Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren told me that the poor economy has continued to impact his congregation, saying, “Most people would not think they’re better off economically than they were four years ago.”
While he says his church has worked to provide aid and counseling services to those in need, Warren said there is “spiritual cause” to the country’s economic and debt woes.
“The biggest problem for all of our economic problems is our inability to delay gratification,” Warren said, with individuals and the government following the attitude of, “I want it and I want it now, and I’m going to buy it even if I can’t afford it.”
TAPPER: The economy has been a very difficult thing for a lot of your parishioners, a lot people throughout the country. How do you counsel parishioners who come to you, congregants who come to you, struggling to make ends meet?
WARREN: Well, we definitely have seen our benevolence going up this last year. We fed about 70,000 different people through Saddleback Church in our food bank. Just here in Orange County. I have 11 percent of my people out of work right now. So we’re doing everything from job training to helping people learn how to do interviews, to trying to talk about how to create secondary incomes. We do all kinds of practical things. We offer out of our church PEACE center immigration services, legal services, job training, counseling, financial counseling…
WARREN: But regardless of all the problems that we see out there, I think they all have at their root a spiritual cause. And we have overspent… We have not been a responsible — we’ve bought things we didn’t need with money we didn’t have to impress people we didn’t even like. And now we’re paying the piper. And you cannot ignore the principles of finance that are in God’s word, and they are in the Book of Proverbs. It’s quite clear, they’re principles of business, principles of economics that are actually in the Bible.
WARREN: And when you ignore these things, then we’re going to get deeper and deeper into debt, and then we can’t blame God for that… The biggest problem for all of our economic problems is our inability to delay gratification. I want it and I want it now, and I’m going to buy it even if I can’t afford it. And not only have people done that, the government’s done it.
TAPPER: The government has certainly done that. They’re are big debates here in California and nationally about how to solve the problems of the deficit, how to solve the problem of — of spending much more than we take in. Some are using religion to make their arguments…
WARREN: Well, certainly the Bible says we are to care about the poor. There’s over 2,000 versus in the Bible about the poor. And God says that those who care about the poor, God will care about them and God will bless them. But there’s a fundamental question on the meaning of “fairness.” Does fairness mean everybody makes the same amount of money? Or does fairness mean everybody gets the opportunity to make the same amount of money? I do not believe in wealth redistribution, I believe in wealth creation…
WARREN: The only way to get people out of poverty is J-O-B-S. Create jobs. To create wealth, not to subsidize wealth. When you subsidize people, you create the dependency. You — you rob them of dignity. There are a lot of negative things that happen to us. Rather, we should be focusing on wealth creation and job creation, in my opinion…
TAPPER: You said in December that no American could say that they’re better off than they were four years ago. You still think that that’s true?
WARREN: Well, I don’t think so, not economically. There may be a portion. But I have my ear to the ground. I’m on a lot of social media, and I do a lot of speaking nationally, and of course I have a congregation that’s very large. It talks to me all the time. Most people would not think they’re better off economically than they were four years ago.
TAPPER: And who do you hold responsible for that?
WARREN: I hold everybody responsible for that. I hold the people who got themselves in debt. I hold the government that got themselves in debt. I hold multiple administrations. It’s not the fault of any one person. There’s plenty enough blame to be passed around.