Why what Joel & Victoria Osteen said is a false gospel

Yesterday I posted Bible verses that show Victoria and Joel Osteen to be false teachers, along with a video that’s been circulating Facebook of a recent church service of theirs:

I honestly wish the Bill Cosby blurb wasn’t added at the end, as my intention is not to mock the Osteen’s or to bash on them personally.  This clip was the only one available as the original clip (that didn’t have Cosby) had been removed from Facebook.

There is a fine line between bashing a famous Christian person and doing needed honest critiquing of damaging and dangerous doctrine.  I normally don’t do posts like these and my intent is not to bash, but I feel like what Victoria Osteen said in the video is so blatantly unbiblical, and I think shines a light on the overall message of the Osteen’s ministry, that something clear needed to be said about it for the sake of the true gospel.

Here’s the exact quote from Victoria Osteen from the video:

…realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God…we’re doing it for ourselves…because God takes pleasure when we’re 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.  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 whole message of the Bible and the gospel is that God becomes the center of our lives and we surrender all to him (James 4:7, Romans 12:2, Matthew 16:24-26, Mark 10:21, et al).  If it’s our will vs. his will, we choose his will.  Think of it like a bike tire:joel osteen victoria osteen

God is meant to be at the center, the hub, and everything else in our lives revolves around him.  Everything we do is meant to obey him, give him glory and make him happy.

The opposite message of this is to put ourselves in the center of the bike tire.  We become the hub and God just becomes one of the spokes.  He becomes one of the many variables in our lives revolving around us, meant to make us happy.

Victoria Osteen’s statement that God takes pleasure when we’re happy and that (our happiness is) the thing that gives him the greatest joy is incredibly manipulative and misleading.  First of all, you won’t find this anywhere in Scripture, which is a huge problem in and of itself.  In fact, you’ll find the opposite in Isaiah 55:6-9, which tells us God’s thoughts and his ways are completely different from ours.

But worse than this, it turns the entire message of the Bible around and is going to mislead tons of people.  Think about it: if what gives God the greatest joy is my happiness, what types of things are then going to make him happy?

Well, I’m quite happy when I sin.  I’m married with two children but there are many days I’d be very happy if I were single.  If I had no responsibilities.  If I could flirt with and have sex with whomever I want.  Or if I could take a peak at porn when I needed a little release from life.  These things would make me quite happy–it’s why people do them.  Pursuing power, self-glory and all the material possessions I want would also make me quite happy.

In fact, personal happiness is the basis for pretty much every sin ever committed.

Now back to Victoria Osteen’s teaching: God wants you to be happy…

Pause on that for a moment.

And yes I know, she is talking about “doing good.”  But doing good according to whom?  Isaiah 55:6-9 tells us that my idea of “good” and God’s idea of “good” are going to look very different.

This is primarily because God’s idea of good is often very inconvenient and unpleasant.  Washing feet (John 13:1-17), dying to myself (Matthew 16:24-26), storing up treasures in heaven and not on earth (Matthew 6:19-21), putting others above myself (Philippians 2:3), and crucifying myself for my wife (Ephesians 5:25) are all things that bring me a lot of inconvenience and unpleasantness, not happiness.  If my goal were my own happiness, frankly I would never do any one of these things!

God’s desire isn’t to make me happy, it is to make me holy.  (1 Peter 1:14-16)

Or is she simply talking about the rush of euphoric energy that comes from “worshiping” God in song?  Romans 12:1-2 gives us the exact definition of worship and uses vivid language of offering ourselves to God like an Old Testament animal sacrifice.  Our life spilled out for him.  All for him; none for us.  The animal being sacrificed is not the one the act of worship is for!!!  And to define worship as only the selfish euphoric feeling you might get on a Sunday is like stealing the spotlight being pointed at God and putting it squarely on yourself.  Something a guy named Lucifer tried once that didn’t turn out so well for him…

We can be happy in the things that make God happy, yes of course.  But the Osteens’ message is the exact opposite of this.  They are saying God will be happy in what makes us happy, which is as twisted as it gets.

We are meant to conform to God’s image, not him to ours.

We are meant to serve him, not He serve us.

We are meant to worship him, not worship ourselves!

Or what happens when my idea of “good” or “happy” infringes on your idea of good or happy?

When I want your land so I take it from you?

When I want your wife so I take her from you?

When I want your body so I lustfully consume it?

When I purchase products that were made by slaves?

Or simply when I want your parking spot so I cut you off in order to get it?

All of these things seem good to me and they all make me quite happy.

And you can’t say this isn’t what she meant.  It’s what she said and it’s how tons of people are going to take it.  I’m not over scrutinizing here.  If what Mrs. Osteen said wasn’t so blatant and so directly opposed to Scripture, I wouldn’t be blogging about it.  And this sort of message is not an anomaly to the Osteen’s and many of their famous self-focused counterparts who have a similar message.  People eat this sort of message up!  Who doesn’t want to hear that God exists to make them happy and if they listen to this message, their dreams will come true?  You are going to move a lot of books that way, that’s for sure.

The reality is this sort of message leaks out from the stadium church buildings and best selling books and into the lives of every day people struggling with every day sin problems.

I have heard many homosexuals who have said, “God made me gay.  I asked him to change it but he hasn’t.  I know he wants me to be happy so I know it’s his will for me to live a sexually active homosexual life.” *

God wants you to be happy.

I clearly remember close Christian friends of mine from my church who decided they wanted to divorce their husbands, who also attended our church.  These were two separate occasions.  I asked them why they wanted a divorce and they both said, “Because I want to be happy.”

God wants you to be happy.

In fact one of them told me verbatim: “I know that God doesn’t want me to be unhappy.”

I wonder what famous television preachers they were listening to?



*(Read about some gay Christians who didn’t say this)


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11 responses to Why what Joel & Victoria Osteen said is a false gospel

  1. It’s annoying when I think I have a great thought and then someone else comes along with, “Well what about this…or this…or this?”. I usually think to myself, “Right, but you’re missing the point”. It seems like there is forever a way to add another thought or tweak an idea slightly. With that in mind, I will tread carefully with my thoughts here.I agree with you that God’s highest goal for us is to be holy, I also thinks He desires for us to be happy as well. Obedience always comes first, but there are also many places in the Bible where it talks about enjoying our lives. How can a Christian not be happy when they consider what God has, and is, doing in their lives? Joy is different and even better than happiness and God wants that for our lives too, right? I don’t think the statement, “God’s desire isn’t to make me happy, it is to make me holy. (1 Peter 1:14-16), is correct. Sure, the verses talk about God’s desire for us to be Holy…but is that God’s only desire for us? Doesn’t He enjoy it when we are happy? I think He laughs with me when I laugh and cries with me when I cry, the same as He tells us to do with others. I think what you are saying is that holiness and obedience come first and that God is the center, not us. But once we’ve got that down, let’s be happy, right?

    • Hi Jim. God definitely wants us to be joyful and there is a ton of Scripture about that. But many of those Scriptures tell us to be joyful in the midst of trials and suffering, e.g. James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…so that you may be mature and complete” & 1 Peter 1:6-9, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now
      for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of
      trials…you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and
      glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the
      salvation of your souls”

      You’ll also notice happiness is not found in the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23, but joy and peace are.

      To my recollection, the Bible talks about people who are happy at different times, but never that God’s ultimate desire for us is to be happy or that God wants us to be happy. The only time I can think of happiness being attributed to people in a teaching sort of way is in the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 where the word “Blessed” literally means “Happy.” But again in this text Jesus is basically looking at a bunch of people who are unhappy on a worldly level and telling them they are Happy/Blessed because of their faith, i.e. “Happy are the poor in the spirit; happy are those who mourn, happy are the meek, happy are those who are persecuted” — It’s a bunch of opposites of the world’s, and the Osteen’s, definition of happiness. The Osteen’s are telling people, “follow God and you’ll be happy–you know, you’ll have a big house, money, health, oh yeah and peace and joy too” whereas Jesus (in Matthew 5) is saying to a bunch of people with no house, no money, and bad health, “You are happy” –which is a completely opposite message, knowing that their physical/worldly circumstances are not going to change so he promises them something much better.

      So in obedience to God, it’s not that we will be miserable, but we will have something much greater than happiness, which is joy and peace and blessing through a lot of worldly unhappiness.

      I hope that helps.

      • Well, to be honest, I wasn’t writing because I thought I needed help, but because I thought you did.

        • Your reply sounds a little defensive. I was just trying to keep it aligned with Scripture, as that was my whole point with the original post. The verse you referenced:

          Doesn’t He enjoy it when we are happy? I think He laughs with me when I laugh and cries with me when I cry, the same as He tells us to do with others.

          isn’t actually in the Bible. You’re thinking of Romans 12:15 which says:

          Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

          But rejoicing and being happy are two different things, which we’ve already talked about. Rejoicing means to be full of joy. My issue with the word “happy” that you, and the Osteens, are using is that no, you won’t find it in the Bible that God wants us to be happy or that he enjoys it when we’re happy, because my point is still that I’m happy when I sin, it’s pretty much the only reason I ever sin. I’m happy when I see a hot girl in a bikini walk by and I stare at her or when I have sex with my girlfriend, but does this make God happy? Being happy is really the only reason anyone ever sins. People are happy when they rob banks or steal cars or whatever it might be. Yes there are times we are happy when we aren’t sinning, but the word leaves way too much to my own subjectivity. So let’s stick with words like “joy” and “rejoice” and not “happy” because these are words that are transcendent of my circumstances and are things that God definitely wants for me, through the thick and the thin. Whereas “happy” only really applies to the “thick” (the good times) and that is another reason it’s not a biblical concept, because we are assured there will be plenty of “thin” times, but that doesn’t mean we are outside of God’s will. We can still rejoice in the bad times, in fact that is God’s will for us is to rejoice in these times–not because something happy is coming, which is what Osteen preaches (and puts giant memes up on his Facebook page that millions of people share) and drives me nuts how unbiblical that is–but we can rejoice because of what we already have in Christ.

          I’m not trying to be argumentative, I just want us to base our thoughts on the Bible, because it’s very dangerous to go outside of that, which is what the Osteens do all the time. They mix in what sounds like it should be true and they speak it as truth, which allows people to pretty much do whatever they want with it.

  2. Seems to me that the Osteens have struck at the heart of what God, Christianity, the Bible and religion as a whole are all about. Nothing wrong with that.

  3. Richard De Hay March 14, 2017 at 9:42 am

    With regard to your example of the hub of the wheel if we are in Christ we are in the hub. The spokes are really the means to carry this message to others. God will judge whether the Osteens are in Christ. My only interest in the topic is because my Baptist and Mennonite friends in my interdenominational BIble study keep bashing him and elevate the teachings of John MaCarthur. To say that God doesn’t want us to be happy nullifies the Beatitudes, does it not?

  4. How is obeying God ( she said “when we obey God”) sinning?

    I 100% agree that God wants me happy here on earth. I understand how you want to clarify things, like how God sees much more than I do & how I will not be happy, for example,if I get myself in debt because I want to keep up with others. But is keeping up with others what a person who is happy does? No.

    As a 36 year old, I have yet to see any self destructive behavior from a stable, happy person. Those sin situations that you used as examples are not happy people. Period.

    I think it more prudent to educate people on understanding happiness. I believe you have a bad idea of what happiness means.

    Rarely ( never) do i hear a person say that a baby is joyful, but I do hear that children are happy. Joyful is a decision about circumstances, happy, to me, is spontaneous & without thought, it just is.

  5. I think youre misunderstanding it..

    These happiness shes talking about is all about the spirit..now if we walk by the spirit arent you happy with it? Why would you assume happiness only comes from sinning?

    Did you know the fruit of the Holy Spirit includes joy love and peace? By obeying Gods commandments your flesh suffers but your spirit rejoice..now lets give an example of how obedience gives us happiness…

    Lets say you forgive an enemy because thats what God wants us to do..to love them.. now is it for him? Or for you? For your own anger and pride? When you forgive someone and make peace arent you happy? Arent you satisfied and feel the peace of mind when you meet them again? Obeying Gods commandments with joy and love is the key to be happy.. not sinning! Because if youre happy sinning then thats another thing!

    Now about the couple you said…God never wants us to get divorce unless we commit adultery..God gave us our wives and husband to be happy..not to feel sad..now if they are having problem ofcourse both of them will be sad..thats why they said they want to be happy..but divorce isnt the solution for that but its God! Only God can make them happy again if they surrender all their bad habbits and learn to forgive each other and put God first..

    Anyway thats it for me for now Godbless you brother.

    • Hi there, thanks for the comment! One important distinction is I’m separating happiness out from things like joy, love, and peace. The Bible definitely promises us these things, but in a way that is not dependent on circumstances. For example, if a tragedy happens, I’m very sad, but I still have my joy, peace, and love in Christ. Whereas with happiness, it’s more of a fleeting emotion and is dependent on circumstances. You can’t be happy and sad at the same time. Peace, love, and joy can certainly bring happiness, but so can winning the lottery. But winning the lottery doesn’t have anything to do with peace, love, or true joy. It might just be the different way we are defining “happiness.” I think when we say God promises us happiness, we are believing God promises for all our circumstances to be good, and there’s a lot of Scripture that shows that that will not be the case.

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