The Prosperity Gospel.
Also known as the health and wealth gospel and the gospel of success.
In the past, it’s also been called, “The Name it and Claim it Gospel.”
Pastors who are often included in this type of preaching include men such as Oral Roberts, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, and Joel Osteen.
Let me clearly state as I begin that I am not against these men or their churches.
I’m so thankful that people find hope, encouragement, and saving faith in Jesus Christ through anyone’s ministry!
Additionally, I know that many of you love many of these preachers and their ministries. Many of you are blessed and encouraged by their teachings and books.
For almost a year, I listened to Joel Osteen each week and loved his ministry. I also read one of his books.
But, as I studied, prayed, and talked to some of my very wise friends, I became concerned about some of the things I was hearing and reading.
I also became concerned about what I was NOT hearing from his messages.
What’s the Big Problem with the Prosperity Gospel?
Today, I’d like to offer some theological reasons why I disagree with the teachings of the Prosperity Gospel.
And, I’d like to suggest a better way to respond.
Primarily, I question these teachings for these 3 reasons. I’ll share them in the form of questions:
1) Do Joel Osteen, and others like him, tell the WHOLE truth and nothing but the truth??
From the pulpit and television ministry of the Osteens, you hear so much good stuff.
In fact, you ONLY hear the good stuff.
And, people like all positive messages like this! I know I do.
However, none of us need to hear ONLY the positive, happy, and affirming words of the Bible. Click To Tweet
We need the whole truth.
We need to hear both sides of the story.
In Acts 20:27, Paul reminds the elders at the church in Ephesus,
“For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”
Paul taught the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
He challenged these leaders to do the same when he said,
“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”
I like to think of the ministry of Joel Osteen as a cafeteria line. When you listen to him preach, he pulls out the wonderful “bread” and delectable “desserts” of the Bible.
Yet, if you listen closely, you will rarely hear him discuss things that sound like “leafy greens,” “vegetables,” and the “meat” of the Word.
Just as you can’t eat only bread and dessert and stay healthy – you cannot survive spiritually without healthy truth and honest principles of scripture.
* Do Joel Osteen and other Prosperity Preachers declare the whole counsel of God – the good, the hard, the challenging, and the sweet?
2) Do Joel Osteen, and others like him, ADD extra things to the Bible??
When you listen to Joel and others like him, they share things that just aren’t in the Bible. They sound good, but they aren’t biblical.
For example, I’ve heard Mr. Osteen say this on numerous occasions:
“God loves you, and more than anything He wants you to be happy.”
Yes, God does love you!
Absolutely, He loves you.
You can find scriptural evidence to back this up throughout the Bible. Consider verses like John 3:16, Psalm 103, and 1 John 4:7-8.
However, I’ve looked, and I cannot find a single Bible verse that tells us that more than anything, God wants us to be happy.
Yes, happiness, joy, rejoicing and similar words are mentioned in scripture.
However, the concept of happiness ABOVE all else… it’s just not the central message of the Bible.
However, the concept of happiness ABOVE all else... it's just not the central message of the Bible. Click To Tweet
The Bible teaches that God wants us to:
Be Holy – ‘For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”’ (I Peter 1:16)
Get Wisdom – “Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.” (Proverbs 4:7)
Be Kind – “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph. 4:32)
Be Joyful – “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
The Bible is filled with references and teaching about joy.
But, the Bible never states that God “wants us to be happy above all else.”
Happiness is an emotion and depends on our circumstances, but joy is a fruit of the spirit. Joy is a deep and abiding sense of peace which we can regardless of our circumstances.
And, in Revelation, we are told not to add anything else to the Bible:
“And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book.”
“God wants you to be so happy!”
We want this teaching to be true. Oh, we want it to be true. But, it’s man-made wisdom; it’s not God’s wisdom.
* Does this prosperity teaching try to ADD human wisdom to the wisdom of God?
3) Do Joel Osteen, and others like him, IGNORE the laws of biblical interpretation??
In seminary, you are required to take a course called, “Hermeneutics: An Introduction to Biblical Interpretation.”
Basically, this course helps teachers and preachers to accurately divide the Word of God.
There are some basic laws of interpretation that should govern all Bible teaching.
One of these laws is pretty simple – Let Scripture interpret Scripture.
Put another way, any interpretation of the Bible should be able to be backed up by the rest of the Bible.
When you pull out a verse from the Bible, you should be able to back up your teaching and interpretation in other parts of the Bible.
In 2 Timothy 2:15, we are told to,
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
* Does the Prosperity Gospel teach in such a way that the principles of scripture are backed up by other scriptures?
* Do Joel Osteen and others rightly divide the word of truth?
* Do they correctly handle the principles of scripture?
Some Encouragement going forward:
First… BE WISE! We are living in a challenging day!
Ask God to give you incredible wisdom. James 1:5 tells us, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”
Get into the Bible. Study it for yourself.
Keep your eyes and ears wide open. There is a lot of junk out there.
Second… BE WARY! Not all preachers are worthy of your time, your attention, or your respect.
Don’t take any writer, preacher, teacher, or blogger at face value (including me).
Read and listen closely to every influential person in your life.
Consider the words of 1 John 4:1, “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.”
Third… BE WILLING to change!
When you are listening to a sermon or reading an inspirational book, have the Bible open as well. Make sure that the two are cohesive!
If you are struggling with a particular speaker or writer, ask your pastor or a wise friend to walk through these issues with you.
Pray about these things. Ask the Lord to speak to you!
And, if God gives you the grace to continue to listen to and support ministries like the Osteens have, great!
Go for it.
We will just agree to disagree.
May we “be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
And, may we always “speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15)
Alwaysbeready.com (Guidelines to Interpret the Bible)
TheGospelCoalition.com (What Does it Mean to Preach the Whole Counsel?)
TheBiblicalWorldview.org (Is Joel Osteen a False Prophet?)
John Piper on YouTube (Why I Abominate the Prosperity Gospel)
So, what do you think?
I always like to hear from you – even if we do not always agree.
Encouraged by what you read?
Would you share this article with a friend, co-worker, or family member?
Maybe you can send it to a friend or family member?
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