Deceived by prosperity

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.


  1. Lane in PA

    Joel Osteen and others of his ilk are very dangerous people.

    Thank you for your excellent post. These truths needed to be said.

    1. philangelus

      Or screamed in frustration. 🙂 Something. Thank you.

  2. Tadj

    I read your post this morning, then I went to get ready for work so that I could absorb it more. What I thought was “Is not all prayer a bit selfish?” Of course I try to thank God on a regular basis (I am learning better now how to pray, and doing so more often. I am not yet at the place I believe that I should be regarding prayer and God), but at the same time if I pray “God, let me have patience with my husband” is that a selfish prayer?

    What I am praying for is for myself, though the consequences reach past me. At the end of the day, I have patience. My husband gets the benefits of a patient wife, and all of the people that he sees during the day have the benefit of my husband not being stressed out by my impatience.

    Anyway, my thoughts on this are still not completely clear; it is something that I will definitely chew over for the rest of the day.

    I think what bothers me the most about the idea of Prosperity Gospel is the attitude of “you owe me this” that seems to come from it. At the end of the week, I get a paycheck. That is owed to me. I don’t say thank you. At the end of the day, if I have more patience with my husband than I did in the morning, that is by the Grace of God. I send up a thankful prayer.

    1. philangelus

      I think that’s the key — the entitlement mentality. Plus the focus on material gain and non-essentials.

      Jesus said that at the end of the day we should say to God, “We’re only your servants and did nothing more than was required of us.” That’s at direct odds with “Your payday is coming!”

      I see prayer as a conversation with God, not a checklist. For a long time, when I prayed, I never asked for anything at all. I just liked the idea of being with God and thinking about God. It was enough just to be together.

  3. Diana

    Awesome post. I can’t wait for tomorrow.
    I recently read about the life of St Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint. Her life is absolute proof that faith in God doesn’t bring earthly joy or prosperity, but instead, peace and joy in suffering. She lost everything and everyone she loved, despite her faith, which just continued to grow stronger. The things she gained by that sort of “trial by fire” made her a saint, and really, I’d rather have my crown in heaven, than here on earth.

    (on a side note–I never got your book. Were you ever able to send it?)

    1. philangelus

      I’m sorry, no, it’s still sitting here. With the beginning of school, I havent’ been able to drag my butt back over to the post offal. I have query letters and such that need to go out to agencies too, and packages to return, and a two-week late birthday gift to mail to my nephew, and they’re all wondering when they’ll see more than the inside of my house. 🙁

      1. Diana

        No worries. Just as long as it’s not lost, I’m in no rush. 🙂

  4. AngelicGamer

    Tabris – I’m over here from EH because I’ve missed you over there. I’m glad I decided to follow over here because your daily insights of your life and other situations give me a smile as well as teach me something. I am always open to learning something new everyday.

    That said – Thank you for giving this side of the ideas of Joel Osteen. I have always been put off by him and I never fully understood why. The way that you have laid it out made me go “this is why and I could never articulate it fully”. So thank you!

    I’m going to echo another poster who can’t wait for the St Augustine post tomorrow. 🙂 It should be fun.

    1. philangelus

      Thanks for following me over here! I’ve missed EH too. 🙁

      I keep hearing more and more about “Prosperity Gospel” and it makes me sick inside to think that’s becoming a public face of a faith that ought to embrace the poor and love those in need above all.

  5. Diinzumo

    Sounds like a snake oil salesman to me. He can’t follow his own gospel, so he makes his riches by telling a selfish public exactly what they want to hear. Too bad most of his flock will blame God when their payday never comes.

  6. Jason Block

    This is similar to the 2006 media hyped book “The Secret” which is based on the Law of Attraction. (citing the wikipedia entry) which in essence is the power of an individual’s positive thinking to change and influence outcomes in their lives. The book claims that by using the “Laws of Attraction”, an individual can become wealthier, healthier, and happier. Here, Osteen takes it one step further by saying that G-d(or Jesus) is responsible for your own prosperity via the power of prayer.


  7. Lane in PA

    Elmer Gantry.

    “Sinclair Lewis’s Elmer Gantry (New York, 1927) is a ferocious satire against Protestant fundamentalist religion in the American Midwest. It tells the story of a hypocritical, corrupt, but very successful preacher named Elmer Gantry. Elmer starts his career as a Baptist and then joins up with a charismatic but equally unprincipled female revivalist preacher. After her death, he joins the Methodist Church. Amoral and relentlessly ambitious, Elmer builds a statewide and national reputation as a fiery preacher who never tires of denouncing vice, while at the same time feeling no need to curb his own vices, particularly adultery.” –

    Ecclesiatses 1:9

    There is nothing new under the sun.
    What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun.
    Whether ancient or contemporary, it has all been predicted and remains true to this day. Sadly.

    1. philangelus

      Keep that in mind when you read tomorrow what St. Augustine wrote over a thousand years ago.

  8. Pingback: Joel Osteen versus Saint Augustine « Seven angels, four kids, one family

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