In the past few days, the internet directed its ire at Joel Osteen, a megachurch pastor in Houston who — despite running a 606,000 square foot, 38,000 person capacity megachurch in Houston — initially refused to open its doors to take in victims of Hurricane Harvey. After criticism on social media, the church did take in thousands of those fleeing the flood, but the whole episode put a target on Osteen. With his "prosperity gospel" in the crosshairs, it's worth looking at how much Joel Osteen is actually worth.
Determining a private individual's net worth is often difficult, of course, since we don't have a full accounting of all of their assets or income without their private financial documentation. However, numerous estimates of the celebrity pastor's personal net worth have reliably put it at well into the tens of millions.
The site Rich But Broke, which evaluates celebrities' financial solvency based on how much they earn and their spending, estimated Osteen's wealth at $67,818,500 in 2012. Celebrity Net Worth, on the other hand, puts Osteen's net worth at $40 million. BeliefNet, a faith lifestyle site, agrees with Celebrity Net Worth's figure of $40 million, and suggests that he is the fourth richest pastor in the United States.
Some aspects of Osteen's life are a little easier to assess than the specific amount of money in his bank account. In 2010, Osteen and his family moved into a $10.5 million house in River Oaks, Texas, but continued to own their $2.9 million estate in Tanglewood.
Osteen's biggest source of income is from his books. His 2004 book Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, which outlined Osteen's combination of spirituality and self-help to encourage people to find financial success, spent over 100 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller List, selling over 10 million copies, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Osteen has since released further books, such as You Can, You Will: 8 Undeniable Qualities of a Winner in 2014 and Think Better, Live Better: A Victorious Life Begins in Your Mind, published last October.
In addition to book sales, Osteen has made lots of money from the speaking circuit. The Nielsen ratings for his weekly television program number in the tens of millions, and he frequently gives paid speeches around the country. Osteen makes so much money that he has actually foregone his $200,000 salary from Lakewood Church since 2005.
Much of Osteen's preaching concerns the idea that God will reward the righteous with material and financial benefits, just as Osteen himself has become rich as a preacher. The prosperity gospel has its detractors, but with millions in the Houston area finding themselves on the receiving end of what seems like biblical-scale disaster, it's not hard to see why people became enraged at someone who has been rewarded so much in life appearing not to practice what he preaches.