Victoria Osteen Says to Do Things for Self—Not for God

A video of the wife of popular television pastor and best-selling author, Joel Osteen, has been making its way through social media. To give Victoria Osteen a huge benefit of the doubt would mean she either misspoke or we’re lacking some sort of context showing her point to be the opposite of what she said. At face value, her words are absolutely heretical and directly contrary to the words of Jesus Christ and the New Testament. Take a look at the video for yourself. [Note added on 8/30: A clip from The Cosby Show was added by someone else to the end of this video that may come across as demeaning to Mrs. Osteen.]

Here is a transcript of what she 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?”

No. Not Amen. Not at all! This is heresy. I would sort of agree with the words inserted from Bill Cosby: “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.” [Edited 8/30] They aren’t really the dumbest words I’ve heard, but they are absurd when compared to what the Bible teaches.

Mrs. Osteen’s words may sound wonderful to a culture raised in the belief that life is all about self, but they are directly opposed to the Bible. Before looking at some specific passages, let’s see if there are some hints of truth in what she said, after all, effective lies often have some degree of truth.

Does God want us to be happy? In a sense He does, but that happiness will often look very different than what Mrs. Osteen and her husband have taught for years. Life is not about having Your Best Life Now (the title of one of Joel Osteen’s books) since our best life will be when we are with the Lord in glory. True happiness is found when we serve the Lord wholeheartedly, which is essentially the opposite of living for ourselves. Mrs. Osteen wants you to Love Your Life (her book title), but God wants us to love Him.

Does God take pleasure when we’re happy? I guess it depends on what you mean by happy. If you mean the fleeting emotion we often experience only to be unhappy hours later, then I would disagree. If you mean that we are filled with joy because out of a grateful heart we are obediently doing what God has created us to do, then I would agree that God would take pleasure in that, but I don’t think I would go as far as saying that is what gives Him the greatest joy.

Am I against happiness? No. Am I saying we can’t have fun as Christians. Absolutely not! Am I saying we should despise our lives? No, I’m not. I am saying that we need to stop focusing so much attention on ourselves.

Love Self or Deny Self?

Mrs. Osteen’s words fly in the face of one of the major components of living a godly life. Let’s start with what the Son of God said.

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? (Luke 9:23–25)

If Victoria Osteen's book is anything like the video, it will be full of heresy.

Is Victoria Osteen’s book full of the same self-love heresy seen in the video?

Jesus Christ said that true followers need to deny self. He taught that the greatest commandment was to love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and that the second greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37–39). This doesn’t mean that we need to learn to love ourselves first (as is often taught today), but that we already do love ourselves and we need to take that focus off of ourselves and put it on God and others. Victoria Osteen encouraged her listeners to live for self. These two ideas cannot be more diametrically opposed.

Jesus lived a selfless life and set the example for us to follow. He willingly went to the Cross to die an unimaginably torturous death so that we could be saved from our sins—not so we could go around chasing after all the things we think will make us happy. Does the New Testament have anything else to say about this subject? Yes, far too much for one blog post. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

In Colossians 3:17, the Apostle Paul wrote, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” What motive should we have for the things we do? Did Paul say to do it for yourself? Certainly not! He said to do everything “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” He said something similar in 1 Corinthians 10:31. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

To learn more about the sacrificial death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, check out my book, In Defense of Easter: Answering Critical Challenges to the Resurrection of Jesus. Available at www.midwestapologetics.org/shop.

To learn more about the sacrificial death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, see my new book, In Defense of Easter.

But what would Paul know about happiness? After all, this was the guy who was scourged five times, beaten with rods three times, stoned, shipwrecked three times, in prison multiple times, and constantly under the threat of people who wanted to kill him (2 Corinthians 11:23–27). Yes, and he was one of the most faithful Christians who has ever lived. He understood that Jesus didn’t die on the Cross and rise from the dead so that we can live for self. He did it to save us from sin and to enable us to live for God.

Perhaps Mrs. Osteen should read the book of Job. This godly man lost every earthly possession and his entire family except his wife. He lost his health, and yet he trusted God. He was called blameless, upright, and righteous (Job 1:8; Ezekiel 14:14). Job was not happy during his trials, but he was extremely faithful.

Maybe Victoria Osteen should read Hebrews 11. This chapter is often called the Faith Hall of Fame because it highlights many of the Old Testament heroes who exhibited tremendous faith in God. But if you read this chapter, please read it all the way through, because then you’ll find out about some unnamed people with great faith. Here is what the writer of Hebrews had to say about them.

Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:35b—38)

Christian, these are your role models! These are the people we should seek to imitate. They were willing to give up everything for the sake of following Christ. To live for self means that we are putting our own desires above what God has told us to do. It is arrogant and prideful, and it is the exact opposite of what the Bible instructs. We are to be humble, deny self, and live for God’s glory.

Conclusion

If you call yourself a Christian, please do not be deceived by the “gospel” of self that is so prevalent in our culture. If you seek true and lasting happiness, it will only be found when you are serving your Creator. It will never be found serving yourself. Mrs. Osteen’s words remind me of what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1–5)

Turn away! Take your eyes off yourself and focus on Jesus Christ. Pray for Mrs. Osteen, her husband, and those influenced by their false teachings. Pray that they will take their eyes off of self and turn to the Savior. And please pray for me as well. I’m certainly not immune to pride. Pray that I will keep my eyes focused on Christ rather than self.

Revisiting the Noah Film after Being Mocked in Newspaper Editorial

I decided to watch the film again to see if my initial reactions were accurate.

I decided to watch the film again to see if my initial reactions were accurate.

Recently the Courier Journal newspaper (Louisville, KY) ran an editorial piece that mocked the Ark Encounter project and my detailed review of the Noah movie that was posted on the Answers in Genesis website the day after the film opened in theaters.

As content manager of the Ark Encounter, I was part of a team of researchers who viewed this film and then participated in a live webcast review of the movie the next night. I was also responsible to write our detailed review with the assistance of friend and colleague, Roger Patterson.

Now that the film is available to rent, I decided to use a free Redbox code to watch it again. I wanted to see if I had overlooked certain points, misunderstood what had been shown/said, or just been caught up in some sort of group overreaction to the film. Having the ability to pause the movie and talk about it with my family helped minimize these issues that could have led me to be unfair in my previous criticisms.

There were plenty of inaccuracies throughout the film, and the preview was intentionally deceptive. For example, there is a scene in the film where an army of men charges toward Methuselah while trying to slaughter the fallen angels/rock monsters. Methuselah sends out a blast of fire that consumes the people but saves the rock monsters. But in the preview, the rock monsters are deleted from the scene. The same is true with one of the Ark-building scenes shown in the preview—there are no rock monsters in the preview, but they do appear in the same scene in the film.

But rather than dwelling on these matters, I want to comment on three main points before addressing a statement from the hit piece in the Courier Journal. If you want my full review, complete with a listing of numerous errors in the film, please read it here.

Paramount’s Noah Movie: Noah Is a Madman

One of the major problems with the film is that it portrays Noah as a man who bears very little resemblance to the biblical Noah. Both are men. Both had a large boat to survive a global Flood. And both had a wife and three sons. That’s about where the similarities end. Notice, I didn’t say that Paramount’s Noah “built a large boat,” since he never really is shown building the Ark (the fallen angel/rock monsters do that for him while he kind of works around it).

The editorialist mocked one of my statements about artistic license in my detailed review. I explained that we don’t have a problem with artistic license and that we used it at the Creation Museum and will use it at the Ark Encounter. After all, we don’t know what Noah looked like, what he wore, how he spoke, etc. The editorialist wrote, “Apparently it just depends on who’s the artist and how the license is being used.”

For the record, I had no problem with Russell Crowe being the actor to portray Noah. It was refreshing to see someone who didn’t look like a frail old man with a long white beard on the Ark. But here’s the problem with the artistic license being used in the film. The character of Noah was made into a raving lunatic who wanted every single person on earth to die—his family included. He even wanted to murder his own grandchildren. These are not even close to the actions of a righteous man who built the Ark for the saving of his household (Hebrews 11:7).

I explained my position on artistic license in an earlier blog post, so I won’t repeat everything here. The issue isn’t who is taking artistic license, but what liberties they are taking. In this film, Noah is practically the opposite of how the Bible describes him. Would it qualify as artistic license to make a film about Hitler or Arafat and show these men as devout Zionists? Could I make a film about Darwin where I portray him as the world’s foremost young-earth creationist and call it artistic license? Of course not. These would be examples of an abuse of artistic license, and that’s exactly what Darren Aronofsky did with Noah.

Paramount’s Noah Movie: God Is Evil

This is by far the worst of the errors in the Noah film, and it is absolutely blasphemous. The deity portrayed in this film is evil, cruel, uncaring, cold, harsh, and distant. The only “prayer” we see in the movie from Noah results in Noah’s determination to slaughter his grandkids. The visions the film’s deity sent to Noah were cryptic rather than the straightforward instructions revealed in Genesis 6. Furthermore, the film’s god used the brutal process of evolution by which trillions of creatures would live, suffer, and die long before sin ever even entered the world. Thus, according to this view, man is not to blame for the fallen condition of the world—God is, because that’s the way He made it.

Paramount’s Noah Movie: The Fallen Angels Are the Good Guys

Not only is God shown as evil in the film, but to complete the reverse (or better perverse) morality in this movie, the fallen angels are the good guys. Yep, that’s how they are depicted. They allegedly pitied man when he was expelled from Eden so these rogue angels decided to come and help man, and for that, they were sentenced to roam the earth as rock monsters. But in Scripture (Genesis 6:1–4), the angels who sinned at this time did it because they lusted after women. They weren’t here to help man, but to pervert man.

Early version of Aronofsky's Watchers/Rock Giants from the Noah movie. These fallen angels are actually the heroes of the film.

Early version of Aronofsky’s Watchers/Rock Giants from the Noah movie. These fallen angels are actually the heroes of the film.

Speaking of artistic license, I didn’t really have too much of a problem with the rock monster concept (granted, I don’t find it realistic, but I’m willing to give points for originality), but I did have a problem with who they were and what they did. These fallen angel/rock monsters are the ones who actually build the Ark. They are the ones that Noah depends on when the bad guy threatens to overrun Noah with his army. In the climactic battle sequence, the rock monsters slaughter people attempting to take the Ark from Noah. But that’s not all. As they are killed off, the fallen angels/rock monsters actually get released from their prison and are allowed to return to heaven.

Courier Journal Misses Again

The editorialist went on to rant against the Ark Encounter project and the fact that it has received preliminary approval for a Kentucky tourism tax rebate. This tourism rebate has been the subject of false charges from countless skeptics and many media outlets. The Ark is not being built in any way by Kentucky tax dollars, but once the park is open, and if it meets certain attendance figures, then it will be eligible to receive a rebate on a fraction of the sales tax it has already paid in to the state.

The article concluded with these statements.

The story of Noah is terrifying. If you believe it as told in the Bible, none of us would have been on the boat. We would have been off the boat. As it was written (New International Version), “Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth.” [Genesis 8:22–23]

Are they going to show that, too? Hard to see how that might attract out-of-state guests and have a positive impact on the state budget.

Again, as the person responsible for writing the content for the Ark Encounter, I can assure you that we most certainly do plan on showing this. We talk about it in the Creation Museum. In fact, that’s one of the major points of building the Ark. Yes, we want to show people the feasibility of such a project—that the animals would fit, that the boat could be built, that Noah could have cared for the animals, etc.—so that people will see that Scripture can be trusted. But the point of doing all of these things is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. To do this, we will naturally talk about the global judgment of the Flood as well as the upcoming global judgment of this world.

We have no desire to hide that teaching. In fact, we wish more people, including professing Christians who deny the global Flood, would come to understand what the Bible teaches in this area, that they would repent of their sins, and that they would trust in the sacrificial death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ to save them from the coming judgment.

Conclusion

It’s one thing when journalists make a mistake, but it’s an entirely different thing when journalists deliberately distort the facts, yank statements out of context, and then belittle those they dislike on the basis of their distortions. I realize this is from an editorial page, but the article represented some of the worst tendencies in modern “journalism.” Rather than report the facts, this writer decided to push a propaganda piece designed to mock the Bible and those who believe its teachings.

I pray that journalists like this, and all other scoffers, will humble themselves, repent of their sins, and call out for God’s forgiveness made possible by the sacrificial death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.