And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them, and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. -- Deuteronomy 28:13-14 (ESV)
Somehow a five-year-old sermon clip of Joel Osteen has gone viral this week. Let me first deal with the false teacher push back I have already seen online complaining about why we would revisit something that is five years old. To start with, He said it. He not only said it, he preached it. Now, if Joel Osteen had repented from the prosperity gospel, I would be the first condemning holding this against him. The reality however is he has not only not repented but he has become ten times the snake oil salesman he was back then. In 2014, Osteen was less shy about being honest with what he believes. Today he tries to avoid the controversies by hiding his heresies in plain sight. The reality is that he clearly still believes what he taught in this video clip but he has found less obvious ways to express it. That makes him more dangerous beloved. Let us reason together through the reporting of this from Charisma News, linked above.
'A viral clip of Joel Osteen shows the megachurch pastor saying that God is most honored when Christians are successful and externally well-off, and that being poor or defeated "doesn't bring any honor to God." The clip comes from Osteen's sermon #601, first preached in 2014, titled "Have an Abundant Mentality." The sermon was republished on the Joel Osteen Audio podcast on May 1, 2019. In the sermon, Osteen responds to claims that he is a prosperity minister by at first denying it, but then saying he is "not a poverty minister."' -- Charisma News
So, for all of those with the faux outrage of discussing something said five years ago, he chose rerun the sermon this year. Now, onto the lies! God is not most honored when we are extremely well off. That is NAR-prosperity gospel rubbish. Think about the ramifications of this statement! So the martyred Christians in the Middle East, who lived in abject poverty, did not honor God? Money has nothing to do with honoring God. Jesus celebrated the poor widow's mite, not the wealthy donations. Obedience honors God. Christlikeness honors God. Staying in the word honors God. If being wealthy honored God so much why did Jesus teach how hard it will be for a rich man to even enter the kingdom of heaven? Being poor does not honor God in and of itself. That is a red herring argument. It is what you do in your plenty or lack. Osteen's usage of a "poverty minister" is a popular tactic amongst prosperity heretics. They create a false dichotomy that says you must either preach riches or preach poverty. That is nonsense designed to make preaching wealth mainstream. The reality is I have never seen anyone "preach poverty."
During the sermon, Osteen says: "'Well,' you say, 'Joel, are you one of those prosperity ministers?' No, I don't like that term. That sounds like somebody that only talks about finances. Prosperity to me is having your health. It's having peace in your mind. It's being able to sleep at night, having good relationships. There are many things that money cannot buy, and while I don't like the term 'prosperity minister,' I must say I am not a poverty minister. "I can't find one place in the Scripture where we are supposed to drag around not having enough, not able to afford what we want, living off the leftovers, living in the land of not enough. No, we were created to be the head and not the tail. Jesus came that we might live an abundant life. We represent Almighty God here on this earth. We should be examples of His goodness, so blessed, so prosperous, so generous, so full of joy that other people want what we have." -- Charisma News
A typical refrain from prosperity preachers is the spreading thin the term prosperity. Now do not get me wrong, true prosperity is peace of mind and health more so than finances but the problem is the huckster only speaks in these terms when talking about YOUR prosperity. His is always financial. It is a "seed" you must sow to reap your alleged harvest. To increase the likelihood of you believing God paid you back for giving the huckster money, your prosperity coming back to you is literally anything positive and happenstance. Once again look at the false dichotomy Osteen sets up here as it is brilliantly evil. The prosperity huckster only speaks of two extremes. Utter depraved poverty or yacht sailing wealth. The bible actually does not say either are required for a Christian but there is quite a bit about the evil of being too fond of money. The truly insulting thing here is the reference to living in the land of not enough. The majority of our brothers and sister live in the land of not enough and yet they are more spiritually rich than the American church that is constantly chasing the baubles of this world. Then Osteen mixes in a scripture reference to sound pious but butchers it in the process. The first reference is from Deuteronomy 28 and are the key verses for today. Being the head and not the tail is a favorite of huckster preachers everywhere but it totally ignores the context! Is God promising Christians that He will make you the head and not the tail? Absolutely not. He is actually promising it to Israel but only if they keep all 613 Mosaic Laws, which we know they could not do. While every false teacher loves to leverage Deuteronomy 28 for the 13 verses of blessings it opens with they completely ignore the following 58 verses of curses for disobedience! Next, Osteen butchers John 10:10, another prosperity preacher favorite. Let's see it in full context:
So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. -- John 10:7-13 (ESV)
Osteen and his ilk just want to read verse ten and equate the word abundantly to material goods here on earth. These verses however are not about that. The thief referenced is not the devil either. It is the false teacher. The false teacher brings death because he does not present the life saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one true Shepherd who came to bring life and for us to have it more abundantly. Is Jesus speaking about two car garages? No! He is speaking about eternal life! Osteen's last sentence here is frightening. The notion that people will want what we have has NOTHING to do with material possessions! In fact, it is our peace in the midst of the storm that would truly speak to the unbeliever.
'"But you've got to fight a religious spirit that says you're supposed to be poor, broke and defeated to show God that you're really humble. No, when you're poor, broke and defeated, all that proves is that you're poor, broke and defeated. It doesn't bring any honor to God. If I brought my two children up on the platform today and their clothes were all raggedy, worn out, holes in their shoes, hair not combed, you would look at me and think, 'What kind of father is he?' It'd be a poor reflection on me. Listen, when you look good, dress good, live in a nice place, excel in your career, generous with others, that brings a smile to God's face. It brings Him pleasure to prosper you."' -- Joel Osteen
Stop with the bogus prosperity talking points! No one says that we need to be poor to be humble. Also, stop shaming the poor! The widow brought more honor with her mite than the wealthy with their riches! While we are talking about this, stop abusing the term religious. This is NAR code speak for people who insist on biblical accuracy. A false teacher like Osteen says something demonstrably unbiblical, such as you can only honor God with money, and the people who he reflexively calls "religious" are the ones using the bible to debunk him. Osteen's heart is black as coal here as he literally says to poor people who try to clothe their children with what they can that they are also poor parents for being poor themselves. God is not smiling at this beloved. God does not care if you "look good." He cares even less if you dress good. While generosity is encouraged, God does not care about excelling in your career. These are all NAR fallacies. What brings a smile to God's face is our obedience and humility. Yes, Joel Osteen said this five years ago but he still believes it today. He is not harmless. I do not think it is hyperbole to say that millions of people are walking the broad path that leads only to destruction because they follow this charlatan. People will cry out in his defense that he is just an encourager. Well, if you are encouraging with the carnal reasoning of this world and avoiding the Gospel then all I have to say is get thee behind me.