Last night, my wife and I did go out for dinner with her parents. One the way home, we got stuck in unusual traffic waiting to get into a show at Cox arena, at San Diego State University. Who was playing? Joel Osteen.
I didn't buy a ticket.
But 12,000 other people did.
I've never read his books and I've hardly watched him on TV so I'm not going to give much commentary. He has lots of critics and supporters, many of whom I suspect haven't read his books or watched him on TV either. People often criticize or endorse people or movements that they don't know much about simply to satisfy a need to have an opinion or a side. Its much the same way we pick US Presidents.
But it is interesting that thousands of people are coming to his church and road show, and not all of them consider themselves to be Christian or religious in any specific way.
Critics of Osteen worry that his message of "God has good things in store for you" that focuses on self-improvement neglects the deeper theological teachings on matters of sin and redemption. Someone was quoted in our local paper saying that by focusing on self-improvement, Osteen turns God into a "cosmic bellhop who is there to make sure Americans are having a good time."
Whether or not his teaching is incomplete is not my point here. Like I said, I really haven't paid that much attention. But seeing so much interest in that kind of message reminds me of a great quote by CS Lewis from the book The Weight of Glory:
"If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." --C.S. Lewis, "The Weight of Glory"
We are far too easily pleased. Clearly, we often miss the wonderful things that God has in store for those who put their faith in him. Perhaps what we miss most is the deep joy of blessing others because we have been blessed.
Something to think more about...