Amy Deardon has a post about the Prosperity Gospel and Joel Osteen. If you haven’t heard of the Prosperity Gospel, first thank God, and then be mad at me because I’m about to tell you anyhow. Prosperity Gospel is the brand of theology that teaches Christians can have anything they want — fame, fortune, a new car, an awesome job — as long as they “claim it” in the name of Jesus Christ.
You’re laughing now, but I actually haven’t simplified it at all. This is the teaching. Whatsoever we ask in Jesus’s name, God has to give it to us. He’s over a barrel, turned into nothing but a Divine Vending Machine whenever we issue Him an invoice for our faith, payable on receipt.
Here’s a quote from Osteen:
Take your dreams and the promises God has put in your heart, and every day declare that they will come to pass. Just say something like, “Father, I want to thank you that my payday is coming. You said no good thing will You withhold because I walk uprightly. And I believe even right now you’re arranging things in my favor.”
Two thousand years of Christianity believed our “payday” would come in Heaven, but Joel Osteen figured out otherwise. Who knew that when Jesus said “Blessed are the poor,” that he had it all backward? And when Jesus is quoted as saying to the rich man, “Sell what you have and give to the poor,” that must have been misquoted, and Jesus actually said, “Keep what you have and demand God make you even richer.”
You can see why such a hook has barbs. First, Christians are human and we want what we want, whereas God often asks us to delay or completely deny gratification.
Second, the very idea behind Prosperity Gospel is that God gives you what you want because of your faith. Ergo, if you question the whole thing, then you don’t have enough faith, so you won’t get what you want. It leaves the follower in the position of having no choice but to continue clenching white-knuckled to whatever it is he’s extorting from God.
I normally try not to attack other Christian viewpoints on this blog. I’d rather it be a positive place. But I see Prosperity Gospel as dragging my God’s name — the God I love, the God who died to clean up the mess I’d created — through the mud.
If you really had this kind of power, what would you ask for? Wouldn’t you say, “God, in faith, I claim clean running water for every community in Africa that has none”? Wouldn’t you say, “God, in faith, I claim in your Son’s name peace between warring nations. I claim healing for premature babies, and I claim a cure for cancer.”
But instead what is Osteen urging his followers to claim? Fame. Power. Money. Things that make life easier. And in all the Bible, there’s only one person who ever steps forward to offer that. Hint: that person offered them to Jesus in the desert.
Christians should be known by love, not selfishness. And after reading that garbage Joel Osteen is pushing out, I’m disgusted. Please pray with me for everyone he’s deceived.
And come back tomorrow, because Saint Augustine had something to say to these people which makes what I had to say look sweet-tempered.