With Kanye West’s recent appearance at Joel Osteen’s megachurch, I think it’s important to recall these words from last Sunday’s readings:
“See that you not be deceived,
for many will come in my name, saying,
‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’
Do not follow them!” (Luke 21:8)
To see Kanye West of all people speak about Jesus Christ and release a critically-acclaimed album called Jesus is King is truly a sight to behold. I sincerely pray that he may grow closer to Jesus Christ and come to know His grace and mercy like never before in his life. God can and does do great work through people like Kanye, and if people are led to a deeper knowledge of Jesus because of Kanye, then wonderful!
That said, we need to be careful. We need to be careful because Joel Osteen, and now perhaps Kanye, preach a form of the Gospel that is dangerous. Yes, Sacred Scripture, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, shows that those who follow Jesus Christ will be prosperous beyond their wildest dreams. This prosperity, however, should not be expected in Earthly terms. Rather, this will be heavenly prosperity. Our reward will be great in heaven. Life on Earth, however, will be, well, life. Up, down, rich, poor, and everywhere in between is simply a part of this thing we do here on Earth.
But Father! What about those people who DO have Earthly prosperity when they follow Christ! Surely that’s proof, right?!
Wrong – there is nothing bad with Earthly prosperity, but it should be seen as a blessing, not some sort of confirmation of God’s favor. God is not a gumball machine where you stick in a coin and get something in return. Our Lord is a judge: a judge of justice and a judge of mercy. He does not approach us on our terms or because of anything we do – He approaches us because He loves us and wants to lift us up to Him so that we might have eternal life. Let’s take a look at what Bishop Barron has to say about the prosperity Gospel:
Finally, I think these words from Jonathan Walton of the West Forest Divinity School shine a bit more light on the situation:
“Kanye West and Joel Osteen are a match made in market-driven heaven. Both have baptized their commercial notoriety and their financial gains in Jesus’ name. The communion table has become a merch table.”
Many will come in His name indeed… But there is only one King.