Updated: Jan 7, 2022
The other day I was having a conversation with one of my friends about a video I made for Instagram. In the video, I was discussing a news article about the plumber who found thousands of dollars hidden in the walls of Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church. In a nutshell, the story goes as follows:
A plumber was hired to do some work at Osteen's church and as he removed some insulation, envelopes stuffed with cash came falling out of the walls. (1)
Although having envelopes stuffed with money falling out of the walls of your church is sketchy enough, the timing of the event adds another layer of sketchiness to it. In 2014, Lakewood church reported $600,000 ($200,000 of it in cash) to have been stolen from their safe in an apparent robbery (2). These funds of which were fully insured.
In my past life, I used to be a pretty sketchy guy myself. Now I’m not accusing Osteen or anyone associated with him of being involved in any kind of insurance fraud or anything. All I’m saying is that I know what insurance fraud looks like. And it looks like claiming there was a robbery, then stuffing the cash in your walls, and then collecting the insurance money.
This isn't the first questionable situation that Joel has found himself in. But being found in questionable situations isn't actually my problem with Joel. We have all been found in some questionable situations that we honestly didn't intend to be in. I have been arrested and charged with crimes I didn't personally commit, just because the person who committed them was in my house at the time. Like I said earlier, I was a pretty sketchy guy and I also used to associate myself with some pretty sketchy people as well. Praise God for His saving grace.
My problem with not only Joel but also with pastors like him goes beyond just ending up in questionable situations. My problem is with his questionable intentions, questionable leadership, questionable fruits of the spirit, and above all, questionable doctrine.
Now before I continue, I would first just like to say that if you are somebody who listens to Joel Osteen, you love his speeches, you feel empowered after listening to him and you truly feel as if God is using him to reach people with the message of Christ, I completely understand your position and love you as a brother/sister in Christ. The people I know who listen to Joel are some of the kindest, most positive, loving, and encouraging people I've ever met. On the flip side, many of the people who are on my side of the fence when it comes to Joel Osteen can be some of the most critical, judgemental, self-righteous, puffed-up-with-knowledge, prideful people I have ever met.
Good doctrine doesn't always equal good character.
Bad doctrine doesn't always equal bad character.
But God’s word is God’s word. We are not to add to it, nor take away from it. And this brings me to one of my issues with Joel. Not only do I believe that Joel’s intentions are to continue in his lavish lifestyle, but I believe that he is preaching a watered-down gospel in order to do so.
In my opinion, Joel is squeezing God’s people for every dollar he can get out of them. Part of me believes that he isn’t even aware of what he’s doing. I also don't believe he’s as bad as Kenneth Copeland, but let's take a look into why I have come to the conclusion that Joel is, whether intentionally or unintentionally, a Wolf in sheep's clothing.
In my forthcoming book “The Secret, A Gateway Drug to Spiritual Heroin”, I discuss a bit more in-depth the issues with the prosperity gospel, but for those of you who are unaware of what the prosperity gospel actually is, here's a quick description:
The Prosperity gospel is a religious belief among some Protestant Christians that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one's material wealth. (3)
Wouldn’t it be nice if this was true? That financial blessings and good health are the will of God for every single believer!
There was a quote I heard from Pastor Phil Morgan once that goes like this (and I’m going to say this in my best Australian accent):
“If the gospel you are preaching cannot be preached in every corner of every country in the world, then you are preaching the wrong gospel.”
That sounded more like a drunk British accent… but anyway.
Think about the situation in China, where churches are being demolished and Christians are being forced to gather in hiding. Think about the Churches in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other Islamic countries where Christians are being beheaded just for not converting to Islam and renouncing their faith in Jesus. Think about the poor, impoverished rural sections of developing countries without a hospital for miles and the devoted Christians living in those areas of the world. Are they stuck in those situations because they aren’t “speaking positively enough”? Do they not have enough “faith” to bring prosperity their way? Imagine them believing the gospel of “health and wealth”. How long would their faith last if they truly believed that the promise of the gospel was that you are to be financially blessed? The gospel being preached in these countries is far from the gospel being preached at Lakewood in Houston Texas.
What a weak Christianity we are being fed here in the United States.
What does the Bible actually say about the Christian walk? Does it say we will be blessed with health and wealth?
The bible actually says the opposite. In the Old Testament, God had a different covenant with His people. Israel's blessings were based on their obedience. It went like this:
“If you do X, God will do Y”
If X = Obey God’s commands, then Y = bless you with children, livestock, wealth, etc.
If X = Disobey God’s commands, then Y = take away the blessings God has given you.
We are not under this covenant as Christians. We are not the nation of Israel. We are under the new covenant through Christ. We are modern-day Christians, not Old Testament Jews.
The prime example of this is the verse Jeremiah 29:11, which Joel has placed right in the middle of Lakewood church for everyone to see. It says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Many people, not just Joel, take this verse as a verse that can be directly applied to us today. As if this verse is God directly speaking to you and me through the pages of the Bible. The problem is that this verse isn't written to us. It was said by Jeremiah, telling the Jews that they would be living under the Babylonian rule for at least another 70 years, but not to worry, God had plans for the nation of Israel, plans to prosper them and give them a future. It's a powerful story, but this was not written to us today.
So let’s get into what the New Testament actually says about the Christian walk:
2 Timothy 3:12 - In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted
John 15:18 - If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me (Jesus) first.
John 16:33 - I (Jesus) have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Matthew 5:10 - Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. - Jesus
If “blessed” is to always mean financial blessings as pastors like Joel insists it to be, then why would Jesus say that being persecuted is also considered to be a blessing?
The reason is that the prosperity Gospel takes words that are meant to be spiritual and gives them material meanings.
For example when Jesus says in John 10:10 (and I’m paraphrasing) “I have come to give you life more abundantly”, prosperity preachers take that to mean an abundance of wealth. Jesus means it to literally mean life. Because we are spiritually dead without Christ. We are dead in our sins. When Christ talks about “life more abundantly” we have to remember that Christ is looking at the universe through a spiritual lens, not just a material one.
And believe me, you would much rather have the abundant life that Christ has in store for you than any kind of worldly abundance that is being promised to you from the stage of Lakewood Church.
YOUR BEST LIFE NOW:
One of the objections I constantly find myself receiving when I bring up the lavish lifestyles of pastors like Joel Osteen is that “They make all their money from book sales”.
Let me be very clear here. I do not believe that pastors of churches should be struggling financially in order to prove they are somehow living a righteous life.
In my opinion, no pastor should be struggling financially. These people give their entire lives to help us in our walk with God. We should give generously to our churches and our pastors. No one on staff at church should be struggling to survive due to our lack of giving.
There is nothing wrong with pastors who have other ways of making a living outside of their church salary. I would encourage pastors to do so if they feel called to. What I have a problem with is how a pastor chooses to earn a living outside of his church salary. As a pastor, your walk with Christ should be reflected in your everyday life. Biblically speaking, pastors are held to a higher standard than the rest of us. Their character, although obviously not expected to be perfect, must reflect a certain standard of holiness.
Now I’m not saying that Joel isn't walking a more holy life than most people. His marriage seems to be very solid. He seems like a very kind-hearted individual. I’m sure he gives generously to different charities. And I’m willing to overlook some of the sketchy situations he has found himself in and give him the benefit of the doubt that Joel is doing his best to walk in holiness. The reason I believe Joel is a false teacher is because he is teaching false doctrines.
See it’s difficult to get a full understanding of what Joel actually believes about the Gospel when he's preaching on Sundays because the preaching is more of a motivational speech than it is a dive into the word of God. If you know me, you know I love some motivational speaking. And I do believe that a biblically-based motivational speech every now and then is good for the spirit.
But if we take a look at some of Joel’s books like Your Best Life Now, I Declare, The Power of I Am, The Abundance Mindset etc, you’ll notice that Joel actually believes and teaches something called “the law of attraction”. He may not explicitly say the words “law of attraction” (LOA) but you’ll see that what he teaches in these books is exactly what law of attraction teachers teach.
LOA teaches that you can speak things into existence. It teaches that you can attract what you focus on with the power of your thoughts. It teaches that whatever you say after “I am” will eventually become your reality.
Although I go more in-depth on this topic in my book The Secret, A Gateway Drug to Spiritual Heroin, here's a quick rundown of how unbiblical the LOA is.
The LOA is rooted in pantheism.
Helena Blavatsky, the woman who coined the term “Law of Attraction” animately hated Christianity and anything that has to do with it.
The LOA is also rooted in the occult.
The LOA teaches that we are all God.
The LOA reduces God’s sovereignty into a spiritual force that can be manipulated with our thoughts and speech.
If a pastor would also like to become a best-selling author, motivational speaker, or even a C-list celebrity, the work that that pastor puts out should not be in direct contradiction of scripture. His work outside of the church should be in harmony with the church. And actually, the problem with Joel is that he is teaching the same things in his books as he is teaching in his church. A false gospel.
THE GOSPEL OF OSTEEN:
When Joel was on the Larry King Live show, Larry asked Joel if he believed that Jesus Christ was the only way to heaven. Joel’s answer was “I don’t know, I’m very careful about whom I say would or wouldn't go to heaven….. I think only God can judge a person's heart….. I spent a lot of time in India with my father and I don't know all about their religion, but I know they love God, so I don't know, I’ve seen their sincerity, so I don't know.” (4)
You know Who did know? Jesus!
John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
It’s my belief that whenever a “pastor” becomes wishy-washy on the foundational doctrine of the faith that he claims to adhere to, this should not be a pastor that you should take seriously.
LAYING UP TREASURES IN HOUSTON:
Matthew 16:19-21 - Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Now I’m a firm believer that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having some nice things that you've worked really hard for. But where do we draw the line? Joel Osteen’s net worth is around $100,000,000. (5). He owns a 17,000 square foot mansion that he paid 10.5 million dollars for back in 2010, he is still in possession of his previous $3,000,000 home, he also owns a Ferrari 458 Italia and an Airbus A319 private jet. (6)
What bothers me the most about pastors like Joel isn't the amount of money they have, It’s the fact that they will stand in front of a church every single Sunday, claiming that God has blessed them with all of these material possessions because of their faith, while at the same time asking people for their tithes, knowing that many of those same people are donating their last just to get a piece of these empty promises. Sowing seeds in hopes of a ten-fold return on their investments into the kingdom of heaven.
I can appreciate that Joel doesn't take the $200,000 a year salary offered to him by Lakewood Church. If I was worth 100 mill, I probably wouldn't either.
So am I just an angry jealous Christian, hating on Joel’s lifestyle because I secretly want it? (Maybe a little). But let’s look at what the Bible says about how a pastor is supposed to behave. What are the biblical qualifications of a pastor? Specifically when it comes to money.
1 Timothy 3:3 says that he should “not be a lover of money”.
Titus 1:7 says he “should not be greedy for gain”.
I don't know about you, but nothing says “greedy for gain” quite like a Ferrari 458 Italia, 2 Mansions, and a private jet (ps. I want a private jet so bad).
NO DISCUSSION OF SIN:
When asked why Joel doesn't like to preach or talk about sin, he has been quoted as saying “most people know what they are doing wrong”.
I’m sorry Joel, I would have to disagree. The reason people need to be told about their sins is because most people don’t believe they are actually living in sin. They don't even know what sin is!. Does he think people having sex outside of marriage believe that what they are doing is wrong? Does he believe that people watching porn every night believe that what they are doing is wrong? Does he believe that people who are getting drunk every weekend with their friends believe that what they are doing is wrong?
We live in a society where sinning is looked at as normal and not sinning is looked at as weird. People need to be told about their sin.
When I was selling drugs, doing drugs, robbing people, and a huge list of other sins I'm not too proud of, I never once thought I was wrong for doing them. To me, the things I was doing may have been against the law, but I never equated it with being objectively wrong. Neither did anyone around me. I considered it just doing what I had to do. And in many cases, just doing what I felt like doing. Thank God I have people in my life who aren’t afraid to talk to me about my sin in fear of offending me. I would rather be offended by the truth than comforted with a lie.
Now there are of course other extremes where you have a pastor who only talks about sin and believes their mission in life is to condemn everybody to hell, but that’s a subject for a different discussion.
Is Joel the worst of the worst? Definitely not. But I can tell you this, he is also very far from the best of the best.
It bothers me that this watered-down version of the gospel is what fills arenas.
It bothers me that there are preachers out here putting their lives on the line for the love of Christ while this weak version of the gospel produces luxury living conditions for its spokesmen.
It bothers me that while people are getting beheaded for not renouncing their faith in Christ, these people get to tiptoe around questions about if Jesus is the only way to heaven.
It truly bothers me that people look at Joel's life and consider him to be somehow more blessed than the pastor of a small church who has to also work a day job to keep his church afloat.
It bothers me that people defend pastors before they defend the gospel.
But I have hope for the next life. I have hope that Jesus will separate the wheat from the chaff, the lambs from the goats, and the false prophets from the true believers. We are all to love God for who He is, not for what He can give us in this life.
For those of you who find inspiration in Joel’s sermons and feel uplifted after you listen to him, feel free to continue to do so. But please use your discernment. I believe that your time could be better spent listening to a pastor who truly cares about teaching the word of God verse by verse and not just in snippets. Find a pastor who is fully dedicated to helping you grow in Christ. Find a pastor who is willing to spend time in the word with you. And most importantly, if you find yourself reading through multiple Joel Osteen books before you even make it past Leviticus in your Bible, it’s time to do a little more self-assessment and a little less self-help.
If you would like to know more about Joel and preachers like him, I Highly suggest pre-ordering my book The Secret, A Gateway Drug to Spiritual Heroin.
In this book, I take an entire chapter to discuss the type of theology that Joel and other “Word of Faith” pastors like him subscribe to.
Thank you for your time. Have a blessed and powerful day.
Your brother in Christ
To Pre-Order The Secret: A Gateway Drug to Spiritual Heroin go to