Jesus and Joel

September 5, 2017

Ever since Pastor Joel Osteen of the Lakewood mega-church in Houston gave lame excuses for not opening the doors to flood victims ( the church was flooded and later the city never asked him) the Twitter universe has been up in an uproar. Osteen later did open up the doors but the critics continued their verbal onslaught.

Amidst all the fury over Osteen’s $10 million dollar mansion, his custom suits and his net worth estimated at $ 56 million, most of the Twitter attacks focused on his so-called gospel of prosperity, a bastardization of the real Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John that chronicled the life of Jesus and his message.

A close reading of Osteen’s message in his books and televised sermons show little reference to Jesus and the early Christians. That’s not by accident. Osteen and many of his evangelical preachers do not want to talk about Jesus who befriended the poor, who lambasted the arrogant rich, who asked his followers to give up everything and follow him, and who gave comfort to the tax collector, the prostitute, the sick, and the dying.

The evangelical movement and its front line pastors like Osteen, Falwell, Swaggert and Graham are really not followers of Christ, but enormously rich charlatans who promise a better life with more money if people would just give them their hard earned cash. The Jesus who lives a life of poverty and throws the money changers out of the temple does not fit in with the gospel of prosperity that claims to be Christian but is just the scam of false prophets.

Being a true follower of Jesus is really hard as it is based on sacrifice, support for the downtrodden and the outcast, and a denial of wealth, which is why being a true Christian is not a terribly attractive religious lifestyle. If Pastor Osteen and the other charlatans want to promote the gospel of prosperity that is their right, and if their followers want to help these guys live in the lap of luxury, that is their right as well.  But to call themselves Christians is the ultimate lie. Jesus would have come to the aid of the homeless in Houston and he would have told his followers to do the same. No lame excuses.

If anything good can come out of the Houston catastrophe maybe it will be a clearer understanding of how a real Christian behaves, not one whose net worth is $ 56 million and who lives in a $ 10 million mansion. Instead of trying to pry money out of his followers, Joel Osteen should read the real Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and acquaint himself with Jesus, the champion of the poor and the neglected.

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The Good Samaritan

November 23, 2015

In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 10, Verses 25-37 Jesus is asked about loving your neighbor. In response Jesus defines who is a neighbor with this parable:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him for dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled , came where the man was, and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘ Look after him’ he said, ‘ and when I return I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

Jesus then asked, “Which of these three do you think was the neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” It was obvious to all present with Jesus – ” The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus then says, ” Go and do likewise.”

This powerful parable of the Samaritan should serve as a guide for all Christians in this country and indeed around the world as they are asked to show mercy to those Syrian refugees who have been beaten down by the Assad regime and left “half dead.” Sadly, politicians who claim to be avid readers and supporters of the Bible’s message choose to ignore the words of Jesus when it comes to responding to the poor, the hungry, the displaced. Christians are supposed to be followers of Christ.

The Samaritan, a foreigner, got the message of Jesus and went out of his way to help someone in need. Being a modern day Samaritan is certainly filled with challenges and sacrifices, but as this country debates the fate of thousands of Syrian refugees it is helpful to remember the good deed of this stranger on the road to Jericho.