Victoria Osteen (patheos.com, public domain)
By Spencer D Gear
There are some things happening in the Christian world that have to be heard to be believed. What does it take to launch an uproar in the Christian community? Victoria Osteen, wife of pastor Joel Osteen, Lakewood Church, Houston, Texas, made one of the greatest clangers of theological ignorance that I’ve heard in a long while.
Take a strong grip on your theological seats.
She told a large public gathering at that their mega-Lakewood Church:
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 are happy…. That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy….
She continued: “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?”
And the congregational response was, ‘Amen’ (in Mohler 2014).
Take a listen to the Victoria Osteen clip HERE, followed by Bill Cosby’s confrontational comment, ‘That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life’.
What a blooper by Victoria Osteen! It has the Christian bloggers and writers at their keyboards (including me) pumping out some provocative negative and supportive responses. Take a read of a few of them:
- ‘Victoria Osteen Takes Worship of God to New Low: It’s All about You’ (crosswalk.com);
- ‘How I would say what Victoria Osteen said differently’ (Morgan Guyton);
- ‘Did Al Mohler Just Throw Happiness Overboard?’ (David Murray);
- ‘In defense of the prosperity gospel: Let’s cut Victoria Osteen some slack’ (Matt K Lewis);
- ‘Victoria Osteen Ripped for Telling Church “Just Do Good For Your Own Self”; Worship Is Not for God, “You’re Doing it for Yourself’ (Leonardo Blair);
- ‘In defense of Victoria Osteen’ (unsettled Christianity).
Osteen against the Scripture
Let’s check out the Scriptures to find how close Victoria Osteen came to declaring what God says about the highest responsibility of the individual and of the church?
Romans 15:5-6: ‘May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (NIV).
Ephesians 1:5-6: ‘he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves’.
Ephesians 1:12-14: ‘in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory’.
Ephesians 1:18: ‘I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people’.
Ephesians 3:21: ‘to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen’.
2 Thessalonians 1:12: ‘We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ’.
1 Peter 4:11, ‘If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen’.
Osteen says, ‘When we obey God, we’re not doing it for God…. 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’.
What anti-biblical baloney!
How does Osteen’s teaching compare with Scripture? According to the above Scriptures, we are to glorify the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to give him praise for his glory. To God be glory in the church. The person (name) of the Lord Jesus Christ is glorified in believers and we in him.
Now that is a radically different message to what Victoria Osteen proclaimed. She’s into pick-me-up, me-centred, positive thinking psychology and not God-glorifying worship. People should run a country mile from such self-centred opposition to what Scripture teaches.
Two scriptural clinchers are:
Romans 11:36: ‘For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen’.
1 Corinthians 10:31: ‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God’.
The summary of what the Bible teaches is in the first question of the Westminster Larger Catechism:
Q. 1. What is the chief and highest end of man?
A. Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.
The biblical teaching is crystal clear. In whatever you do, including obedience to God, you are to do it for the glory of God. But for Victoria Osteen, her teaching is radically opposed to that. She’s declaring on a TV and Internet program that which is opposed to what God says. Osteen’s sprouting, ‘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’, is junk theology. I declare it as such, with solid Scriptural support.
What does that make Victoria Osteen?
Out of Victoria Osteen’s mouth has come false teaching that is humanistic and contrary to Scripture. What does Scripture say we are to do with false teachers? Take a read of Galatians 5:7-12 (NIV):
7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!
My application to Victoria Osteen (based on this passage) is:
Osteen is keeping Christians from obeying the truth.
Therefore, Osteen is not teaching the truth. She does not promote God’s truth when she promotes self-benefit from obeying and worshipping God.
Osteen’s kind of persuasion that gets an ‘Amen’ from her and the large congregation, is not from God, the one who calls people to himself and they become Christians.
Osteen’s false teaching is like yeast that contaminates the Christian community. It is sewing weeds among the good seed (see Matt 13:36-43).
With the exposure of Osteen’s false teaching by discerning believers, I am confident that evangelical Christians will see her promotion of a false view of God and cling to the orthodox teaching of glorifying God in all things they do.
Victoria Osteen will have to pay the penalty of throwing Christians into confusion with her false teaching.
Those who oppose Osteen’s positive thinking message are likely to be persecuted by the health-wealth promoters.
The offense of the cross is abolished when one worships God for selfish gain.
Victoria Osteen, in my view, has extended the meaning of ‘selfie’. I wish she would go the whole hog, leave the church, and take her message into the self-help psychology classroom. It does not belong in the church or on Christian media.
Victoria Osteen responds
The Blaze has reported Victoria Osteen’s response to her controversial remarks:
Victoria Osteen, wife of megachurch pastor Joel Osteen, responded late Friday afternoon to furor and debate circulating in evangelical circles following a controversial sermon she delivered last month about church attendance and worshipping God.
Osteen said that she could have chosen her words more carefully, but that she did not mean to imply that parishioners shouldn’t worship the Lord, calling such a critique and interpretation “ridiculous” in a statement exclusively issued to The Blaze.
“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,” she said. “I did not mean to imply that we don’t worship God; that’s ridiculous, and only the critics and cynics are interpreting my remarks that way.”
Osteen continued, “Every Lakewood member knows what I was talking about because they have experienced first hand the joy and victory of a Lakewood Church worship service, and the honor, reverence and gratitude we show God.”
In the short, 37-second clip that has gone viral and led to intense criticism in recent days, Osteen, who co-pastors Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, along with her husband, Joel, is seen telling congregants that, when people obey the Lord and go to church, they’re not necessarily “doing it for God.”
“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,” she said from the pulpit. “We’re doing it for yourself, because God takes pleasure when were happy. That’s the thing that gives him the greatest joy this morning … just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy.”
She added, “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.”
The controversial clip has been viewed and shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media since late August, with some Christians decrying Osteen‘s message — but with others supporting and explaining her commentary.
Consider Steve Camp, pastor of the Cross Church in Palm City, Florida, who said that Osteen ”honestly believes that God exists to make us happy rather than holy.”
“It’s the age old sin of idolatry — that it’s not about God, it’s about us,” Camp told Christian News Network last week. “True worship for the humanist is about how we feel at the end of the day and what gives us meaning, as opposed to what gives God glory” (Hallowell 2014).
(image courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)
Victoria Osteen’s me-centred, worship is for me, is theological junk. ‘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’ is Osteen generated false teaching. I do not find Osteen’s response to be satisfactory in correcting her humanistic view of worship.
Albert Mohler put it precisely: ‘If our message cannot be preached with credibility in Mosul, it should not be preached in Houston. That is the Osteen Predicament’ (Mohler 2014).
The Scriptural view is: ‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God’ (1 Cor 10:31).
There is some excellent teaching on the content of false teaching in this article from IVP New Testament Commentaries on Galatians 5: ‘Exposing the false teachers’.
Why don’t you take a read of this assessment of Victoria Osteen’s teaching by Albert Mohler, ‘The Osteen Predicament — Mere Happiness Cannot Bear the Weight of the Gospel‘.
Hallowell, B 2014. Pastor Joel Osteen’s Wife Hits Back at ‘Critics and Cynics’ and Addresses Furor Over Her Viral Sermon About Worshipping God. The Blaze, 5 September. Available at: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/09/05/exclusive-victoria-osteen-responds-to-evangelical-furor-over-viral-youre-not-doing-it-for-god-clip/ (Accessed 15 April 2016).
Mohler Jr, R A 2014. The Osteen Predicament — Mere Happiness Cannot Bear the Weight of the Gospel (online), September 3. Available at: http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/09/03/the-osteen-predicament-mere-happiness-cannot-bear-the-weight-of-the-gospel/ (Accessed 4 September 2014).
 The Scriptural references given were Romans 11:36 and 1 Corinthians 10:31.
 Scriptural support given was in Psalm 73:24-28; John 17:21-13.
Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 April 2016.