Talk about thieves in the temple.
Some $600,000 in cash and check donations were stolen this week from Lakewood Church in Houston, according to the city’s police department.
Incredibly, all of the money was from one weekend’s donations, the church says. For many American churches, $600,000 in tithes would be a good month or even year.
The church, which is pastored by bestselling author and preacher Joel Osteen, told congregants the stolen money came from contributions on March 8 and 9.
The theft occurred between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. About $200,000 in cash and $400,000 in checks were stolen from a church safe, said Houston Police Department spokeswoman Jodi Silva.
The investigation is ongoing and no arrests have been made, Silva said.
Lakewood Church also warned congregants to keep an eye on their credit and bank accounts, since some of the stolen goods include envelopes with credit card information on them. The church said there was no electronic data breach, though, and the stolen money is insured.
Officials at the evangelical church declined further comment.
According to Christian researchers, Lakewood is the largest church in the country, with some 43,500 members attending Sunday services. It meets in a former sports and entertainment arena just outside downtown Houston.
The church’s popularity has been built on Osteen’s relentlessly optimistic, and some say unbiblical, teachings, which often focus as much on self-help as eternal salvation.
“Part of my … success is that I’ve stayed in my lane,” Osteen told CNN in 2012, “and my lane is lifting people’s spirits.”