They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
when there is no peace.
So what's wrong with positive thinking and victorious living? Why are those stodgy old orthodox Christians so grumpy and judgmental about Joel Osteen? After all, doesn't he help people?
Why of course! Joel's all about helping you "Become a Better You" by following these seven simple keys:
- Keep pressing forward
- Be positive toward yourself
- Develop better relationships
- Form better habits
- Embrace the place where you are
- Develop your inner life
- Stay passionate about life
Still, if Mr. Osteen was just a motivational speaker, the church could essentially ignore him. He could make the rounds of the usual circuit of business leadership symposiums and the like. He'd probably help lots of people be full-spectrum leaders.
The problem is that he claims to be a Christian leader. He pastors a church. A very, very big one.
According to Wikipedia, "Joel Scott Osteen (born March 5, 1963) is an American author, televangelist, and the senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. His ministry reaches over seven million broadcast media viewers weekly in over 100 nations around the world."
That's an awful lot of people who believe they are coming to Mr. Osteen for a word from God. Unfortunately, what they're getting is all dessert and no vegetables. The Bible? Let me paraphrase it for you. The holiness of God? Meh. Sin, judgment and wrath? Why so angry? Grace? I'm sure we have some nice "Amazing Grace" T-shirts in our gift shop. Victorious Living? Now we're talking!
This brings us back to Jeremiah, who warned of false prophets who preached of false peace. Treating a deadly cancer with band-aids and aspirin, they soothed the doomed with lies about a deliverance which would never come to the unrepentant citizens of Jerusalem. What those people needed was the truth. They needed life-saving surgery, but few of them listened to God's oncologist Jeremiah. After all, he was such a downer! I mean, who writes a depressing book called "Lamentations" and expects to make any money?
Of course, Jeremiah was not the only prophet to preach against the snake oil sold by sweet-talking charlatans. The Apostle Paul warned Timothy as well:
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3)The Cotton Candy Gospel is nothing new. Everyone wants to hear they are wonderful, their future is marvelous, and their spiritual life is victorious. Yum yum!
I'm sure that some of Joel Osteen's fans and followers are authentic Christians. They get their vegetables from somewhere, and go to Joel to satisfy their sweet tooth. Presumably at some point the Holy Spirit will convict them that it's making them spiritually flabby, and they'll move back to something more nourishing.
The frightening part is that many others are following this Pied Piper as he serenades their route to destruction. Blind to their peril, they will find themselves among those who cry "Lord Lord" on the Day of Judgment, and hear those tragic and terrifying words: "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"
Those wretched souls will doubtless protest that Pastor Joel promised them their "Best Life Now". And our Lord will say, "Yes, I'm afraid you had it."