Joel Osteen, Judas Iscariot, and the Heretical “Prosperity Gospel”

Lakewood Church
(Joel and Victoria Osteen’s megachurch)

The recent controversy over Joel and Victoria Osteen has put these megachurch preachers back in the spotlight. This time, it was because Victoria said:

I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—I mean, that’s one way to look at it—we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy. So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?

This wasn’t spoken by someone on the fringes of Evangelicalism. The Osteens run the largest megachurch in the United States, with over 40,000 weekly members (and millions more tuning in), bringing in an estimated $75,000,000 a year. That’s in addition to the tens of millions that Joel has made selling books: his Your Best Life Now sold some seven million copies.

And why are millions of people clamoring to follow the Osteens? Because these two are the most successful peddlers of what’s known as the “Prosperity Gospel.” Here’s how they describe the “Prosperity Gospel” on their website:

So many people are confused about what the Bible means by prosperity. Prosperity isn’t just about money. It’s about having health and peace in your mind. It’s being able to sleep at night and having good relationships. There are many things that money cannot buy that represent prosperity, but having monetary provision is also a part of prosperity. You’ll never find one place in the Scripture where we are supposed to drag around not having enough, not able to afford what we want, and living off the leftovers of others. No, we were created to be the head and not the tail! Jesus came that we might live an abundant life!

It turns out, when you replace this:

with this:

…people love you for it. The Osteens have gotten rich and successful off of telling people what they want to hear: namely, that God wants them to be rich and successful. And then, they’ve pointed to all of their extravagant wealth and success as proof of their “Gospel.”

All of this success has come at a price: to achieve it, they have had to pervert and sell out the Gospel. My original idea was to analyze the Prosperity Gospel point-by-point, to show how it puts us, rather than God, at the center of Christianity; how it prostitutes the Gospel in service of Mammon; and how it misrepresents the very Scriptures that it cites as support.

All of this seemed too small, though. If you’ve ever actually read the Bible, or even if you simply know the basics of the history of the Jews, of Jesus Christ, and of the Christians, then you should be able to see that the Prosperity Gospel is very nearly the antithesis of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. Consider.

I. The Prosperity Gospel v. Israel

Nicholas Poussin, Gideon’s Battle Against the Midianites (1626)

God chose Israel precisely because it was so small and weak. The survival of the Jewish people is literally a miracle, given that so much of their history has been spent surrounded by people who wanted to kill them. But the constant temptation for Israel was to rely on their own strength, or on powerful political alliances, rather than trusting in God. In response to this, God would sometimes force Israel to be weak, just so that they could see that it is He, and not they, who are responsible for their survival. My favorite example of this is from Judges 7:2-7, before Gideon leads the Israelites into battle against the Midianite army:

The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Mid′ianites into their hand, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, ‘My own hand has delivered me.’  Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home.’” And Gideon tested them; twenty-two thousand returned, and ten thousand remained. 
And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; take them down to the water and I will test them for you there; and he of whom I say to you, ‘This man shall go with you,’ shall go with you; and any of whom I say to you, ‘This man shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water; and the Lord said to Gideon, “Every one that laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself; likewise every one that kneels down to drink.” And the number of those that lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. 
And the Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will deliver you, and give the Mid′ianites into your hand; and let all the others go every man to his home.”
So, just to ensure that Israel didn’t think that they had won the battle by their own power, God reduces their army from 30,000 troops to 300, and those 300 are, to put it nicely, quirky.
The Jews were not always happy about this arrangement. While moderns have the problem of evil, “why do bad things happen to good people?” the Jewish concern was just the opposite:  “why do good things happen to bad people?” Call it the problem of prosperity. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” (Jeremiah 12:1).
Jacob Matham, Avarice (1587)

The Psalms in particular are full of the Jews’ grappling with this problem of prosperity. For example, in Psalm 73:3-7, Asaph admits:

For I was envious of the arrogant, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs; their bodies are sound and sleek. They are not in trouble as other men are; they are not stricken like other men. Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. Their eyes swell out with fatness, their hearts overflow with follies.

In other words, the threefold prosperity that the Osteens describe — wealth, health, and freedom from trouble — is a great description of the wicked and arrogant. The Psalmist comes to recognize that all of this prosperity is fleeting and pointless, and that the wicked enjoy it only briefly on their way to destruction (Psalm 73:16-19).

By the light of the Holy Spirit, the Jews came to see that the prosperity that they envied wasn’t actually a blessing, but a curse. Even saintly men like Abraham and Lot had to part company, “for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together” (Genesis 13:6). Such prosperity also provokes jealousy and greed, and most disturbingly, causes the greedy to hunger for money and worldly security, rather than hungering after God and eternal salvation.

In this way, the inspired authors show that the poor man who trusts in the Lord is on the road to eternal bliss with Him, while the rich man who trusts in himself (or in his wealth, or his skills, etc.) is poised to accumulate a fortune of no use to him when he dies. “Man cannot abide in his pomp, he is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:12, 20). That’s why it’s most fitting that Joel Osteen’s book is entitled Your Best Life Now, because that’s exactly the case for the greedy: they briefly enjoy worldly pleasures, before spending all of eternity in the fires of Hell.
It’s for this reason that the prophet Habakkuk prays (Habakkuk 3:7-8),

Though the fig tree do not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

In other words, we shouldn’t rejoice in God because He’s given us nice things or because we think we can get nice things out of Him this way (although, obviously, it’s good to thank Him for those things He’s given us). We should rejoice in Him because He’s God, and because He’s extended His hand of salvation, even if we’ve got absolutely nothing else going for us, and even if God decides to give us nothing but failure and trial.

In a passage that should properly terrify anyone who preaches or believes the Prosperity Gospel, David wishes material prosperity on his enemies (Psalm 17:13-15):
Arise, O Lord! confront them, overthrow them! Deliver my life from the wicked by thy sword, from men by thy hand, O Lord, from men whose portion in life is of the world. May their belly be filled with what thou hast stored up for them; may their children have more than enough; may they leave something over to their babes. As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with beholding thy form.

So that’s the Old Testament, in a nutshell: a long history of God’s chosen people being kicked around by the prosperous and powerful, while the Israelites’ very lack of prosperity leads them into greater faith and to salvation.

II. The Prosperity Gospel v. Jesus Christ



Michael Rieser, The Night Before the Birth of Christ (1869)

Jesus is born to a working-class couple. His first crib is a food trough used by animals, “because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7). His Mother sang of the glory of God (Luke 1:51-52), and how “he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.” After spending His infancy as a refugee in Egypt, the Holy Family returns to Israel (Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23), to a town sown lowly that one of the Apostles would later ask, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).

The teachings of Christ reflect the poverty that He freely chose from all eternity. When John the Baptist sent his followers to see that Jesus was the Christ, He confirmed it for them by showing that “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:5). Part of this Good News is of the blessedness of the poor in spirit, those who have come to rely upon God (Matthew 5:3).

Meanwhile, He warns the rich: “Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:23-24). He calls them, like all of us, to love God and hate wealth. “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13).

Christ praises a tax collector named Zacchaeus for giving away half of his possessions, and repaying fourfold all of the money he earned fraudulently (Luke 19:1-10). And when a pious young rich man asks Jesus how to be saved, He says (Matthew 19:21), “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.

Nor was it just what He said. Just as the Osteens practice what they preach, so too does Christ. The Osteens preach that we are to be wealthy here below, so they live in a mansion worth over $10 million, while keeping another $3 million mansion just to show what they think of Luke 3:11. Christ preaches the opposite, so He could boast of no such mansions: “foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). Instead, His mansions, and the ones prepared for His followers, are in Heaven (John 14:2).

Of course, Christ warns us not to follow the Osteens short-term investment strategy (Matthew 6:19-21):

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

And again, in Luke 12:33: “Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” Does any of this sound like the God that Osteen believes in, who wants you to get rich, and to enjoy your mansions and the good life now, and here below?

III. The Prosperity Gospel v. The Church

Carlo Crivelli, Saint Sebastian (1491)

All of this is not to say Christ was never extravagant. He was, in suffering. Despite being sinless, He suffers numerous untold indignities: being spat upon, beaten, tortured, and eventually executed on the Cross. This was the Chalice of His Passion (Matthew 26:39), and it’s this Chalice from which He offers us a drink (Matthew 20:23), and it’s this Cross that He invites us to pick up and carry as part of our life of self-denial (Matthew 16:24).

Christ sends the Twelve with these instructions (Matthew 10:8-10):

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay. Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the laborer deserves his food.

The Apostles take these words to heart, not holding on to any material possession that might obstruct them from a full devotion to the Gospel (Acts 2:45). So radical was their devotion to Apostolic poverty that when a crippled man begs at the feet of Peter, the Apostle can respond honestly, “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6).

Nor was it simply poverty that the Apostles eagerly embraced: they also embraced persecution, just as their Master had promised at the Last Supper (John 15:18-20):

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.

Therefore, the earliest Christians “rejoice in our sufferings,” (Romans 5:3; Colossians 1:24; 1 Peter 4:13). Rather than calling him to enjoy the good life, St. Paul calls Timothy to “Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3), a message less likely to get on the New York Times bestseller list.

When St. Paul’s Apostolic authority is challenged, the credentials he cites to show his authenticity is that he has eschewed prosperity for the sake of suffering (2 Corinthians 11:24-30):

Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

By boasting in his weakness, Paul was both showing a deep understanding of the Old Testament message, as well as the New. Such a teaching can be neatly summarized in Our Lord’s words to St. Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Such a witness is proclaimed in the lives of the martyrs, from St. Stephen (Acts 7:54-60) down to the present day. Christians happily give up everything and are poured out like libations (Philippians 2:17) out of love of the Gospel.

Such a paradox has long baffled the enemies of Christianity: if Christianity is true, why aren’t the Christians all healthy, rich, and powerful? When the Mongolian leader Kuyuk (or Güyük) Khan was continuing his grandfather Genghis’ domination of Christian lands, Pope Innocent IV wrote to him calling for peace and trying to convert him to Christianity. Kuyuk wrote back:

Furthermore, you have said it would be well for us to become Christians. You write to me in person about this matter, and have addressed to me a request. This, your request, we cannot understand. […] how do you know who is pleasing to God and to whom He allots His grace? How can you know it, that you speak such words? Thanks to the power of the Eternal Heaven, all lands have been given to us from sunrise to sunset. How could anyone act other than in accordance with the commands of Heaven?

In other words, Kuyuk assumed that since he was prosperous, he must enjoy the blessings of Heaven, and therefore, his religion must be the true one. Needless to say, his Prosperity Gospel was a false one, and the Mongolians were eventually crushed (though not before several prominent Mongol leaders converted to Christianity).

Conclusion

Hopefully, this suffices to show that the Gospel preached by the Osteens is a false and horrible bastardization of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is almost the perfect negative of the Gospel message. The Osteens, and those who preach and teach similar false Gospels, have pimped out the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a way to gain worldly wealth, rather than recognizing it for what it is: the self-revelation of Almighty God, and a sure path to eternal salvation. The French writer Léon Bloy described such rotten shepherds as worse than Judas, who at least returned the money:

The sum total of fifty worldly priests would not even amount to as much as one Judas, a Judas who returns the money and hangs himself from despair. Frankly, such priests are appalling. Through them it is that the rich are confirmed in their wealth, as ice is solidified by sulphuric acid.

Of course, I can’t say with any certainty that the Osteens are worse than Judas Iscariot, or even that he and his followers will surely rot in Hell. Only God can know that for sure.

What I can say with certainty, though, is that trading the Pearl of Great Price for a few tens of millions of dollars is a terrible rip-off. The Prosperity Gospel is no path for your best life, either for now or (most surely) for eternity.

31 Comments

  1. If you’re not being persecuted for being Christian, then you’re doing it wrong.

    I’d rather have Heaven than personal prosperity myself. But I’m a convert to the Catholic Church, so I’m a little bit biased in that regard.

    I wonder what the Iraqi Christians who woke up with the Arabic letter “Noon” ن spray painted on their doors, and were forced to drop pretty much everything, their household chores, their jobs, their mortgage, their bank accounts, their possessions, and pack up their kids, and the clothes on their backs and drive as far away as they could until their car ran out of gas would say to Mr. Osteen?

  2. I find this post you’ve shown is JUST as heretical as the Olsteens, your premise is that God WANTS us to be poverty stricken, the direct opposite of the Olsteens message. In fact, Abraham, Job (notice God DOUBLED his prosperity), Solomon, and others were rich. The LOVE OF MONEY is the root of all evil, it never says how MUCH money it is, because the root is an ATTITUDE, never an AMOUNT, and it comes from the 10th commandment, “Thou shall not covet!” Study the words “rich” and “poor” in Proverbs and you’ll find a positive and negative view of both rich and poor.

    Wealth comes from serving your fellow man through God’s gift of doing good.

    Deut 8:17-18 “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth. But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

    “The wealth of the country, its capital, its credit, must be saved from the predatory poor as well as the predatory rich, but above all from the predatory politician.—James J. Hill (1838-1916), CEO of the Great Northern Railroad.

    1. I’m not sure where you see where Joe says we’re to be poverty stricken. He’s refuting the notion that wealth is a sign of being in God’s favor which is what the Olsteens preach. He’s saying seek God not riches. No where in there does he say the wealthy are evil but rather points out the temptation to do evil with one’s wealth.

      Catholic teaching is that our wealth comes from God and we are merely stewards of it. If we loose sight of everything being God’s than we become like the rich man in the Bible. The Olsteens believe their wealth comes from God based on their personal goodness rather than simply God’s generosity. They tread dangerously close to poor stewardship if they aren’t there already. They also teach heretical teachings because God doesn’t have to give you money to show His love for you.

    2. Sorry, but Joe is completely wrong. “He’s refuting the notion that wealth is a sign of being in God’s favor which is what the Olsteens preach” goes completely against what God says in His Word, a perfect example is Job. Job was upright, lost it all, then God double his wealth. This one incident goes against Joe’s premise. To select certain verses to satisfy his own bias shows that he fails to see the complete picture God lays out about prosperity.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of the Olsteens, but Joe needs to do a complete scan of the words prosperity, rich, and poor and see what God says about it. I did one on Proverbs and you find both good and bad regarding the rich and poor. Money is a tool and we’re to be stewards of what we’re given, that is for sure, but to come across as anti-prosperity when the bible says differently is to be “add to or take away” from God’s word. Joe did NOT show where prosperity is favor from God and for good, THAT is the issue I have with his post.

    3. Kevin,

      You said: “I find this post you’ve shown is JUST as heretical as the Olsteens, your premise is that God WANTS us to be poverty stricken, the direct opposite of the Olsteens message.”

      Care to substantiate that… at all? Where in the post did I say anything remotely heretical? Almost everything I wrote was drawn straight from Scripture.

      I.X.,

      Joe

  3. So here’s my point: So as Christians we’re to lie down and let other Christians take the punishment and we watch on the sidelines? We’re not to earn enough to provide help to them? It takes money to help our fellow brothers and sister in Christ in other parts of the world and to tell followers of Christ NOT to earn an income that can be used to help them is a sin. God help those that fail to be “fruitful in good works.”

    1. It’s very charitable, and very noble, to be so thoughtful of others as you describe. But the reality is, that today, many people can barely put daily food on their children’s tables, and pay the medical insurance every month, even though they are working 40, or more, hours each week. For those who are able to produce more out of their labors, then it is good for them to give out of the abundance of their hearts that which they are inspired to give. The Lord shows us in numerous places in the Gospels about such types of giving, and often praised such acts for all to remember. So, there’s nothing wrong with working hard and providing for your family, and then giving what you can to the Church and to others’ needs.
      What IS wrong, is to charge others, or to brain wash them to tithe to you, for your own excessive personal gain for the preaching of Christ’s Gospel; and especially if this personal gain is OBNOXIOUSLY excessive.

      Jesus taught ” freely have you received, freely give. (Matt. 10:8)”.

      And St. Paul teaches:

      “For yourselves know how you ought to imitate us: for we were not disorderly among you; [8] Neither did we eat any man’ s bread for nothing, but in labour and in toil we worked night and day, lest we should be chargeable to any of you. [9] Not as if we had not power: but that we might give ourselves a pattern unto you, to imitate us.” (Thessalonians 3:7)

      It certainly doesn’t appear that Joel Osteen and Co., is teaching or following the counsel of these scriptures too closely.

    2. And Awlms, the reality is God knows EXACTLY who is giving to others (Acts 10:4, 22; Luke 7:2-6) and committing fraud, deception, and criminal activity regarding wealth, and I can bet you that there are three segments of the world that commits these acts: Businesses, Governments, and the people (customers) themselves. So if people can barely put food on their table, what are the root causes of this? It goes back to the 8th and 10th Commandments: Stealing and coveting, by all three segments of our world. So it comes back to the morality of people.

      In most cases, Awlms, governments cause most of our problems by their erroneous and unethical interventions into the market. Here is something that most Christians may not realize: Jesus from the age of 12-30 worked in and ran a successful masonry business (18 years) and THEN entered His ministry. Did you also know that ¾ of his parables in the Gospels were business topics? Jesus is the model for which we need businesses to follow, yet a vast majority of businesses will NEVER visit their pastor, minister, or priest because most have no clue about economics and business. The Christian church has abdicated its responsibilities regarding the market to the secular community. Sad.

    3. “We’re not to earn enough to provide help to them?”

      Sometimes.

      Sometimes not.

      One could, after all, earn money to help them by blackmail and other illicit means.

      One also notes that as presented here, the Osteens are not recommending money-making as an aid to almsgiving, but as an end in itself.

  4. Another relevant passage of Scripture, Luke 6.20-26:

    Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

    Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

    Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

    Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

    But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

    Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

    Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

    Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

  5. Merits of the Prosperity Gospel notwithstanding, I don’t think Mrs. Osteen said anything that outrageous. The impression I get from her statement is that we should strive to find pleasure in our obedience to and worship of God. This is something every spouse understands intuitively. No wife wants to be loved by her husband out of a mere sense of duty; she would much prefer that her husband love her because doing so gives him great joy. God, in His mercy, accepts our obedience even when we are less than enthusiastic about obeying, but He much prefers the heart that delights itself in Him and so finds its greatest desire.

    1. Chris,

      I agree that it’s possible to interpret that clip in an orthodox way: to say that our worship of God doesn’t increase His glory in any way, but our worship of God does fulfill us. Such a view is clearly true, and an important rejoinder to those atheists who claim that the Christian view of God is that He is insecure and needs our worship for His self-fulfillment.

      I’m not sure that’s what Victoria Osteen had in mind, or whether she meant that we go to worship services because we happen to enjoy them, or we enjoy feeling like religious people, etc. So my problem wasn’t so much with that 37 second clip as with everything else that they’ve been teaching for the last decade plus.

      I.X.,

      Joe

  6. I’ve seen the likes of the defenders of Osteen before, and so did C.S. Lewis. In his book The Screwtape Letters, Lewis talked about the dangers of “Christianity and…”. He pointed out that in most cases, it was the “and” that ended up being most important to the person holding such views, with Christianity just pulled along for the ride. In the case of the Osteen apologists, it appears to be “Christianity and Free Market Capitalism” with Free Market Capitalism being the “and”.

    Excellent article, Joe!

    1. Interesting thought, B. Prokop, then explain Jesus working from age 12-30 running His own business (presumably after Joseph died) for about 18 years and THEN spending three years in His ministry?

    2. Kevin,

      You’re making some enormous leaps from “Jesus worked as a carpenter” to assuming that He was a business owner from the age of 12, and from that to assuming He was a free market capitalist of the type being criticized. You’ve offered literally no evidence, other than the fact that He worked… evidence that could just as easily be offered for virtually any other man.

      And much less ridiculous read of the Scriptural evidence would be that Christ is showing the dignity of work and workers. This also explains why we see Adam tasked to garden in Eden even before the Fall: work is good. But work doesn’t equal laissez faire capitalism, unless you’re claiming that is what Eden was.

      I.X.,

      Joe

    3. Not pretending to understand the full “why” of anything our Lord and Savior did during His time here on Earth, I have always found His hidden life in Nazareth to be of great significance for the following reason.

      While, as Genesis says, we are created in the image of God – of even greater importance is that God has also assumed our image in Christ. Through His becoming a human being, the most mundane aspects of our lives are inseparably connected to the divine. Our smallest, most insignificant, and utterly normal activities must be seen as leading us to the Heavenly City. As Servant of God Dorothy Day would so often say, “all the way to Heaven is Heaven, because Jesus said ‘ I am the way’.”

      THAT’S why Christ spent 30 years “in the shadows” as a simple laborer – to elevate our own seemingly unheralded lives to His level. It has nothing to do with “owning a business”.

  7. “…of even greater importance is that God has also assumed our image in Christ…”

    I know–I think–what you meant and it’s orthodox, but what you said is totally heresy.

  8. Great post, as is your custom – I think it should be followed up with a piece addressing what we know to be the visible inherited wealth, the prosperity of The Church – the cathedrals, vessels, vestments, property, etc – versus the *financial* wealth scandals we hear about in the press, as well as the charitable and relief work The Church is central to. ALL these are realities, each addressed in Catholic media apart from each other, but seldom are they addressed as the matrix they are – material wealth is material wealth! (“A nice robe worn by a Cardinal DOES belong to ‘The Church’ – but its never going to warm a homeless Catholic mother and child in the streets – either literally or by being sold!”, my tio might say, for example – adding The Church is like Osteens for themselves but only measured charity for others) Many people, even faithful Catholics, think the Church Militant should be like a discalced, patch-robed Liberation-Theologizing Saint Francis who renounces all his *inherited* wealth and power for the relief and charity towards others – within reason in the modern world of course – but decidedly NOT like The Church of much of its history.

  9. The good news is, that no matter how many adherents/followers these types of ‘prosperity gospel’ preachers have, these same adherents also have to some degree the Holy Spirit guiding them, and a Shepherd whose voice is truly known when made manifest. On a weekly basis, I talk to many such evangelical protestants in various farmer’s markets, county fair’s, supermarkets, university campuses, on the streets, etc… And when I start talking about the history of Christianity, the history of the Eucharist, the history of the New Testament, the canons of the Council of Nicaea, Constantine, the Desert Fathers, Eusebius’ Church History, the fall of the Roman empire, the conversion of early Europe…etc.. I can usually get these same fundamentalist adherents to confess that their Pastors are almost completely ignorant of such important and interesting history. I note, on almost a weekly basis, a hunger in the streets for such stimulating education, and often direct these same people to the New Advent.org ‘Fathers of the Church’ site so that they can do their own investigations into all of these fascinating Christian topics. Almost all of these fundamentalists that I meet seem to realize that they are missing a huge part of the Christian faith, and show a real enthusiasm to discover it. They seem to know from experience that their corner store Pastors are for the most part ignorant, and to some degree they sense that they are frauds. When I tell them that what is really necessary is not more hugging, emotionalism and halleluia’s, but rather a true study of Christian history on the Internet…they almost universally emote joy in their expressions, and seem highly interested. Some let me put these Catholic websites directly onto their cell phones…that’s how interested they are!!

    The real problem, I think, is that most competent Catholics just want to debate intellectuals, pastors and protestants online, and don’t seem to care at all to try to reach the average ‘evangelical’ Christian on the street. To me this is a waste of time. Catholics should get out into the many public areas where large groups of people are congregated and, one by one, start promoting a study of early Christian history to all of these people.

    So, for all interested, find a popular farmer’s market or university campus in your area, and go out with pre-printed websites and just tell those that pass by…”Hi, I’m promoting Christian History”…and offer them the list of 5 or 6 websites. And also always remember what Blessed John Cardinal Newman taught: ” A Protestant deep in History will cease to be Protestant.”

    This is putting the ‘New Evangelization into practice’ and it’s as simple as giving a few good websites(Including Joe’s) to these others.

  10. Can’t seem to get the “Reply” button to work this morning, so I’ll reply to Daniel here.

    You are a bit quick out of the starting gate to yell “heresy” without thinking things through. I never wrote, intimated, or ever in the least supported the Docetic heresy, which states that Christ’s bodily form was only an illusion. Read what I said again, and you’ll see this. Notice that right after I wrote (correctly) that God has assumed our image in Christ, that I also wrote “Through His becoming a human being…”. No illusions there!

    Your accusation is like if I had written, “Richmond is located within the state of Virgina” and you immediately responded that I was wrong because I did not also mention Norfolk in the same sentence. Every sentence one writes does not always have to contain the entire Nicene Creed. I stand by what I wrote – it is 100% Orthodoxy and not the least bit heretical.

    1. What you meant is orthodox. I said as much. Thus my comment: “I know–I think–what you meant and it’s orthodox…”

      Perhaps I overreacted. Col 1:15 after all calls Christ the ‘image of God invisible’ but not in a way that denies a shared ousia .

      Though, if Paul had me for an editor I would have scolded him for word choice as I did you and Docetism would have been avoided altogether.

      😛

  11. Dear Joe. Any indication the Pope understands what it is you understand about these frauds? The indication he does not understand what it is you understand about them is well known; he befriends men like these without caution; h envies them to Vatican City and has photos taken with them etc etc

    1. Mighty Joe Young,

      I’m not sure who you have in mind, but I assume from your comment that some Prosperity Gospel preacher(s) got their picture taken with Pope Francis. That doesn’t strike me as troubling in the slightest. The pope meets with, and has his picture taken, with all sorts of people, and it would be absurd to view a photo op with the pope as a papal endorsement of those people’s beliefs.
      If there was any serious question that Pope Francis was sympathetic to the Prosperity Gospel, it might be a different story. But that’s obviously not the case. I think the pope’s track record in speaking out against the idolatry of wealth is virtually unparalleled, and someone getting their picture taken with the pope doesn’t seem to threaten that at all, any more than than this photo makes me doubt Pope Benedict XVI’s pro-life commitment, or this verse (Matthew 11:19) makes me doubt Christ’s orthodoxy. In fact, I sort of doubt that a Catholic unwilling to associate with anyone who isn’t orthodox would be very effective in evangelization.

      I.X.,

      Joe

    2. My concern is that he does not see these men as the frauds they are – as you see them, that is. Rather, he confirms them in their errors and tells them they are doing a good job etc

      He appears to be trading in the same effete ecumenism as his predecessors with no discernible desire to convert the nations and peoples as was commanded by Christ

      http://dispatchesfrombrian.com/2014/07/09/lunch-with-the-pope/

      M.J. has no problem with our Pope meeting with anybody but Mj.J. does have a problem when a Pope forswears the necessity of conversion.

      Not to long ago you had a great post on the need for the sacraments so that we could become divinized and, thus have the ability to see God face to face in Heaven; so, what abut these poor men born into heretical communities?

      Are they not to be called to board the Ark of Salvation?

  12. You all, including Joel Osteen, need to re-read the new testament. After reading the new testament, I must say, Joel Osteen is ignoring Christ’s teachings. Jesus was clear, that salvation itself is not reflected in ones riches. In fact, according to those who have researched the life of Jesus Christ agree, that Jesus was clear that a man who has lived a life of poverty is blessed.

    “An official asked [Jesus] a question, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments, ‘ You shall not commit adultery; you shall not Kill; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother.’ And he replied.” All of these I have observed from my youth.” When Jesus heard this he said to him, “There is still one thing left for you: sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven, Then come follow me.” But when he heard this, he became quite sad, because he was very rich. Luke 18: 18-27.

    This reading alone should provide support for Jesus’ message about wealth and its significance. It is clear to me, that Jesus is telling us to give up our riches, and to profess the word of the Lord. He’s not by any means saying if your are rich you are damned. He is simply saying distribute everything you earn, except what is necessary for you to subsist on. This is what the late Rich Mullins did before his untimely death. Rich Mullins a very popular song writer and singer. He wrote and sang, Assume God. He was killed in an auto accident in 1997. I believe Rich was on the right track.

    See also Luke Chapter 16:19-31.

    Jesus preached humility, love of your enemy, love of your neighbor, and most of all, love of him. A man who is self absorbed, is out to collect all the wealth of the world, horde it, and fails to experience poverty, doesn’t know love. Love is the center of Jesus’ teachings. Anyone who collects riches for self satisfaction, has riches as his idol and does not follow Jesus’ teachings of loving your neighbor.

    Although, I do profess that I have failed to follow this to the letter, I am working on it. I believe that Jesus was God, and the new treatment is 100% accurate. I have studied this subject for a long enough time to be sure that Jesus is very serious about what he taught. He is a just and will judge all of us on what he taught in the New Testament. The statement Jesus made, “The first will be last, and the last will be first.” says it all.

    Any one who foolishly follows Joel Osteen I believe will have a rude awakening when they are in front of the Son of God for judgment. I am not going to be the Judge of Joel Osteen. I do believe Joel Osteen needs to re-read Jesus’ teachings before he goes any further. I say this, because I believe he will be held to higher standard than his blind followers.

    You may also want to visit Father Sheier’s site to see what happened to a catholic priest, who faced Jesus after dying in a car crash. Obviously he had what Raymond Moody, M.D. has coined as a near death experience. But what Father Sheier faced was Hell. What strikes me the most about Father Sheier, that should be a great concern of Joel Osteen is, that if you listen to what Father Sheier says was his sin in front of Jesus was, preaching only what his parishioners wanted to hear. This is what brought the money flowing in. Here is the web address for Father Sheier’s testimonial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqiqO5BzH74 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EFKnoH6bqs

    1. To understand what was considered rich in the time of Jesus, it’s good to understand the value of money at His time. Derived from “Daily Life at the Time of of Jesus” by Miriam Feinberg Vamosh:

      The pruta, or mite, was a small copper coin and was the smallest unit of currency. There were 192 prutot to the dinar. “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?” (Matt. 10:29) These were the most common coin in circulation in antiquity, and tens of thousands have been found at archaeological sites.

      The silver dinar, at the time, had the name of Tiberius on one side, and were minted in Cappadocia. ” A vineyard laborer would typically earn 1 dinar for his daily wage. this is the coin that Jesus asked for when he said “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?”

      The Tyrian shekel weighed about 14.2 grams of silver. This was the coin used to pay the Temple tax. It was worth 4 dinars, double the amount of an ordinary shekel. It was called Tyrian because most of these were minted in Tyre, and were very dependable currency.

      Some prices at the time of Jesus:

      A scribes salary: about 12 dinars per week
      220 liters of wheat: about 25 silver dinars
      2 gallons of flour: 1 sean … about 1 dinar.
      1 loaf of bread: 1/12 of a dinar.
      1 amphora of olive oil: 1 dinar
      1 pomegranate: 1 prutah or mite.
      A cluster of grapes 1 prutah
      Price for weaving a tall it (an outer cloak): 8 dinars
      Total price for an outer cloak: 12 dinars
      Cloak of a rich man: 100-200 dinars.
      A large meal for about 8: 1 dinar
      A Lamb: about 4 dinars
      A Calf: about 20 dinars
      An Ox: 100-200 dinars
      Rental for a small house for a month: about 4 dinars.
      Bride price for a virgin: 200 dinars.
      For a widow: 100 dinars.

      Also, Village farmers at the time, on every day except the Sabbath, would often walk up to two hours to get to their family farms which were about 12 acres per family. They would also frequently sleep in the fields during the week.

      This data is useful in determining what it might mean to be “rich” at the time of Jesus. Certainly, if you pay 100-200 dinars, the price of an Ox, for your clothes…you were rich.

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