There has been a rise in the number of reality TV shows centered on pastors and leaders of the church and Bravo’s “Thicker Than Water,” recently introduced viewers to the Tankard family.
The founders of Destiny Center Church live a lavish lifestyle that some might not automatically equate with a life of service to God, but Ben and Jewel don’t shy away from their wealth.
“We’re blessed to be in America. There is freedom of religion. If one wants to live under a bridge and walk around in sandals and not have a phone or an iPad, they can do that,” Ben told Sister 2 Sister. “If someone says they believe their entire family should be millionaires, they should be able to do that and not be criticized if that’s their belief.”
“Thicker Than Water” fans likely noted the couple contemplating the purchase of a private plane, and while that may seem extravagant to some, Jewel said that’s in line with what she’s taken from the Bible.
“The Scripture talks about the streets being paved with gold. Jesus was about the bling. There are Scriptures that support that,” she said, challenging some people’s criticism of the prosperity gospel.
“I think we have to define prosperity, too. It’s also peace, joy and great relationships. Each person has to define what’s prosperity to them. One person may be happy living in a trailer park. For me, I’m glad to know that there are not any limits to what I have. Whatever that dream is, each person can have that dream,” she said. “God gives us the desires of our heart.”
Ben wondered where the line between blessings and extravagance is. “Where do you draw the line? If you really wanted to be like Jesus, you wouldn’t have an iPad or an iPhone. How much is too much?”
Jewel said the belief that Christians must live in poverty and reject material wealth is something that prevents some from committing to Christ.
“I grew up in Detroit, fast men and fast cars. I’ve dated drug dealers. Everybody I knew who was saved at the time was struggling and broke. Their lives did not appeal to me,” she admitted. “Many people think, ‘If I gotta be broke and come to God, I’m gonna wait ‘til I get old.’ The truth of the matter is, there are a lot of people out there who probably feel the same way.”
Though critics may not understand their lavish lifestyle, Ben said in order to bless the people he wants to help, he needs God’s financial favor first.
“My reason for wanting to be successful has nothing to do with things that I want to own,” he said. “I want to be successful to be a blessing to my family. I’ve given away 18 vehicles to people in the community. I’ve got a dream on my vision board to be able to give away 100 homes. I can’t do that if I’m hungry.”
Watch a clip from “Thicker Than Water,” airing Sundays at 9 p.m. EST on Bravo.