Full confession: Sometime over ten years ago, I used to actually watch Houston televangelist Joel Osteen on television. In fact, I might even have a copy of one of his books, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, tucked away in a box somewhere. While I wouldn’t say I was ever a “follower” of his, I did enjoy his positive messages of preaching hope even if things aren’t going well in your life.
However, the more I listened to him, the more I realized something wasn’t quite right. Eventually I started to see stories about how much money he was worth and how he lived in this massive, $10 million mansion.
For those of you wondering, currently Osteen’s net worth is estimated at around $60 million.
To be fair, he doesn’t take a salary from the church. Most of his money comes from book sales and other things he does outside of the church. Though it’s indisputable that he uses his church to promote himself to a position where he’s able to make that sort of money without drawing any sort of a salary directly from Lakewood Church.
I’m not going to sit here and begrudge anyone for making a nice living for themselves, but there’s something wrong with a preacher supposedly teaching the values of Jesus Christ, a religious figure who often spoke out against greed, sitting on top of a $60 million fortune while living in a $10 million mansion.
How do you say you’ve devoted your life to helping the poor, needy, and less fortunate while you hoard tens of millions of dollars that could provide countless benefits to the poor, needy, and less fortunate?
I’m not saying his church doesn’t do a lot of good — I’m sure it does. Through the generous donations from people who send money to the church, I’m sure Lakewood helps a lot of people. That doesn’t mean there’s not something really wrong about a man who claims to have devoted his life to Jesus Christ sitting on a mountain of money while millions of children go to bed starving.
Could Osteen and his family not be very well off and comfortable with a $5 million fortune and a much smaller, yet still very extravagant, house? I’m not saying he has to give away all of his money or live an extremely modest life. Sure, that would be more “Jesus-like,” but I’m not going to advocate being that petty.
Either way, that’s all a topic for another day.
Without a doubt though, Osteen’s name was thrust into the news since Hurricane Harvey struck Texas after stories circulated that he wasn’t opening the doors of his mega church (a former NBA basketball arena), claiming it wasn’t accessible due to flooding. Some people have claimed that wasn’t true, but the Lakewood Church did post pictures where parts of the building were flooded.
Whether or not Lakewood Church was a safe venue for evacuees seeking shelter to use is beside the point. When the church decided to turn people away, the optics became “mega church housed in 16,000-seat arena turned people away.” From my perspective, instead of being a proactive beacon of hope at a time when Houstonians desperately needed help, even if the church, itself, wasn’t safe to house evacuees, the church became reactive. They appeared to only want to do the bare minimum, when it was more convenient for them to do so, instead of being proactive (such as Houston Texans superstar J.J. Watt) and choosing to lead in providing help to those who desperately needed it. Considering the size of the church that they are, yes, they should bear a bigger responsibility to help people.
They have the infrastructure, finances, and resources many other organizations simply don’t have.
The way I looked at the whole scandal was it didn’t matter the condition of the building, it was the fact that the church seemed reluctant to go out of their way to provide help. Though, of course, that’s entirely subjective.
However, then came comments Osteen made Sunday that absolutely set me off.
During a sermon, he said the following:
The reason it may seem like God is not waking up is not because he’s ignoring you, not because he’s uninterested, it’s because he knows you can handle it.
Take it as a compliment.
Excuse my language, but f*ck you Joel Osteen, you sanctimonious prick.
Yes, if you’re a Christian (a real one, anyway), part if your faith is believing that God will test your resolve. But to say that the millions of people who are suffering, with several people losing their lives, while others lost everything, are going through this because God “knows they can handle it” is appalling.
So is Osteen saying that Hurricane Harvey was sent by God to test the people of Texas? That the only way God could send a message was through a devastating storm that killed people, ripped apart families, destroyed homes, and ruined lives forever?
Those are the words of someone who’s clearly either never had to go without anything, or has forgotten what it’s like to have nothing.
Yeah, it’s easy when you’re sitting on a massive fortune, living in a huge mansion, to tell people whose lives have been up-ended or destroyed that “this is a test from God.” How out-of-touch with basic humanity do you have to be to say something like that to people while you’re sitting on $60 million in the bank?
It’s unconscionable for me to even think of how warped your mind must be to tell millions of people, “No need to be upset at your current life-altering despair, this is just a test from God because he knows you can take it.”
Sure, maybe Osteen was just trying to make people feel better — but you don’t say stupid nonsense like that. Especially when you’re sitting on a mountain of money you certainly aren’t about to dish out in large amounts to the people of your city.
Here’s a thought for Mr. Osteen: Maybe the real test here was for you, the greedy bastard who’s used supposedly teaching the values of Jesus Christ to make yourself $60 million. Maybe this is the moment God’s testing you to see if you’ll put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. To see what you would do when faced with the decision of helping the needy, poor, and less fortunate — or turning them away, while holding on to your massive fortune. To see if you’re truly a man of God, who’s willing to prove that your actions support the words of Jesus Christ — or if you’re just another greedy, hypocritical prick, drunk on his own power and influence, who’s made himself a very rich man by using religion to manipulate people gullible enough to trust and follow you.
And if that was the test, Mr. Osteen, trust me, you damn sure failed.
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