Joel Osteen: Wealth, Ethics And Personal Responsibility

I realize the following numbers are suspect and not to be entirely trusted, so when I read that Houston’s Lakewood Church Pastor Joel Osteen’s books and tours take in about 55 million dollars annually, he possesses a personal net worth of over 40 million dollars, and lives in a 17,000 square foot mansion worth over 10 million, I realize those numbers may not be true. However, even if these numbers are cut in half, I think we can all agree they are very high and he is a wealthy man by nearly anyone’s standard.

Joel Osteen is rich by means of providing support and inspiration to thousands of people through his interpretation of a religious text. So when he was recently accused of not opening his humongous church to victims of Hurricane Harvey quickly enough, he became an easy and desirable punching bag, facts be damned.

My simple question is this: Why would a very smart, public relations expert not want to capitalize on this golden “opportunity?” If he turned away victims he would certainly be turning away potential future customers. Say what you will about his message, though his marketing skills are unparalleled and second to none.

I believe we are attacking the man for entirely different reasons.

Joel and his posh wife, Victoria, are no strangers to controversy. No need to get into the nature of these controversies here, just go ahead and google away. As you search, realize the great majority of people are not interested in the details of the Hurricane Harvey incident or other Osteen controversies -we are far more interested in expressing our displeasure towards those who become filthy rich through the manipulation of religion and will seek out any opportunity to lash out and take down one who does.

Any chance to take a good hard swing at one who becomes wealthy through preaching about the benefits of giving -to them- in the name of Jesus Christ- will be thrown down. Thus, whatever your thoughts on Joel Osteen, realize he is just the latest poster child for what most people perceive is wrong about the roles of money and religion in society. It is not him specifically with whom most have an issue, rather it is what he represents.

Yet has Joel Osteen done anything illegal? Is he legally bound to open his church to flood victims at first raindrop? Is he breaking the law by becoming rich? Does he have the legal right to be a two-faced asshole should he choose to do so? No (as far as we know as of this writing), no, no and yes.

I personally am not a fan of Joel Osteen. I do not care for him as he comes across as excessively phony and insincere to me. I do not buy into his religion, his style, his message or anything else about him.

So what? Does it matter what I think of him? I am clearly not within his demographic.

If we have a problem with Joel Osteen for whatever reason- personal distaste, perceived moral bankruptcy, philosophical differences, insincerity, etc. that is not on him. Look no further than those who support him and contribute to his lavish empire. No one is putting a gun to his follower’s heads to demand they give their hard earned money to him or buy his latest book.

If his supporters truly believe he was guilty of turning a blind eye towards those in need, he and his empire will feel the repercussions of that neglect. The market will bear itself out as it were. My, or any other outsider’s criticism is unnecessary and serves no purpose.

And just what gives us the right to play moral authority for another’s life? Why should we demand someone else be more charitable and kind with their personal assets or assets of which they have control? If you believe Osteen to be a self-centered narcissist who does not reach out to those in need, don’t buy his latest book, don’t send him money, don’t watch his television shows. And while you are at it, go ahead and practice what you believe Osteen to not be practicing, kindness and charity. Have you sent money to Hurricane Harvey relief? Have you donated your time and efforts?

If so, good for you! If not, shut up.

It is so much easier to criticize others for lacking kindness than to actually practice it for our self.

If one wants to argue that churches are tax exempt therefore subject to certain expectations of philanthropic duty, I would argue it would be this tax exempt status that should be challenged and changed.

Yes, Joel Osteen is very rich through the preaching of a type of feel good philosophy extracted from bits and pieces of the bible. And if that ain’t your thang, then don’t preach a type of feel good philosophy extracted from bits and pieces of the bible or listen to those who do.

He most certainly is guilty of successfully reaching an obvious market for what he is selling.

If I am going to be critical of anyone, it will be directed towards those that cause harm, oppression and cruelty toward others. Like it or not, disagree with it or not, it is fact that Osteen provides hope and happiness to thousands of people on a daily basis. Not exactly the type of person that will be the object of my personal ire.

So as I read story after story of the lying hypocrite named Joel Osteen, I realize this only represents a much more fundamental issue stemming from a basic widespread belief that the act of receiving money in the name of religion to become rich is morally wrong.

To which I would respond that should you subscribe to this belief, as I do, then do not receive money in the name of religion to be become rich nor give to those who are tying.

I am not.

Yet I support the rights of those imperfect individuals who do.



  1. Well stated Jimmy … Personally I have never watched more than 10 seconds of Osteen while flipping through channels on my way to FOX News Sunday. I have never trusted TV evangelists or preachers. So I don’t know diddly about Osteen, but your point about “Don’t like it? Don’t participate!” is excellent.

  2. He runs a charitable organization, and pays no taxes on his donations. I think he has a moral and ethical obligation to open his doors. I personally think that religion is a scam and a way to control people. I also, understand that people find peace in it, but this isn’t religion. You’re supposed to have a personal relationship with your paster. His congregation treats him as if he were a celebrity.

  3. I agree with you that He does not have any moral obligation to help anyone because he is an individual, although he is an individual that represents a religion and many people who listen to him and his interpretation of the word. Though the time of the floods he should’ve like you said “capitalized” or you know done what the Bible says “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Hebrews 13:16 which just to me screams hey man you are someone who spreads the word of god how about you do as he says and help others. I’ve always been told when representing an organization we should only act in a positive manner as to bring light to the organization. Unlike Joel who when given the golden opportunity turned many suffering people away which in many ways I’m sure has put a major dent in his credibility. With that people can choose what they do next to continue to follow him happily, or unhappily, or they can choose to dislike him and his choices and speak out against him. Though his choices were his and he was not obligated to help anyone no matter who he represents. But personally, not opening the doors to people when the church was in good standing. Douche bag.

  4. Professor, I absolutely loved your take on this issue because it is something that has really been on my mind in the wake of the whole “Osteen scandal” if you will. I am someone who does not have any liking for religion whatsoever, whether it be the dogma, the actual scripture or the cult of personality given to people like Joel Osteen or Creflo Dollar (The Atlanta Joel Osteen) and before I read this post, if someone would have asked me if I disliked Joel Osteen, my answer would have been a hell yeah, whereas your insight into how my issue and the issue other people have with Joel Osteen…isn’t with Joel Osteen himself, its with the organization around him and that really opened up my thinking on Osteen as a person. I agree that he should not be looked down upon for being the face of a brand when the problem is the product not the label, if that makes any sense. There is a part of me that thinks Joel Osteen doesn’t believe a word of what he preaches to his congregation and I think his reactions to situations sometimes shows that but I myself have often though of starting a church because you’re right, he gives people hope, instills faith that there is something better out there than this life they live and there isn’t anything wrong with that because frankly if it wasn’t him making $40 million a year, then it would just be a different brand name with the same product. I would like to pose a question to you on this and that is: Do you think the backlash Joel Osteen received due to his response to Hurricane Harvey victims is from followers of Christianity who believe he hurt the image of Christianity or do you think that its from those who have distrust and dislike for religion already?

    • Thanks for the comments Ryan. I really appreciate the contribution. In terms of Osteen, I do not think it is either group. I believe it is any organization that stands to profit from taking a high profile figure and dragging him through the mud. Read: All media trying to make a buck. If one were to choose either of the groups you mention, either pro and anti Christian groups, it assumes a certain integrity toward a cause. The only integrity the media has is toward profit.

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