Thursday, September 14, 2006

Proliferation of the Prosperity Gospel

I came across an interesting article this morning by John Frankel about Joel Osteen, his retail success, and the prosperity gospel in America. It says of Osteen, "As pastor of Lakewood Church, Osteen has attracted one of the nation's biggest congregations. And with his best-selling book and regular appearances on religious broadcasts, Osteen is considered the 'most watched preacher' in America." That sentence should give you great pause for concern.

You can read the whole article here, but in case you don't have time, here's a quote from David Van Biema, co-author of an up-coming Time article on Osteen:

"That really is not part of standard, orthodox Christianity...There had been some brakes on (Christianity) moving toward materialism, but those brakes are gradually being released and you're seeing more and more people saying 'Well, why wouldn't God want us to be rich in this lifetime.'"

He may well want that for some, but even then the Bible is pretty clear in its warnings about wealth. Consider this quote, for instance, from 1 Timothy 6:9-10 & 17-19:

"[9] But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. [10] For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs...[17] As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. [18] They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, [19] thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life."

And even if God wants some to be rich, this command confronts us all: "And he [Jesus] said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross [instrument of suffering and death, not health and prosperity] daily, and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?'" (Luke 9:23-25, ESV)

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