Back on January 30th, we ran a post updating readers on the latest IRS Forms 990 filed by John MacArthur's non-profit companies and what they show about his annual income. Since the post, several commenters have questioned whether MacArthur really had any say over his study notes being packaged with the neutered New International Version, whether we're saying MacArthur's income is sinful; and if so, what specific sin we're accusing him of? Here are some responses to those questions and challenges:
I've been out of the loop for a while. I appreciate others who have responded to some of the more recent objections to this post. Now, a couple responses of my own.
First, John MacArthur himself had absolute control over whether or not to package and sell his MacArthur Study Bible notes with the neutered Bible now sold under the name New International Version. It was his decision and he alone is the man who could have stopped it. His elders board did not make the decision. Zondervan doesn't control MacArthur's study notes. John MacArthur controls John MacArthur's study notes. This is how publishing works.
John decided he didn't want to lose out on one of the largest Bible markets in the English-speaking world, so after negotiating royalties (which unlike John Piper's royalties, remain a secret), he signed an agreement with Zondervan to sell his own study notes in the text of a Bible that everyone knows has gagged God's words for the sake of pacifying the feminists.
There's no debating these simple facts. Readers may differ concerning the reason MacArthur did this, but it's certain he made the decision to sell the neutered Bible he had previously opposed because of its unfaithfulness to the text of Scripture.
Second, the Bible commands us to exclude men from ministry who are greedy:
It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1Timothy 3:1-7)
Each prohibition above must be discussed in connection with pastors and elders. We must make a sincere effort to judge whether Tim Bayly is greedy or not? Pugnacious or not? Controls his household well or not? Hospitable or not? Gentle or not? And so on.
Normally, these discussions happen in session meetings prior to the nomination of a certain man for the office of pastor or elder. Over the years, though, these criteria need to continue to be applied. A man who is gentle may be elected an elder but, after many years of faithful service, he may become violent. A man who, when elected an elder, does not love alcohol may, after many years, become enslaved by alcohol. A man who starts out poor and humble and not loving money may, after many years of faithful service, become rich and proud and greedy. Evaluation of pastors and elders is not a once-and-done.
Most commonly, these evaluations are done by fellow elders and the moderator of the elders board. Healthy elders boards exhort and rebuke and admonish one another all the time, although it happens in the context of their work and thus is not as embarrassing as when the man is vetted originally for possible election to the session.
But what about a super-rich and super-famous man whose living mostly comes from selling his work to others outside his church under the claim that it's a non-profit work?
That man functions as a bishop or archbishop or cardinal or pope over many outside his geographical area and thus he is accountable to other pastors and elders outside his own geographical area. He is teaching and preaching our flocks and our flocks pay him for his teaching and preaching. The national source of their non-profit's profit is the reason our IRS requires these men to divulge whether they fly first class (MacArthur does) and whether they have their own relatives on their governance boards (MacArthur does) and whether their organization pays a relative money as a business transaction (MacArthur pays his son-in-law $650,000 per year for video work) and how much they get paid by their non-profit ministry (MacArthur's non-profits pay him just about $500,000 per year, and this amount doesn't include his church pay or royalties).
My father-in-law had books providing royalties that dwarf John MacArthur's books and royalties, plus he and his wife owned Tyndale House Publishers. Yet Ken Taylor was never accused of being greedy. He gave all his money away and everyone knew it because everyone was the recipient of his gifts. Tyndale House's 990s are there for all the world to see and they could not possibly be more different from John MacArthur's. John Piper's 990s are there for all the world to see and they could not be more different from John MacArthur's. (And yes, I'm aware John Piper would ask me not to make this comparison.)
It seems beyond argument that John MacArthur's annual income from peddling God's Word is something around $1,000,000 per year. His organizations and his personal contracts with publishing companies pay him this money. It's my conviction this is good evidence of the love of money and MacArthur's boards and elders should admonish him and appoint a blue-ribbon committee to take over control of his organizations and royalties, scale his income back to around $200,000, do open bidding on his organization's video work, and stop paying for his first class tickets.
John MacArthur's accountability is as wide as the scope of the sales of his epistles.