Question:

Hi,

I am a member of the church of Christ.

Before morning service this past Sunday the TV happened to be on the station with Joel Osteen. I have never really watched him speak before. I must say it was an good message, as far as being motivational. I feel it wasn't anything that a person seeking God couldn't use. But it could greatly use more to help bring souls to Christ. I know his doctrine is false, especially how he stated at the end of his message that if you pray with him through the TV set, you basically would be welcomed into heaven. How do you feel about listening to him just for motivational purposes?


Answer:

I have often heard people claim that if you repeat a lie often enough that people will accept it as the truth. That is part of the reason why we are warned to be choosy about who we take as friends. "Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits"" (I Corinthians 15:33).

Joel Osteen readily admits that he doesn't teach the full gospel. He sees himself as a motivational speaker and avoids negative topics. When asked by Larry King if he was a fire and brimstone type preacher, Osteen responded, "No. That's not me. It's never been me. I've always been an encourager at heart. ...But, you know, I just -- I don't believe in that. I don't believe -- maybe it was for a time. But I don't have it in my heart to condemn people. I'm there to encourage them. I see myself more as a coach, as a motivator to help them experience the life God has for us." [Transcript of Larry King interviewing Joel Osteen].

When God condemned Israel, He said, "That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the LORD; who say to the seers, "Do not see," and to the prophets, "Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits"" (Isaiah 30:9-10). This is the type of business Osteen is in. He gives people exactly what they want to hear and thus attracts thousands. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (II Timothy 4:3-4).

Osteen also claimed during his interview with Larry King that he doesn't ask for money and he doesn't sell products to raise money, yet his TV shows constantly mentions his books and tours. His tours cost money to attend by the way. This is in contrast to Paul, who said, "What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel" (I Corinthians 9:18).

Belief in Christ is all Osteen claims is needed to reach heaven, but he defines belief as "knowing Christ" that is shown by doing some good deeds. When Larry King asked about members of other religions, such as Muslims or Jews, Osteen wouldn't say one way or another if they would reach heaven or not. When pressed that he just said you have to believe in Christ, Joel said he didn't know if they were wrong. (He later apologized for that statement.)

In that same interview Osteen admits to teaching a prosperity gospel, so long as "prosperity" is not limited to just money. He believes "that God wants us to be blessed. He wants us to be able to send our kids to college, excel in our careers. But prosperity to me, Larry, is not just money, it's having health. What good is money if you don't have health?" [Transcript of Larry King interviewing Joel Osteen]. God does say He will take care of the needs of His people, but who defines those needs -- the man asking or the God who provides? God did not promise Christians earthly wealth (Matthew 6:19-20) or even health (II Corinthians 12:7), if it is not in the person's best interests. If prosperity was a sign of God's blessings, then what about the wicked? "But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked. or there are no pangs in their death, But their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like other men" (Psalms 73:2-5). Their end will not be nearly as pleasant as their life (Psalms 73:16-19).

I don't recommend listening to people whom you know are teaching a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-10). It is bound to influence your thinking because you won't always be on your guard. The type of false teaching Osteen is involved in is subtle. It sounds so good on the surface and it appeals to just what you want to hear. Such makes it hard to step back and see exactly what is wrong and why it is wrong.