I hope this will be my last post on the Victoria Osteen controversy. My initial post garnered more comments than any of my other posts in five plus years of blogging. Many people supported what I had written. Many people disagreed with what I wrote and left comments expressing their disagreements. And there were a handful of comments that I rejected because they were either too nasty to publish, too far off topic, or just the same people repeating the same charges after they had been addressed time and time again.
Since there were many comments from those who disagreed, I decided to respond to some of the main arguments being made. The first half of this response was posted a few days ago and focused on two claims: 1) “Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged” and 2) God Promises Believers Health and Wealth.
In this final post, I want to address three more common arguments being made in favor of what Mrs. Osteen said or that were made simply to criticize me. Again, this post will not be an attack on Victoria Osteen or anyone else. It will simply address the arguments being made.
Error #3: Everyone Else Has Problems Too
One of the “defenses” used by supporters of Mrs. Osteen is to go on the offensive. I’ve been told in the past few days that I’m being used by the devil to attack a godly person. Again, I never attacked Mrs. Osteen. I merely critiqued her message.
I’ve also been told that I’m defending the devil because I focus on the negative passages that talk about persecution. It’s not that I focus on them, but I’m not going to pretend that they don’t exist! I’m also not going to pretend that countless faithful followers of Jesus Christ have not suffered tremendous persecution and endured lives of poverty.
Some people have said that we all do things for ulterior motives instead of out of a desire to serve God. While I can’t speak for everyone else, I can’t say that my motives are always pure, although I wish they were and I strive for that. But this objection misses the point. Yes, we all sin and fall short. I readily acknowledge that in my own life. But this does not change the fact that it is absolutely unbiblical to teach people that when they do good things, when they go to church, and when they worship God that they should do it for themselves, and not for God.
I’ve also been told that I attacked her just to make her look bad, or for my own publicity. In response to the first claim, I would say that her own words made her look bad. All I did was point out how they contradict Scripture, and then I asked people to pray for her and her husband.
As to the charge that I only wrote the post for my own publicity, I guess you’d have to take my word for it that this certainly isn’t the case. If that were my motivation, I surely would have written against the Osteens and other popular teachers on a regular basis in the past. Anyone can go back through the five years that my blog has been up to see what kind of topics I write about. They can read my responses to comments and the way that I write my posts, and they can decide for themselves what they think my motives are. I pray that my goal will be to glorify God in all I do, so please pray for me to that end.
#4: She Didn’t Really Mean What You Have Said
This has been a common defense of Mrs. Osteen’s words. I’ve been accused of yanking her words out of context to make them seem bad. The first paragraph of the initial post addressed that very claim. I admitted that we don’t have the full context in the video, and several times in the comments I’ve invited people to send me a link to a video that would show the whole context. So far, no one has done that.
I do find it highly unlikely that the context would change the meaning of her words at all. She took the time to make her statement, and then she expanded on it and reiterated the idea that you do those things for yourself instead of doing them for God.
Did she misspeak? Perhaps, but if she didn’t mean to say what she did, then why did she take the time to clarify and repeat the same message? I have misspoken in front of audiences before. Oftentimes, I’m able to catch it as soon as the words leave my mouth, but there are times that I’m unaware of what I actually said until someone (usually my wife) lets me know about it after I finish speaking. But I find it hard to believe that I would spend over 30 seconds clarifying my point if I didn’t really mean to make that point to begin with.
Also, if she misspoke, did she ever offer a correction during the next service or on any social media outlets? No, instead of offering a correction, she said that she stands by her remarks. “While I admit that I could have been more articulate in my remarks, I stand by my point that when we worship God and are obedient to Him we will be better for it.” The problem with this comment is that the “point” she claimed to be making was not at all what she initially said. In the original clip, she clearly stated, and then restated, that the motive for doing the things she mentioned was to do them for self, and not for God. Her more recent statement speaks instead of one of the outcomes of worshiping God.
I’ve been accused of twisting her words, but no one has really been able to tell me how I’ve twisted them, because what she said is pretty straightforward.
“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?”
Notice that she was specifically talking about our motive for worshiping God, going to church, or doing good. She said to do those things for yourself. She didn’t say that we should do them for God, and then as a byproduct of doing that we’ll benefit in some way. What she told people to do was focused on self, which is the opposite of what the Bible teaches. The Bible tells us to do everything for the Lord (Colossians 3:17) and that we need to deny self (Luke 9:23).
Furthermore, it’s unlikely that she misspoke since the same sort of message is found throughout her book, Love Your Life. Yes, I have now read much of it. The book is full of anecdotes and “positive” messages about applauding yourself, rising above your disappointments, living with confidence, and being the model of change.
This may surprise many of my readers, but I’m not completely against everything she has to say. I do think we need to strive to have a positive outlook, live with confidence, and be an example for others to follow. But the reason I can be positive and confident is because I know that Jesus Christ has paid for all of my sins and no matter what anyone does or says to me, I will be with Him for eternity (Romans 8:38–39). I know my sins are forgiven because of what Jesus has done. My confidence comes from what God has done for me, not what I can do for myself.
Her book does not really lay out any solid foundation for doing these things other than having a goal of improving your life. I won’t offer a full book review here, but I did find it very hard to read because it was essentially “fluff.” I’m used to reading deep theological volumes, and most of the fiction books I read are deeper than this one. I know some people enjoy that, but I have a tough time remaining interested.
Error #5: We Can’t Do Anything for God
Finally, some of the people who have commented on my initial post have argued that we cannot do anything for God and we cannot do anything to please God. Therefore, they say that when we worship God, it must be for our benefit instead of for God.
This is truly a strange objection since we are clearly told in the Bible to do things for God. As mentioned in the initial post, 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” (Colossians 3:17). He also wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
There are so many other passages where we are specifically told that all we do should be done for the Lord. Paul told the Colossians, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for me, know that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:23–24, NASB). See also Romans 12:1–2.
Also, there are passages that do speak of our actions pleasing the Lord. Paul wrote, “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). Two chapters later he wrote, “Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God” (1 Thessalonians 4:1). See also Psalm 69:31; Proverbs 16:7; 1 Corinthians 7:32.
It seems like the people making this argument are confusing a couple of important issues. It is true that we cannot add anything to God and He does not need our worship because He does not lack anything. However, we do not worship Him to add something to Him; we worship Him because of who He is and what He has done. Do we benefit from worshiping God? Yes, but our motive for worshiping the Lord should never be for self. Our motive must be God-centered, not self-centered.
As I mentioned in the conclusion of the previous post, we all need to follow the example of the Jews in Berea. Luke said that they were nobler than the Jews in Thessalonica because they took the time to search the Scriptures daily to see if the things that Paul taught them were true (Acts 17:11).
The modern church suffers badly because so many people neglect to take the time to make sure if what they are being taught lines up with Scripture. Too many people simply look for one verse that, when used out of context, can be used to support what they want to believe. But we need to be willing to do the hard work of studying the Scriptures in depth, and be willing to change our minds and actions when necessary.
Let me encourage you once again to prayerfully and carefully search the Scriptures daily and do everything for the glory of God—not for yourself.