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.