I Declare… “This is Whack”

One of my favorite moments from the Office is when a flat broke Michael Scott learns about the option of declaring bankruptcy.  If he only declares bankruptcy then all of his bills are gone.  So he does just that:

We laugh at this because it is ludicrous to think that just because we declare something that it will somehow be spoken into existence.  I love when Michael says, “I didn’t say it, I declared it”.  It’s silly to think that you can declare something and it will inevitably happen.  Right?

According to Joel Osteen, Michael Scott is on to something.  His latest book “I Declare” is a collection of the most powerful blessings in Scriptures.  According to Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue”.  Osteen wants people to speak blessings into their future rather than curses.  If you want to know who you’ll be in five years just look at the words you say about yourself today.  If you buy this book you can “take charge of your future”.  For 31 days you can declare what God says about you instead of those negative words.  Your world will be changed.

Where He Is Right

What Osteen is really encouraging people to do is to preach to themselves.  And there really is value in preaching to ourselves (provided the content is correct).  Furthermore, we really ought to be certain that our identity is founded upon God’s view of us rather than a fallen view of ourselves.  The words we say really do matter.  They don’t have the same amount of power that Osteen wants them to have—but the Bible is clear that the tongue is a powerful instrument for good and for evil.  He gets that much correct.  But then…

He Totally Shanks It

While there is benefit in proclaiming the gospel to yourself and there is a benefit in seeing yourself the way that God does, Osteen’s muddy non-gospel taints every single one of these declarations.  His theology has no room for a blood-soaked Cross or disciples following the dangerous path of the Suffering Servant.  Woodbridge and Jones summarize Osteen’s “non-gospel” well when they state:

Osteen’s gospel, then, is that Jesus died in order to save man from a less than ideal life.  Absent from his preaching is a well-defined concept of original sin, as well as a biblical explanation of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.  Of course, within prosperity theology these omissions make sense, for negative thoughts impact your ability to gain God’s favor; thus, sin and the cross are omitted.  (Health, Wealth & Happiness, 77)

Consider Osteen’s version of preaching the prosperity gospel to yourself.  Here he encourages us to wake up and proclaim these words to ourselves:

“Good morning, you beautiful thing.  Good morning, youhandsome thing.  Good morning, you blessed, prosperous, successful, strong, talented, creative, confident, secure, disciplined, focused, highly favored child of the Most High God.”  (emphasis mine)

Now let’s see how that gels with the Apostle Paul who declared himself to be the chief of sinners:

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
(Ephesians 1:16-23 ESV, emphasis mine)

See the difference?  Osteen has us looking within ourselves and calling ourselves amazing.  Paul (and I could have pulled in a host of other verses) has us looking outward.  Looks within always are met with declarations similar to “I’m the chief of sinners” but quickly followed by a “BUT, in Christ…”  And it’s not declarations of “since I’m in Christ I’m now promised prosperity”.  No it’s quite often “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…”

The last time I checked the only One with the power to speak things into existence is the Almighty.  Our faith in Him doesn’t somehow give us the power to then look outside of Him and “change our futures”.  No, our faith calls us to look solely to Him and to trust the work of His hands, not conjure up a world of our own making.

Why This Matters

Inevitably somebody will respond that I am being too harsh on Joel.  After all isn’t he a nice chap that is just trying to help people?  It’s not like he’s telling people to go out and throw kittens in wood-chippers.  He’s simply telling people to think more positively about themselves and consider themselves the way that God does.  What is so wrong about that?

Quite a bit, actually.

Here are at least 5 reasons why this teaching of Joel Osteen isn’t just smiley ignorance but it’s damnable serpent talk.


  1. says

    I certainly agree that Osteen is probably a nice chap who is trying to help people.

    I have NO problem with that. At all. In fact, I’m all for it.

    But I do have a problem with him, or others, calling it Biblical Christianity.

    IT IS NOT.

    Biblical Christianity is all about our not living the way, and not being the people that God demands of us. And that we are in desperate need of a Savior. And then showing us just who that Savior.

    What that has to do with being successful and prosperous, I haven’t a clue.

    • Frank L. says


      Good point.

      I’m preaching through Mark. This week it is about this very idea from Mark 10:17-31: “The Art of Missing the Point.”

      Jesus begins this pericope teaching on His death, and even the disciples missed the point as the following verses attest.

      Olsteen is a modern example — and perhaps the most significant in history — of “missing the point of Christianity.”

      The point is NOT: alleviating human suffering, and certainly not getting everyone to be wealthy.

        • Frank L. says

          I’m looking forward to what God might show me in this sermon.

          One interesting point about “healing the blind man” in this passage is that the Greek literally talks about the man being “saved,” not healed. I realize that “sozo” does refer to healing, but in a sense of total wellness, including spiritual wellness.

          I’m thinking God is going to go somewhere with that thought.

          I think I’ll try to catch up with Him.

  2. Jess Alford says

    I want to point out everything good about Joel Osteen’s ministry in the very next sentence.

  3. Louis Cook says

    Osteen reminds me of Stuart Smalley in the pulpit. Stuart, played by Al Franken, was a funny skit on Saturday Night Live years ago.
    Below are a few quotes from the skits, see if you can imagine them being delivered by Osteen.

    “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”
    “That’s just stinkin’ thinkin!”
    “I am a worthy human being.”
    “…and that’s…okay.”
    “Trace it, face it, and erase it.”
    “Compare and despair.”
    “I am a human being, not a human doing.”

  4. Frank L. says

    Is he a “good chap?”

    Has the “Prosperity Gospel” ever benefited anybody but the prosperity preacher? Is he giving away his books?

    Is he a “good chap” if he greases the slide upon which people are descending into hell?

    How good a chap is a person who sees people heading off a cliff and sells them a book, “Hit the Accelerator of Life!”

    I’m not sure that smiling through a mouth full of pearly whites is enough for me to “declare” that Olsteen and his ilk are “good fellows” .

    • says

      I think when people say that what they really are saying is that he is probably a nice guy, that loves his kids, and is pleasant to be around.

      But I’m with you. What is coming from this “nice chap” is damnable serpent talk.

  5. Jess Alford says

    Mike Leake,

    Sir, you know Joel accepts no salary from his church. He says Jesus is the way to God, but there are many paths to Jesus. Joel is worth 40 million dollars.

    The Apostle Peter didn’t have two pennies to rub together because he said silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, give I thee. In the name of Jesus rise up and walk.

    I wonder if Peter would have benefited from one of Joel Osteens books.
    It never ceases to amaze me, what people will believe. They will not believe that there is one path to Jesus.

  6. Jess Alford says

    Mike Leake,

    I wanted it to sound that way. I’m not in disagreement with the article.
    It’s great, I just like to throw a curve once in a while.