By Isoul H. Harris
With a successful recording career (seven albums, a No. 1 song, 10 Grammy nominations, two BET Awards) and work in the ministry as senior pastor of Lighthouse Full Life Center Church, Bishop Marvin Sapp surely has made it. Fine watches. Exotic cars. Palatial mansions. He has it all. But, he defines that cliché with a very different meaning as a father of three.
“I get up, walk down my stairs, and look out at all of the things that God has so blessed me with,” says Sapp, whose wife died from complications of colon cancer in 2010. “Then I look at my children, and they are doing well despite our struggles. They are my greatest blessing. Stuff doesn’t make you blessed — stuff breaks down, stuff falls apart. My family reminds me of how blessed I am.”
Here, Bishop Sapp shares a few lessons and tips on how to live the good life.
UPTOWN: What does living well mean to you?
Marvin Sapp: Living well is enjoying life peacefully, with tranquility and without stress. Part of that is treating myself when I desire. I can do so without stress or anxiety because I have been a good steward of my finances. Exercising sound financial management practices [has] afforded me the opportunity to purchase things that I dreamed about when I was younger.
U: What makes a quality life?
MS: Personal expectations. Some people must have a Bentley, a mansion, and exquisite jewelry. Others feel a two-bedroom condo, a Volkswagen, and a shoestring to tie around their wrist is quality living. It is subjective. It’s dependent on personal wants and desires.
Personally, the key to a quality life is peace. My life is always moving. Having tranquility in my home, and life without stress is a great place to be.
U: Is there a conflict between Christianity and luxury?
MS: No! People have created this myth that a believer does not possess fine things. That is not true. However, you must ensure that the stuff you have does not have you.
U: What was your first taste of the good life?
MS: When I was 15 years old, my first job at Baskin Robbins paid $1.55 per hour. After working 40 hours a week, my check was $44.27! My cousin laughed and started calling me “Big Money Marv.” The nickname stuck with me. I began buying luxury magazines and dreaming about the things I wanted for my life. I grew older and started reading The Dupont Registry. I was looking at cars, timepieces, and writing instruments. I began to envision these things for myself. Years later, they came to fruition. In 1994, when I was in my mid-20s, I purchased a Mercedes Benz 318i. That was my first luxury automobile.
U: How did you start appreciating timepieces?
MS: Many individuals I hung around in the church world had beautiful timepieces. A good friend who pastors a mega-church in Milwaukee was the first person I had ever seen with a Rolex, in the late ‘80s. It blew my mind. I sowed my way into a Rolex. I started out with a Timex. I gave it to somebody. Then, someone gave me a Fendi watch. Then, the pastors took me to a Movado outlet — and Movado owned Concorde. The pastor from Williamsburg, VA, brought each of us an 18-karat gold and stainless steel Concorde with a mother of pearl face and a half karat diamond bezel. “I just wanted to bless you,” he said. I plan on giving it to my son. Soon after, I received an honorary doctorate. As a gift, my wife and kids gave me my first Rolex. I was amazed, and the Rolex bug bit me. I now have two Rolexes, a Presidential 41mm that is platinum and one that is diamond bezel and 18-karat gold.
U: What has been your most expensive purchase? How did you feel when you bought it?
MS: A 2014 Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed. I felt happy! I was ecstatic! That was the second one that I purchased. A few years earlier, I snatched up a 2007 Bentley Continental Flying Spur. My wife and kids drove me to Chicago to pick it up. My wife knew about the car, but my kids didn’t. When I pulled up in that Bentley, my son’s eyes widened so big. He said “Daddy, you can’t ever tell us that we are not rich. Only rich people drive this kind of car!” I was so proud and happy that I could introduce my family to another level of living. Growing up in the hood of Grand Rapids, this level of luxury is unfathomable. Now, to drive a $250,000 car, and know that it is mine, is mind-blowing.
U: How can one live well within a budget?
MS: Their tastes should not exceed their pockets. I was comfortable experiencing things from a distance. I knew that by remaining disciplined, I would eventually have them. Be content where you are until you are in the position to make purchases without creating stress.
U: What luxury item are you eyeing to cop next?
MS: Since my kids are in college. I am more focused on paying tuition. But, there is a Patek Phillipe Nautilus 18-karat gold with sapphire crystal. It is 40mm in size. It costs $80,750. I have kids in school; I can’t buy that right now!
U: Besides the Patek Phillipe, what does the immediate future hold for you?
MS: My new album, Close, is out on September 29th. One of my older songs, “Perfect Peace” plays during a crucial scene in the Tupac biopic All Eyez on Me. I am writing a new book. I am working on some real estate deals in Grand Rapids, and I hope to oversee my first development next year. My son graduates from college in December, my middle daughter just completed her sophomore year of college, and my youngest daughter starts college in the fall. I am officially an empty nester this year. But, I know that the best is yet to come.