The Victoria Osteen Gaffe Demonstrates Why Theology Matters!

The message from Victoria Osteen (VO) is that we worship God for ourselves. Here’s the quote:victoria-victoria-osteen

So, I just want to encourage everyone of us to realize, when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—(I mean that’s one way to look at it)—we’re doing it for ourself because God takes pleasure when we’re happy! That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy this morning. So I want you to know 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! Amen?

Watch the video

Why is this statement so obviously wrong and troubling? It is because it  takes our worship of God and the purpose for that worship and centers it in the self. What are some of the ramifications of such a theology? It makes our happiness the test of true worship. It says as long as I am happy, God is happy. VO said , “That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy this morning.”

To be fair, VO did make a follow-up statement a few hours after the video began to go viral:

God is all-powerful and does not require our worship or approval to be Who He is. God was God before we even existed. When we choose to worship Him and live in obedience to Him we do so for our own benefit, so that we may be in right standing with Him and enjoy His favor. Therefore, glorify Him in everything you do and let your life be worship to Him, so that one day He will say to you, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Unfortunately for VO, she did not help herself with this statement. Why? The seed of selfishness remains in her theology: “When we choose to worship Him and live in obedience to Him we do so for our own benefit…” It is the unabashed worship of self that so characterizes all of the Osteen “Your best life now” theology. Are there benefits to worshiping God? Absolutely! Does God want our lives to go well? Yes! But we worship God because He is worthy of worship; because in worshiping God we leave ourselves behind! The problem with the hyper-grace, prosperity theology is that it places self on the throne! 

Role Models Or Not?

Miami Dade Police Department photo
Miami Dade Police Department photo

It is not uncommon to hear athletes, movie stars, and famous musicians opine their disagreement concerning their role model status. Charles Barkley may have put it best when he purportedly said,

“I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”

There is an important truth to acknowledge in Barkley’s statement (a statement that gets recycled, reformed, and freshly expressed in every generation). It is true that any parent who would allow their kids to emulate or be exposed to a person who is morally bankrupt (I am speaking in general terms here; I do not know the moral status of Charles Barkley) is foolish. It isn’t Charles Barkley’s fault (or Miley Cyrus’s, or Justin Bieber’s, or Ariana Grande’s or Alex Rodriguez’s, etceteraahh, etceteraahhh) if parent’s are foolish and negligent and themselves morally bankrupt. However, this does not let him or anyone of us off the hook.

Every person is an example of how one can live his or her life. What we do in public (and in private for that matter) represents who we really are! Only arrogance and moral ignorance would sincerely ask and expect people to compartmentalize their behavior and idolize them for their talents but make no comment on their corruption. We are all influencing those who come to an awareness of our choices and we are models available for emulation.

Perhaps what Barkley and the rest are really saying is, “Thank you for the money and the privilege but I don’t care if you or your children go to hell (either figuratively or literally). Give me money and I promise to entertain you, but don’t expect me to care if I see you lying bleeding in the alley.”

Forgetting the debate about a person’s privacy, what is done in public is fair game to be recorded, repeated, criticized, or imitated. And like it or not, our children, teenagers, and young adults are influenced by what they observe. And while it is a parent’s responsibility to protect and to lead their children, those in the public arena should care whether they are someone who endangers or edifies those who are following their examples.

ONE LAST THOUGHT: In our culture it seems that we send the message that perhaps it is not good for children to see certain things. We devise rating systems based on what is appropriate for children, teens, those who are seventeen and older, etc. But our ratings seem to imply that, as adults, we reach an age where everything is OK. But, barring some isolated examples, if it is not good for a young persons morals to observe bad behavior, it’s also not good for adults!
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