Yes, you heard me correctly. I believe Joel Osteen is more biblical than you think. Now, before you cast any stones, please be patient and let me explain why I believe this is the case.
According to Pastor Osteen’s doctrinal statement, He believes the following core truths concerning Christianity:
- The Entire Bible is inspired by God, without error and authority on which we base our faith, conduct, and doctrine.
- God exists as three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who came to this Earth as the Savior of the world.
- Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood for our sins. We believe that salvation is found by placing our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross. We believe Jesus rose from the dead and is coming again.
- Every believer should be in a growing relationship with Jesus by obeying God’s Word, yielding to the Holy Spirit and by being conformed to the image of Christ.
If we give Pastor Osteen the benefit of the doubt, He believes in biblical inerrancy, the triune nature of God, substitutionary atonement, repentance and faith, and the second coming of Christ.
Doesn’t this seem like good theology? Wouldn’t you also agree with Joel Osteen concerning these doctrines? I believe you would. So the question becomes: Why do so many people give Osteen a hard time? I think there are a few reasons why.
First, Joel Osteen is often slandered by jealous pundits who take his sermons out of context. He is often caricatured as a “prosperity preacher.” Let’s be honest. When was the last time you ever saw or heard Joel Osteen beg for money on television? When did he ever chant the familiar prosperity lingo: Sow your seed of x amount of money into this ministry or buy this holy water and you will be financially blessed? The answer is never.
Has he ever used the term prosperity? Of course. But context is key when Pastor Osteen uses this word. For instance, when Oprah Winfrey asked him the following question: “Why do so many people condemn you for wanting others to prosper financially?” he actually didn’t confirm this statement. Even Oprah, a fan of Osteen, mischaracterized Pastor Osteen’s idea of prosperity.
He replied: “You know Oprah, a lot of times people think that prosperity is about gaining wealth, but it’s not really that. The key is positivity, happiness; to fulfill your destiny that God has intended. This is what it means to be prosperous.
Did you know that prosperity is a biblical term? Deuteronomy 28 teaches that if you obey the Lord, your crops will be blessed. This is not a “spiritual” blessing but strictly monetary gain according to the context. In other words, if you obey the Lord, He will prosper you.
Furthermore, after Job had everything taken from him, God gave him double the portion he had. Job 42:12 states: “The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. Once again, this is monetary gain, not a “spiritual” reward.
I think there are two extreme theologies that need to be discussed concerning prosperity. The first is the prosperity gospel that emphasizes “financial gain” as the sole indicator of one’s relationship with God. This is a false and demonic gospel. No question about it.
It’s clear there are many people suffering in this world as a result of poverty. It has nothing to do with their faith or relationship with God. God may even allow one to be limited by their finances in order to bring grace and humility into their lives.
Proverbs 30:8-9 gives us a good picture of why wealth can even be a bad thing. “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
Additionally, it’s clear Jesus warns us not to store up treasures here on earth where rust and moth can destroy, but store our treasures in heaven where they are secure. And all of us know full well that substances we store up here will not go with us to the grave. This is why we are to be generous with our wealth so we can bless and help others.
The other extreme is this pharisaic attitude about money. It’s almost as if one with “spiritual pride” will question your relationship with God if you drive a BMW or a Mercedes Benz. They may even judge you without knowing who you are or how sanctified you really are in Christ based on your appearance.
I think this is a fundamental problem as well and is a reason why Joel Osteen is often criticized and marginalized by believers today. I think the Christian community has instilled a hermeneutical dichotomy between physical and spiritual blessings. It’s sort of a Christian Platonism where the physical world and all of the material within are “evil” and only what comes from the spiritual realm is “good.”
A famous evangelical preacher made this comment about Joel Osteen: “If one’s best life is now, then that person is going to Hell.” Essentially, the Reformed Christian was saying that our best life is not now, but when we enter Heaven. As Paul said, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”
But wait a moment. Is the preacher correct when he makes such a caustic statement as this? He may be correct in pointing out that our ultimate joy will find itself in heaven, but I think he misses the point of “our best life now.” As image-bearers, life is sacred. Being created in the image of God should provoke us to live every day on earth for the glory of God. And believe me, some of the most miserable people will have their worst life now and in eternity because of their bitterness and hatred towards God.
It’s quite evident that Christians should be filled with the fruit of the spirit, which is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. This sounds to me like a person who is living their best life! As image-bearers, if we are not living to our full potential and honing our gifts for the glory of God, we are wicked servants.
In the end, I want to implore you to reexamine the life of Joel Osteen. He begins every sermon by telling his audience to hold up their Bible and repeat how it’s their roadmap for life. He also ends with a plea for people to repent of their sins and make Jesus Lord and Savior. Yes, even Joel Osteen believes in the Lordship of Christ!
I may not agree with every statement Joel Osteen says, but I think it’s important to be careful how you judge him. Do not trust what other people say about him because oftentimes its a misrepresentation. The reason I know this is because I used to have a critical spirit about him too. Let me end with an exhortation from Matthew 7:1-5.
Do not judge, or you be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.