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How to Fight the Prosperity Gospel

September 17, AD2014

This morning I woke up and read an article about the Osteen Predicament. It was kind of weird because the issue of the prosperity gospel has been coming up a lot lately. I watched the video of Victoria Osteen’s sermon and wondered why anyone would believe that crap. It is so easy to see that her preaching that our happiness is the ultimate goal of following Christ is completely opposite of what Jesus Himself says in the Gospel. My problems with the Osteens and people like them such as TD Jakes, Joyce Meyer and so many mega church pastors are many; mostly the fact that they preach against Catholicism for one reason or another but mostly because they claim that all things Catholic are unbiblical. Well, there is nothing more unbiblical than the idea that if you follow Christ all your wishes will come true and you will never suffer again. Jesus said to pick up our CROSS and follow Him, that whoever wants to keep his life will lose it and that the world will hate us just as it hated Him. So where exactly in the Gospel did Jesus say His number one goal for dying on a cross was so that we would be “happy”? Umm, nowhere.

If anything, the idea that Jesus saying He came to give us life abundantly is a twisted way of seeing things through human eyes that see “abundance” in the form of material things. That isn’t what He meant, what He meant was that His death would open up the door of salvation so that we could be saved. That when we finish the race in this life that we will be with God for eternity in the next life in Heaven.

Heaven is another thing that people turn into some kind of “wishes come true” place. Heaven is not Disneyland. It is not a place where we are going to go and have all our favorite things because God’s a genie who is going to grant us our every wish. God will not grant us anything that is sinful, not good for us, or in any way stands between us and Him. Not on this earth and not in Heaven. If you love something more than God, then guess what? You are not going get that in Heaven, IF you make it there.

All of that is really easy for me to say matter-of-factly. This past Sunday when I heard my priest say that the prosperity gospel is the gospel of Satan, I wanted to stand up and cheer. I wanted to high-five him and I was so happy to smugly sit there and nod my head thinking about how right I’ve been all along to delete all things prosperity gospel from my Facebook newsfeed. And then he said “It’s easy for us to call out the prosperity gospel when others are preaching it, but how about when we are suffering? Do we ask God ‘why me?’”

That smacked the smug right out of my sails.

Most of the time, when I see some quote by the Osteens or any of the many other “happiness” pushers, I roll my eyes and then ask, “How do these people even suffer?” I mean, how can they suffer? When bad things happen to them, what do they do? How do they hold onto their faith when things fall apart? I usually ask that question with a lot of pride as if I suffer so graciously. Not.

Father’s question made me think about how I suffer. I do not suffer well. At the end of his homily he said that if we think we are suffering, then we need to look at the Christians in Iraq or the Holy Land and rethink that idea. On the one hand, suffering is suffering. If I am not a Christian in Iraq being hunted down to be killed, then that is because God knows that I would never, ever make it to Heaven on that path to sainthood, which basically means that He is well aware that I would reject Him and everything to do with Him if that were me. I’m a pansy. God not putting me there is Him saying, “you are not that strong.” True dat. My own suffering is still a cross that I have to embrace and carry, even if it’s washing the dishes and not fearing for my life (yet, that day could easily come this way). That’s just it though; I do not embrace my cross.

I drive a really ugly car. Instead of being thankful that the car gets me to point A to point B, I look around at everyone else’s car and wonder why I got stuck driving the humbling death trap. I act as if having to jump my car every time I need to go somewhere is the worst thing that could ever happen to me and that God must hate me to put me through this. Because He is supposed to grant my every wish, like get me a badass Dodge Challenger. It’s really easy for me to point out when someone is preaching the prosperity gospel, but it’s not so easy to look in the mirror and realize that I am living the prosperity gospel. If I don’t have all the things that I want in life, then it must mean God has forgotten me.

That could not be further from the truth. Does that mean that He wants me to suffer all the live long day? No. He created all things for our good. He wants us to enjoy life, but that isn’t the same as centering our life around being “happy”. Joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness is fleeting, but joy is always there even in the middle of a storm. Joy is what comes when we center our life around Jesus, Who is the source of life.

The last several months (maybe even a year or more) of my life have been full of crosses and I have gone to great lengths to try and avoid carrying them. I have whined, complained, sat down and pouted, begged God to take them away or just plain out yelled at Him for daring to give them to me in the first place. It wasn’t until I realized what a hypocrite that I am for always pointing at the splinter in the eyes of those who love the Osteens messages while living with the plank in my own, that I finally heard the words of Christ to pick up my cross and follow Him.

The first step in fighting the prosperity gospel is for me to recognize my own faults, to reject it in my own life and to resolve to change myself. When enough Christians do that, then that false gospel will die on its own. It doesn’t happen by fighting the preachers of it, it happens by fighting it in our own hearts and lives.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Leticia is a convert who came into the Catholic Church at Easter 2010. She is the mother of 4 kids and has 3 stepsons. She is also a grandmother to a beautiful two year old. Leticia sat on her Pastoral Council, blogs at Catholic Stand as well as her personal blog, is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree of Philosophy, is a wife, and helps with her parish's "Jesus is Lord" adult faith formation class and RCIA. Leticia has a radio show at Real Life Radio and is a volunteer with an organization that helps women in prison come to terms with their past and gives them the tools to cope with life when they are released. In her spare time she sleeps.

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  • Stilbelieve

    I will have to digest this more before I write a comment.

  • Ray Sullivan

    It’s Osteen, not oLsteen…

    • Ray-Are you sure? I thought it was “O$teen”. Guy

  • Thomas Sharpe

    My wife and I have four children and are middle class. We’ve made sacrifices having four children and our children are (I think) inoculated against the materialism of the world because of it. I do wish that we could have afforded to send them to catholic high school (11k per year) but at the same time I see the CHS as given over to a prosperity gospel and part of a contraceptive mentality, so I’m glad we didn’t .

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  • Bill S

    Religion in general makes its living providing false hopes to its followers. Sometimes people take these false hopes and gain the courage and the confidence to turn those hopes into reality.

    Actually, the promise of material success is more achievable than the promise of eternal life. That is the real con.

    • Laurence Charles Ringo

      Eternal life is a gift, not an achievement, Bill S; if you’re going to continue your lame, pathetic attempts at bashing what you think is the Christian faith, at least know what you’re talking about.

    • Bill S

      Eternal life is a gift, not an achievement,

      Actually it is an enticement for us to do good and a deterrent against us doing evil. It’s a good idea and it works but that doesn’t make it true.

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  • Cameron Byrd

    I enjoyed reading this article. I recently read what the Olsteens had to say. I normally could care less about what they say because from what I found out about them is that they are a big fan of the feel good gospel. It got me to thinking about myself and how am I using my blessing from God. I question myself every now and then about whether I am doing enough to further the gospel and the good news. I just want to tell everyone who is reading this that I am not Catholic, I am actually a member of the church of Christ. My wife’s family is Catholic and I love them all the same. Just because someone worships differently than you doesn’t mean you are enemies. Anyways, when I was sitting in church a few Sundays ago the preacher was actually talking about wealth and what it means to us as Christians. He brought up The Parable of the Rich Fool is in Luke 12: 13-21. Basically his point in that parable is that you have to give God what is his and never just think about yourself. As a Christian you cannot put your well being ahead of furthering the Holy Word of God and furthering his Kingdom. This is hard to do though. The good thing is that God is good all the time.

  • LivingCatholic

    I wanted to share that as a woman of strong (and growing) Catholic faith, I find that Joyce Meyer has much to share that is helpful and uplifting when listened to with a “Catholic ear”. As with anything we read or listen to we must enlist our “spiritual” eyes and ears to discern the truth. Thank you for being so open with your own process of carrying crosses.
    As for some of the posts about wealth. Yes, some of these who share Christ gain wealth in the form of money. And I will not pretend to know what they do with it. I can only hope that much of it helps the poor and less fortunate. It is not mine to judge. Prosperity gospel sends those who do not develop a relationship with Christ a false hope. They too are our Christian family of which every member is tainted with the struggle against the temptations of the world. We pray for them as for ourselves.
    There are many who gain wealth from non-Christ centered gains; they give nothing and gain nothing. Wealth itself is not a bad thing, our own Church is wealthy. We have now been gifted with a Pope that preaches a gospel of the poor. This does not mean everyone should be poor, but that the poor are a gift to us who have something to share. They allow us to live out what Christ preaches.
    …and just in case anyone thinks I am defending my own riches…I am only wealthy in the riches of my faith and my deep love of Christ, His Mother, and the Catholic/Christian church and the many blessings I have received because of this.
    Ellen Marie Dumer

    • Joyce Meyer listened to by any religious ear is a fraud; money grubbing charismatic charlatan: A few facts:

      The ministry’s board of trustees, which is headed by Joyce Meyer, agreed to pay
      her a $900,000 annual salary in 2002 and 2003.

      The board agreed to give her husband, Dave Meyer, the board’s vice president,
      an annual salary of $450,000 in each of those same two years.

      The board agreed to provide the couple with free personal use of a corporate
      jet and luxury cars, a $2 million home where all bills are paid by the ministry
      and a separate $50,000-a-year housing allowance.

      The ministry paid $1.475 million to buy three houses for the three Meyer
      children.

      The board authorized Joyce and Dave Meyer to control a $790,000 fund to be used
      at their discretion for bonuses to “executive management.”

    • Doug Powell

      Eve was “Strong” too. BTW she was sinless. Satan told her some truth mixed with a lie. He knows our weakness, that’s why we are reminded in scripture. 1 COR 10:12 Therefore let any one who thinks that he
      stands take heed lest he fall. Sister Ellen, there is no reason to listen to Joyce Meyer. There are so many gifted Catholic theologians / speakers both men and women that you could listen to. With the hope that they will strive to give authentic Catholic teaching to the best of there knowledge. You do not have that with Ms. Meyer. She is anti-Catholic. God Bless you on your walk with Christ.

  • David Peters

    Amen! And amen! Thank you for writing this. It is so right on — I have a close family member that is really into the prosperity gospel and it is difficult even to have a converstaion with them. I cannot even ask them to pray for me when I’m sick because that’s a “negative confession”, and then I get a lecture. Gosh. You are also right on, about pride, and looking into our own life. Thank you for that as well. Awesome article. AWESOME!

  • Thanks for this article, Leticia. I appreciate your honesty– “That smacked the smug right out of my sails” great line! I think I should have that framed so that when I get exasperated with the nonsensical prosperity gospel pushers I will turn an honest eye to my own chasing of the ‘better things in life’. As much as we might disdain such preaching it is very difficult to fight it in our own lives, its a creeping sin that we might disregard and only see it in others because our own mirrors are fogged over.

  • james

    Good article. Desperation gospels, that’s what televangelists peddle. They are charlatons for those
    whose faith is not ground in understanding; not a true gift from God they have but an IOU without an experation date..

  • The Olsteens are the diametric opposite of the gospel of the poor. They have 10,000’s followers because “people of greed” want to be like them: 55,000,000$ in assets and a meager 10,500,000$ house. You can’t fight them because they pander to greed and false hope. Just turn off the TV and give to the poor…that will thwart their idiotic mission. They remind me of Pat Robertson, the village idiot, who several weeks ago told an 80 year old elderly woman to get off her butt and make money so she could tithe to his 700 Club. Vile, immoral and deranged…that’s all!

    • Sick

      Seriously why should any Protestant “pastor” need Millions of dollars to live their luxurious lifestyle (where only they & their immediate family benefit)? How can anyone be so stupid as to tithe to it? I listened to Joyce Meyer once & she acted like she deserved all of her personal Millions of dollars & luxuries because of her good works. Do mega-church Protestants believe in good works now? Why do these mega-church pastors feel entitled to millions? Have they not read the true Gospel of Christ Jesus & read Church History? They’re giving Christians a bad name. Want to get filthy rich? Become a Mega-church Protestant pastor.