Jesus is Like Gasoline - Fill up At the Gas Station of God
I am sure many people are familiar with the ‘health and wealth’ message that Joel Osteen preaches. I never had given it much thought in all honesty - it seemed like he was just a jolly guy who liked to write self-help books about how to be happy. Harmless. Now, having listened to some of his sermons, read his blog and thought about the things he is saying, it is quite apparent that it is not as harmless as I had hoped.
Here are some comments left for him by his fans:
"Joel, I read The Secret. Its wonderful to see someone preaching to the universe that all is possible and that to get it you must believe in God. All things are possible for him! Thank you for your heart and your voice! Bless you!"
"Until I read this, I was in the settle for beans & rice mentality…never no more! Abundance is now in my vocabulary!!! Today is my day & I will eat steak according to His will!"
So what about it? What’s wrong with this picture? Take the first example: “All is possible, and to get it you must believe in God.” This person is basically saying that they think they can get whatever they want from God, as long as they believe in Him. It is all about getting something FROM God. Treating God like some giant vending machine.
The second quote is a response to a blog post of his, saying that God has more than beans and rice in store for you on this earth; that He has a steak dinner waiting:
"Don’t settle for beans and rice when God has a steak ready for you! Don’t get stuck in the land of "Barely Enough" or the land of "Just Enough." Keep praying, believing, expecting, hoping, dreaming, working and being faithful until you make it all the way in to the land of "More Than Enough!" He wants you to set a new standard for your family. He is an overflow God, a God of more than enough. And as you follow His leading, He’ll take you into the land of abundance that He has prepared for you!"
(Can I just comment on the abundance in this quote - abundance of exclamation points that is…)
Immediately after writing this, he posts this verse, supposedly to support his statements:
"And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." (2 Corinthians 9:8, NIV)
In actuality, this verse utterly and completely contradicts what Osteen said. Osteen claims, in his blog, that God is going to give us tons of good things in life if we have enough faith. We give faith, God gives stuff. More stuff than we need - as he says, “the land of More Than Enough!”. What Paul does say though, in the verse supposed to back this idea up? Paul says “having all that you NEED, you will abound in every GOOD WORK.” We will be given all we NEED, not all we WANT. In the end, all we need to do the GOOD WORK of God is Christ Himself. Not a fancy car. Not a bigger house. Not a perfectly healthy body. We know from scripture that Paul himself dealt with some sort of affliction - I am sure he had more faith than I could ever imagine having, and that did not cure him of it. God is not to be manipulated, and that is exactly what preachers like Joel Osteen are teaching people to try to do.
"If only you believe, God will give you the desires of your heart."
If the desire of our heart is knowing Christ then this is true. But that is not what they mean. The desires of our heart could mean anything - more money, a husband, good-looking children, an easier life…whatever. But it is all temporary, material, STUFF. Meaningless. We are explicitly told that if we truly believe in the Lord, we will be persecuted, and we will suffer for our beliefs. Just because our sins have been forgiven does not mean the effects of them have been erased. That is YET to come when Christ returns. Evil, pain, suffering, poverty, death, illness still exist in this world and while they do we are called to take part in it - not focus on obtaining more THINGS for ourselves, but giving our entire lives to Christ, meaning getting down and dirty with those who have no hope - washing feet of our enemies, and suffering with the world as Christ suffered. How can we show the love of Christ if we are not suffering with everyone else? A love that does not cost anything is not a true love, it is a false love.
In one of his sermons, Joel compares Jesus’ salvation to gasoline. “Fill up on Christ! Christ will put you on the highway to heaven!” he says joyfully. As if Christ Himself is just the means to an end, not the end itself. Christ HIMSELF is the goal. He is not some sort of cosmic fuel that we use until we get where we want to be. HE is where we want to be! Or He should be.