of modesty and service to others.’

Urging that the sight of religious leaders in high-end vehicles may sends the wrong message and could alienate followers who struggle financially; the practice of buying high-end vehicles has raised moral and ethical questions highlighting the complexities of financial transparency and accountability within religious institutions.

Lily Ezung, a resident from Wokha district remarked that ‘tithing, contributing and donation in cash and kind to religious institutions are the act of giving a portion of one’s income to support religious organizations. It is a common practice in many faith traditions and as such followers often believe that their contributions will be used for charitable purposes, community outreach, and the maintenance of religious facilities.’

“The use of tithes to finance the lavish lifestyles of religious leaders has left many feeling perplexed, disillusioned, and betrayed,” she expressed.

Ezung also feels that “using tithes or donations for personal gain, such a purchasing luxury vehicles, is a violation of trust and goes against the principles of stewardship and accountability.”

Threat of nepotism
Speaking about how some religious institutions has “slightly drifted away from its core values over time,” Setsiba, an associate pastor observed that church has become a “white wash tomb oriented,” where buying of luxurious cars and construction of buildings with huge crore of money at the expense of the congregation has replaced the charity, mission and visiting sick people which are supposed to be the heartbeat of the church.

He said in some instances there is less accountability on financial management as some religious institutions lavishly spend beyond the yearly allocated budget and in the year end general meeting, public is convinced and mobilized in order to avoid speaking on the issue. 

One serious issue confronting many place of worship, he said, is nepotism where it is threatening the smooth functioning of church compounded further by clan ’ism’ and village ’ism’ which is made extremely visible during church staff selection.

Prioritise needs of communities
Zavepa Vero, who stays in Dimapur town emphasised that religious leaders have a moral obligation to use tithes and donations responsibility, ensuring that they are used for the betterment of the community and the fulfilment of the organization’s noble mission.

Another young Naga based in Kohima, Etho Katiry feels that “church members have the right to know how their contributions are being used and to hold their leaders accountable for their stewardship of these charitable funds and in turn religious leaders have the responsibility to act with integrity and to prioritise the needs of their communities above their personal desire for luxury and comfort.”

Terming open display of Church wealth publicly as a negative impact on the reputation of church, Bhim Sapkota, Pastor, Nepal Baptist Church, Kiphire said, “Flaunting of wealth can be seen as insensitive and out of touch, reinforcing stereotypes of church as greedy and materialistic overshadowing the core value of humility, modesty, and service.”

He added that ‘display of lavish wealth by church leaders can create feelings of disconnect and mistrust among their followers, weakening the moral authority of the church.’