If you ever wanted to see Joel Osteen and St. Augustine in a cage match (especially after yesterday’s post), we here at 7A4K1F can arrange it.
First Joel Osteen comes out swinging, from the promo copy for his new book:
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.”
Instead, your declarations should be: I am closer than I think. I can raise this child. I can overcome this sickness. I can make this business work. I know I can find a new job.
(I’ll just note that Paul — that guy from the Bible — says it’s not “I” who do all these things, but Christ who strengthens us. I’m just saying.”
Saint Augustine, one of the fathers of the Church, philosopher and theologian, one of the most important men in the development of Christian thought, had this to say instead, from his Sermon 46, 10-11, on preparing Christians for hardships in the world:
Such a believer will then not hope for the prosperity of this world. For if he has been taught to hope for worldly gain, he will be corrupted by prosperity.
Oops. Well, maybe Augustine didn’t really mean that…?
Christians must imitate Christ’s sufferings, not set their hearts on pleasures. He who is weak will be strengthened when told: “Yes, expect the temptations of this world, but the Lord will deliver you from them all if your heart has not abandoned him.”
Oh, I guess he did. Augustine continues:
But what sort of shepherds are they who for fear of giving offense not only fail to prepare the sheep for the temptations that threaten, but even promise them worldly happiness? God himself made no such promise to this world. On the contrary, God foretold hardship upon hardship in this world until the end of time. And you want the Christian to be exempt from these troubles? Precisely because he is a Christian, he is destined to suffer more in this world.
(That’s not exactly the copy you want on your ad campaign, is it? “Come Be Christian! Suffer and die!” But precisely for that reason, it sounds more honest. The difference is, God promises that because of Christ’s sacrifice, our sufferings in this world have eternal value.)
Jesus did say that we should lay up treasure for ourselves in Heaven. That where our treasure was, that’s where our hearts would be. He also encouraged us to take up our cross and follow him. I think we know where Jesus would have sided.
Looking at these two, what do you think? Because my money is on Augustine.