As the economy continues its gyrations on the backside of the housing bust, a company called Digital Risk works to prevent another toxic mortgage collapse. As The Atlantic magazine reports this month, Digital Risk does its preventative work by treating the mortgage collapse like a crime scene, “reconstructing circumstances that led to so many Americans to buy houses they couldn’t afford,” and then making sure such scenarios aren’t repeated.
Digital Risk’s objective is to give lenders “actionable intelligence” to help ascertain quality, identify risk, ensure compliance and mitigate fraud. Among the riskiest and most fraudulent borrowers that financial institutions should avoid? Pastors. According to the evidence, shepherds of flocks onto the paths of truth have no scruples when it comes to fleecing mortgage lenders, doctoring bank statements, buying houses they couldn’t pay for, and then filing for bankruptcy. The good news is that while ministers may fail to practice what they (hopefully) preach, their congregations don’t suffer the same hypocrisy. As one Digital Risk investigator put it, “The nice thing about pastors is that their church shares information when asked. Pastors are always an easy [fraud] claim.”
If I was to venture a reason why ministers cheat like this, I would guess it has something to do with that sinister sense of entitlement that can seep into a pastor’s soul once you’ve been pastoring for a while. You get into the church business having felt called to it, desiring to serve the Lord rather than make a lot of money since you can’t serve God and mammon together (so said Jesus). But because serving the Lord can be too heavy a cross to bear–what with cantankerous church meetings, ungrateful parishioners, a sermon a week, high expectations and low budgets–it doesn’t take much for a high calling to sour into a bitter feeling of injustice. You convince yourself that somebody owes you for your having been such a good Christian. Cheating is just a way of getting what’s rightfully yours. After all, Jesus also said that the last should go first.
Clearly, we ministers need grace as much as anybody. If not more.