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Multimillionaire, Joel Osteen Caught In Financial Scandal

"America’s most popular supermarket tabloid claims famous televangelist Joel Osteen “is caught up in a financial scandal,” using his Houston megachurch to sell his books.

The National Enquirer alleges that New York attorney Richard Garbarini – who previously helped two musicians in a lawsuit against Osteen and his Lakewood Church accusing the church of unauthorized use of a song – is charging that Osteen uses his Houston-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit to hawk his bestsellers.

“He’s leveraging the church as a money-making vehicle! The church pays (to air) his sermons, which are just de facto infomercials to promote his books,” Garbarini purportedly told the Enquirer. “The Lakewood Church is a shell to funnel people to his website so he can sell his books.”  Read the full article.

 BWV Comment

I've often said Osteen is all about money, which his motivational speeches of telling the people want they want to hear rather than preaching the whole counsel of God is geared to. As the article mentions, he and his wife live in a 17,000 square foot $10 million dollar mansion with six bedrooms, six bathrooms, three elevators, five fire places, a guest house and a pool house. Is this what the New Testament teaches about the pastor's role to the Church and his calling from God?  Let's see what the Scriptures teach about pastors and what should be their focus in life:

 I Timothy 3:1-4 NKJV

1 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop,a]">[a] he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money,b]">[b] but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Philippians 4:10-12 KJV

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

I Timothy 6: 7-9  KJV

For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

Hebrews 11:1-40  NLT

1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.

By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.

It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.

It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.”a]">[a] For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. 10 Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.

11 It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believedb]">[b] that God would keep his promise. 12 And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.

13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, 18 even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.”c]">[c] 19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.

20 It was by faith that Isaac promised blessings for the future to his sons, Jacob and Esau.

21 It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff.

22 It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left.

23 It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command.

24 It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. 27 It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. 28 It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons.

29 It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned.

30 It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.

31 It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half,d]">[d] and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.

Are Pastors Called of God Or Selected By Man - In Osteen's case his mother.

In the I Timothy 3 passage, it says that if a man desire the office of bishop (elder or pastor) he desires a good work. This is not to imply that any man can just decide that he wants to be a pastor of his own accord. No, the Scriptures make it abundantly clear the Church offices are God-called offices - see Ephesians 4:11-13. Joel Osteen admitted that he did not desire to be the pastor of Lakewood Church rather his mother decided for him that he was to succeed his father as the head of the Church. His father, John Osteen, was a bible teacher howbeit from the Charismatic persuasion. Young Joel decided that was not his forte, so he adopted a motivational style of speaking that is attractive and preferred by a majority of people because it doesn't step on anyone's toes or challenge controversial non-biblical issues. It also rakes in a lot of money that has made Osteen a wealthy millionaire.

A God-Called Pastor Must Be Able to Teach the Word

It also says a pastor must be able to teach, that is, have the spiritual gift of teaching. Teach what! 

Ephesians 4:11-16 NLT

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

I Peter 5:2 KJV

2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

Notice in Ephesians 4:11 all of the Church offices are preceded by the word "the" except "teachers." That is a correct translation for in the Greek language there is a rule that says when two nouns are separated by the word "and" (kai in Greek) and only one of them has the definite article "the" in front of the noun, then the meaning is derived from the one noun having the definite article.  Therefore, the pastor is to be a teacher for the correct translation of Verse 11 is pastor-teacher. What does a pastor teach - the Word of God in a systematic way that allows the saints to grow in knowledge and wisdom of the Word not motivational speeches.

One of the best examples in my opinion of a pastor-teacher in modern times is Tommy Nelson, pastor of Denton Bible Church, Denton, Texas. He comes to the pulpit every Sunday, opens the Bible and teaches verse-by-verse a book of the Scriptures. Therefore he covers in a years time a large portion of the Bible including all the so-called negative things - the "thou shalt not's".  The saints learn the Word of God and are growing in spiritual maturity. It is also a large Church, not on the scale of Lakewood, but has 3000 plus members.

What does Osteen do in contrast? After raising the Bible in hand and has the Church repeat his mantra about the Word of God, he lays his Bible aside and speaks from a prepared speech of typed written pages, which he closely follows. His speeches are more Osteen's words that those of Holy Writ and they are always topical - a new topic every Sunday.  As a former pastor, I know personally the saints do not grow by such methods and Osteen does not teach the Bible, but references the more popular texts that omits sins and any teaching on judgment, hell, etc. 

Pastors Are Not To Love Money Lest that Become His Measure Of Success Rather Spiritual Treasures

Back up to the I Timothy 3 passage where it says a pastor must not be greedy of mammon (money). Is Osteen greedy of money?  What is greed?  It is having or showing a selfish desire for wealth or possessions. I would say Osteen shows a strong desire for wealth and possessions. Does any God-called pastor need a 17,000 square foot mansion to live in with six bathrooms, six bedrooms, five fireplaces, three elevators, etc. Compare Osteens' lifestyle to the majority of faithful evangelical pastors (exception being the mega-church pastors that also live high on the hog) who barely make enough money to pay the bills; many either have a second job or their wives work to support the family). Osteen charges for all his meetings as well as his sermons.  Everything he does is tied in some way to money. You take away all his money and his lavish lifestyle and I dare say you would seldom hear of Joel Osteen. If he preached the whole counsel of God and took a bold stand for the truth when he is invited on television, I guarantee you his Church would rapidly decline in membership and attendance. Why? Because the majority of his audience would seek other teachers to tickle their ears will pleasings speeches.

Paul further says a pastor must not be a novice - a new or inexperienced convert. Osteen was involved in the production department of his father's ministry and had no experience as an elder or assistant pastor when his mother passed the mantle to him to become the Senior Pastor of Lakewood.  He also is not a graduate of any Bible college or seminary - has no theological training. This is not to say that a theological education is the prerequisite for the pastorate since it is a God-called office, but a theological education is not a negative either, that is, if it is from a conservative Bible believing, teaching institution that trains pastors to be Bible teachers, not motivational speakers.

The Philippians 4:11 and I Timothy 6:8 Paul speaks of contentment, that is, whatever state we find ourselves whether little or much, let us be content. In fact, he says if we have food and clothing, that is enough. I think the Osteen's have much more than just the basics.  God says our NEEDS will be supplied by His riches in glory in Christ Jesus, not our luxuries - see Philippians 4:19. 

Now look at Hebrews 11 - the faith chapter, particularly Verses 35-40. Wonder how they would have felt about all these mega churches with millionaire pastors?  Osteen doesn't have to live by faith for money and wealth are his supply. He came from a wealthy family and has just increased the wealth. Does Osteen visit the sick? Does he preach the funerals of his members who die?  Does he personally lead his church in evangelism or do others do these responsibilities?  As a pastor, I did all these myself as that was my responsibility as the Under-Shepherd of the Sheep and my members will tell you that I taught them the Word of God - book by book.

One of the reasons Paul warns pastors about worldly wealth is that it may lead to falling into the snare of the devil and many foolish and hurtful lusts:

I Timothy 6:9 KJV

But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.