Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Difference Between Osteen & Biblical Rewards

Much digital ink has been spilled about the recent Osteen video (this being my favorite). In case you are unaware, in said video Victoria Osteen encourages their congregation to do good for themselves.

It's quite shocking to hear someone called a pastor (her and Joel are co-pastors) exhort their "Christian Church" in such a way. While they have rightfully received a good amount of criticism from the conservative evangelical movement in recent years, this video so clearly and succinctly displays the fundamental problem with their so-called theology - Man and his earthly pleasure are central, while God and His eternal glory are absent.

However, I'd like to ask one simple question about this issue: is it wrong in every sense to pursue God and practice your faith with a view towards a reward? In other words, is there a sense in which it is right to be motivated by rewards "for yourself"? According to Scripture, rewards for oneself are a biblical motivation:

"And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." - Hebrews 11:6

"And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." - Matthew 6:4, 6:6, 6:18

We see that Hebrews clearly tells us that as we seek God, we must believe that he rewards us for doing so. Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount repeats three times that the Father will reward us for righteous acts, and that his reward is greater than man's praise. So it is biblically appropriate to be motivated by rewards for oneself.

What then, is the difference between these Scriptures and the Osteens' message? The difference is that with the Osteens, God is merely a means to a temporal end. In the above video clip, she does not merely say that rewards are biblical; she actually says rewards are ultimate, going so far as to state repeatedly "you’re not doing it for God." Moreover, the Osteens typically define these rewards as temporal, earthly, emotional, financial - in the video, she says it's to make us "happy" - as opposed to the heavenly, eternal, spiritual rewards that Scripture speaks of. So the Osteens teach that our own temporal satisfaction is ultimate.

Whereas Christians in former times wrote "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever" (including both the supremacy of God and the reward of man), the Osteens now seemingly flip the script and proclaim "The chief end of God is to glorify man and enjoy him forever."

So, let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The problem with the video clip is not the presence of reward for man, but the nature of man's reward as earthly and the position of man's reward as ultimate.