“Some people want to see God with their eyes as they see a cow, and to love Him as they love a cow – for the milk and cheese and profit it brings them. This is how it is with people who love God for the sake of outward wealth or inward comfort. They do not rightly love God, when they love Him for their own advantage. Indeed, I tell you the truth, any objects you have on your mind, however good, will be a barrier between you and the inmost truth.” – Meister Eckhart ”
I wonder if anyone has given any of the prosperity preachers a copy of The Essential Writings of Meister Eckhart. In a moment of idleness I was watching Joel Osteen on TV. He was smiling and telling the people present that they need to ‘believe first and then they will receive.’ His message is ‘prosperity light.’ His message is very feel-good and plays on everyone’s desire for health, wealth, and happiness. In his book “Live Your Best Life Now, Osteen writes, “If you develop an image of victory, success, health, abundance, joy, peace, and happiness, nothing on earth will be able to hold those things from you” (p. 5) This is quite a contrast from the writings of the spiritual giant Eckhart. Prosperity preaching is counter to the radical message of Jesus.
The thinking that feeds this prosperity message is never far from any of us however. Eckhart wrote what he did because at times we treat God as the cow whose profits we are too glad to enjoy. We cannot love God properly if our relationship is governed by our need or desire to profit or get ahead. When our prayer life has turned to a grocery list of needs and demands we must ask ourselves why we are praying. Contrary to what Osteen et al, tell us, God is present to us not to ‘bless us’ with things and shower us with happiness. God is with us in all manner of being and our need for all other things is often the barrier that keeps us from fully knowing we are beloved. Our relationship with the Divine is hindered when we are constantly concerned about whether success might come tomorrow. Whether we might finally be happy, tomorrow. Whether we might have more, tomorrow. In Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best Eugene Peterson puts it this way;
The only opportunity you will ever have to live by faith is in the circumstances you are provided this very day: this house you live in, this family you find yourself in, this job you have been given, the weather conditions that prevail at the …moment.” (p150)
So rather than visualizing and longing for what I do not have today, I will pray for the courage to hear and heed the words of Eckhart and Peterson. I will pray that I can remove those barriers from my relationship with God. This is not always easy for us today as the consumer culture that we live in has taught us that we can have anything we want. It’s that culture in fact that makes prosperity preachers so popular. Eckhart and Peterson are following on the heels of Jesus who said,
“Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34
So next time I’m idle — I’ll find something else on TV. There are too many corporate sales pitches to buy happiness out there — Osteen is another piece of the consumer culture. Sadly — he does his bidding in the name of Jesus.
AMEN to these wise words Kevin…..thank you for being such a great messanger 🙂 I often say at times we treat God like a vending machine…..we put their prayers in at the slot at the top and expect the immediate reply to drop down at the bottom.
Presenting another side. I make no pretense at being a theological heavy weight.
(I think it is counter productive for Christians to criticize other Christians.)
It was once mentioned to me that Joel Osteen’s books are really just self-help books but setting aside that statement, I did find in his book, “Your Best Life Now”, Chapter 7, ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, (focusing on developing a healthy self-image), a section on Gideon, the man God wanted to save Israel from the Midianites who had overrun their land. Gideon did not think he had the right stuff for the task, but God called him, ‘a mighty man of valour, a mighty man of of fearless courage. Gideon had difficulty believing that God saw him in that light. The author goes on to mention that God also sees us as champions, even though, like Gideon, we might have difficulty seeing this, but that doesn’t change God’s image of us. We need to trust and have faith.
My point in all this is that we can all cherry pick and find things in many books by various authors that give us the opportunity for a put down. Some do this with the Bible to justify their actions. Sometimes the success of people like Joel Osteen is related to the fact that there are many out there who are not ready for the deeper theological meanings and discipline associated with mainline Christianity. I don’t think we should scoff at that.
I have considered Joel Osteen a good motivational speaker. He should not mix religion into his message at all. We certainly need joy and gratitude in our lives. For those of us (moi) who may have been subjected to pietistic Christianity, it is good to consider that God loves a cheerful giver,that we need not wallow in despair and that it is okay to have a sense of humour and to laugh and still go to church services. Margo has made an interesting point about our not looking down on those less ready for deeper theological meanings and discipline associated with mainline Christianity. I’m not a theological heavy weight either.