Joel Osteen Tweets The Wrong Gospel

Joel Osteen recently tweeted:

Translation: when life’s hard, look to yourself and not to God.

What Gospel is He Preaching?

What a thing for a preacher of the gospel to tweet. Then again, I guess it all depends on what gospel you preach. The one in the Bible is about Jesus, not about us and our accomplishments. I tweeted Mr. Osteen:

Focus on my accomplishments? No, Joel, I’d rather focus on Christ. That’s what the Bible says to do, you know.

He never got back to me, although he did interact with others who responded to his tweet after I did. But just in case he makes his way to my little blog, let me explain about the gospel that puts our focus on Jesus.

  • Jesus is the one who created and completes our faith, and we  get out from under our sins and burdens by turning our eyes upon him. (Hebrews 12:1-2.)
  • Jesus is the one who rescues us from our troubles and it is for his own glory, not ours. (Jude 24-25.)
  • Jesus is the one who is to receive glory in all we do, including our good times. (1 Corinthians 10:31.)
  • Jesus is the one who said focusing on our own accomplishments is foolishness. (Luke 12:16-21.)

In these passages and throughout the Bible, no one ever tells God’s people that the way to feel better about yourself is to focus on your own accomplishments. We are always told to focus on God, even when times are hard:

My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare. (Psalm 24:15.)

You’ll never find a Bible passage saying that when times are hard you should keep your eyes “ever on yourself” in order to release yourself from any snares.

So in telling you to focus on your own accomplishments, Mr. Osteen preaches something that not only is not in the Bible but directly opposes the word of God.

The Idolatry of the Feel-Good Gospel

Focusing on your own accomplishments is idolatry because it replaces Jesus with yourself. It’s actually a type of greed, a greed for accomplishments that will help us feel emotionally secure, a greed that is just as harmful as greed for material possessions in pursuit of physical security.

Such greed is idolatry, of course, and I would have thought Mr. Osteen knew this already. (Colossians 3:5.) But perhaps he doesn’t, and in his ignorance he writes nonsense like the tweet I quoted above.

So if Mr. Osteen or anyone else tells you the way to feel better about yourself is to look at your own accomplishments, you can introduce them to the gospel of Jesus Christ and assure them that there is something better than teaching idolatry to their followers: they can teach Christ instead.

I hope Mr. Osteen starts doing so. For his sake and for the sake of the 2.44 million people that follow him on Twitter.

And even more so, I hope he does it for the sake of Jesus.

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32 Responses to Joel Osteen Tweets The Wrong Gospel

  1. lauradroege says:

    This “feel-good” gospel seems more in line with pop psychology than with the Bible. I’d certainly rather focus on Christ’s accomplishment on the cross–conquering sin and death!–than on anything I’ve ever done, good or bad.

  2. Mary Anne says:

    What a relief–I’m not the only one who feels this way about Osteen. Every time I see his program is about to come on I literally LEAP for the remote to get to another channel.

    • Tim says:

      He reminds me of the warning Paul gave Timothy about not catering to people’s whims: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Tim. 4:3.) Joel Osteen seems to be very much in line with the type of teacher those people were looking for.

  3. Jeannie says:

    I can see Osteen’s comment making sense in a limited way: say if I’m down on myself for not writing as much as I think I should, it can help to say “Well, I did write 2,000 words this month” rather than “I didn’t write the 3,000 words I wanted to; I’m a failure.” BUT it sounds like he’s talking about making this more of a general outlook on life, and I agree it’s off base. Our pastor preached on idolatry yesterday and how we cannot be part of both the “table of the Lord” and the “table of demons.” So looking to ourselves for security and worth is not compatible with focusing on God and what He’s done for us.

    • Tim says:

      Good points, Jeannie. If Osteen had said “We all have times we fall, but instead of focusing on that let’s focus on how far God has brought us”, I think it would be in line with your reflection on the fact you’ve written 2000 words on a day you hoped to write 3000. But in all of it there needs to be a recognition that any accomplishment if baloney unless it is in the Lord and for his glory.

      Osteen’s false gospel is rooted in more than his advice to look to our own accomplishments, though. I think it is rooted in his false doctrine that people need to do in order to be; that is, one of the problems of the prosperity gospel he preaches is that there is no assurance that a person is eternally secure with God. Instead, prosperity doctrine typically teaches that people need to constantly be clinging to God so he will bless them and if they don’t have signs of his blessing it might be an indication that they no longer belong to God.

      It’s a direct contradiction to Jesus’ teaching in John 10:28-29, but you can see from his tweet above that he teaches a lot of things that are contrary to the word of God.

  4. nickcady says:

    Does anyone actually consider Joel Osteen a legitimate Christian pastor? That man has sold his soul in order to get rich and successful. He preaches a message which has basically nothing at all to do with the gospel.

    • Tim says:

      Apparently Christian book sellers think he is, if stocking his books on line and on their shelves is any indication. Those who promote teaching like Osteen’s are as culpable as he is.

  5. Jim says:

    Reblogged this on Zwinglius Redivivus and commented:
    Nicely done, Tim.

  6. Aimee Byrd says:

    Good thing, because I haven’t even managed to get all my groceries put away yet. I’m going to accomplish eating a sandwich first.

  7. Laura says:

    Good post Tim! It has similarities to my post today. Great minds think alike? : )

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, Laura. I’m waiting for a breather to get to reading your post (as well as others I’m neglecting today!).

      • Laura says:

        No sweat Tim. I have no idea how you read and comment on so many blogs. My brain can’t handle it, even if I have the time. Right now I am waiting on someone, so just sitting here at my computer…

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  9. Nancy Van Wyck says:

    I use to watch him and he held my interest for awhile until I realized he was going in the wrong direction. We must follow God’s words and not ourselves or we will be one sorry mess.

  10. Anne says:
    Don’t know if you have seen this, but Martin Luther has some choice words for Joel Osteen. 🙂

  11. Laruspress says:

    Hi, your point is well-taken Tim, and it’s regrettable to me that Joel didn’t respond to your message. I haven’t read his books but saw him in interview (see my blog post: ) and I did observe that he found a way to prevent an ‘us/them’ divide in witnessing ia secular interview. Perhaps he’s gone too far or perhaps he’s simply trying to find common ground. Either way, we all need to pray for one another, that we don’t lose our way even for the best of intentions. God bless and thanks for your always-thoughtful words, always pointing to Jesus as our master-builder.

    • Tim says:

      Thank you for such an encouraging comment, Sarah. Joel is a gifted communicator who has a way of reaching people who might otherwise feel excluded. I just wish he wouldn’t use his abilities in ways that point people away from God’s grace and riches in Christ.

  12. rtrube54 says:

    Tim, appreciated your comments and seeing this post. What I’ve thought about Osteen is that he is on to something in the sense that all of us live toward some vision of a good life. The problem I have with him is that his vision seems mostly about prosperity and personal success in this life, which is too SMALL of a vision. When we start thinking about Jesus and his kingdom, rather than ourselves and our own accomplishments as you suggest, it elevates our sights to much bigger things than Osteen is talking about, including injustices and poverty both here and in other parts of the world that we get to be involved with in heralding the coming kingdom.

    • nickcady says:

      That’s a great observation! CS Lewis said that our problem is that our desires are too weak. Great point about him being on to the fact that we all live with a vision of something greater.

    • Tim says:

      I agree with you and Nick. Osteen sets his sights way too low when he says we should be encouraged by human accomplishments. Like the hymn says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”

      Surely Osteen has sung that hymn before. Why he tweets the nonsense he does is a mystery.

  13. Marsha says:

    I am coming in late to the comments but I really don’t think that there is anything wrong with what Osteen tweeted. If he is talking about sin, then yes, but if he is talking about goal seeking behavior, then this is a good strategy. When I am trying to learn a new skill or finish a complicated project and it is not going well, then I remind myself of times when I was able to accomplish something by working hard and persisting.

    I believe the prosperity gospel to be dishonest, but there is nothing wrong with a pastor talking about life strategies. It all depends on what he meant by the word ‘fall.’ Is this is reference to sin or in reference to falling down during an activity and/or falling short of our goals?

    • Tim says:

      Those are great distinctions, Marsha, and I am glad you brought them out here. If I’d thought it through that way, I would have included that in the original post. Nice job fleshing this out.

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  16. Christian-in-rehab says:

    Call me a troll for old posts, and you’ll be correct, you said talk to me and I will.
    Listening to Osteen reminds me of the dabbling I did in New Age, Buddhism before I found Christ. In many of this inclinations, your eternal god-spirit is your self.
    So you need to speak, meditate and always focus on your “best self”, “most enlightened self”.
    I was surprised as a new christian to see a lot of “self-help”, “positive thinking” “mindfulness”, going on. It is true to focusing on your accomplishments can make one feel good and feel calm-but that is that.
    That is why preachers like Osteen are successful at amassing followers, they are serving a feel good blend, with a twist of an amorphous god entity that is our lucky charm.
    Did I mention that not coming on strong on what you believe, avoiding an ‘us/them’ divide is a cosmic goal? To balance the cosmic forces, one is not allowed to impose his sovereignty on another.

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