Nobody Gives You Anything for Being a Decent Human Being

Gratitude and prosperity gospel corrupt our souls.

Jessica Wildfire


Joel Osteen doesn’t drive a ferrari.

More accurately, there’s no definitive proof that Joel Osteen drives a $350,000 458 italia. Online rumors started circulating that he did, but they turned out to be unconfirmed. I guess it’s comforting the father of prosperity gospel doesn’t flaunt his wealth, except for his mansion.

And his second, even bigger mansion…

And his private jet…

Anyway, Osteen sat down with Oprah a few years ago to defend his wealth. “There’s nothing wrong with being blessed,” he said. Then he started talking about shallowness and greed. The guy frequently preaches about the perils of excessive wealth, so it just doesn’t click.

The whole idea behind prosperity gospel is that you get ahead in life by being a good person and thinking happy thoughts. Millions of his followers believe this idea because they want it to be true. They don’t really want to be good people. They want to pretend.

There’s plenty of criticism already out there attacking Joel Osteen, or anyone like him, who promotes the idea that being a good person entitles you to wealth and luxury. That’s not the point. What Osteen does goes beyond hypocrisy. It’s about more than his mansions.

Joel Osteen didn’t get rich by being a good person. He sold the idea that being a good person makes you rich.

Everyone bought it.

The universe doesn’t keep score.

Prosperity gospel has leaked into American culture over the last several decades. It predates Joel Osteen, going back all the way to books like The Power of Positive Thinking. Let’s remember: Norman Vincent Peale was a pastor who hated The New Deal and routinely called Franklin D. Roosevelt a blasphemous, godless, unpatriotic commie.

It makes sense. If citizens had support systems to lean on, they wouldn’t buy so much psychological snake oil.

We’ve come up with a secular version of prosperity gospel called gratitude. It doesn’t get muddled in religion, and it melds perfectly with the logic of late…