MH writes: “I have a very good friend that absolutely adores Joyce Myers. Am I right to say she’s another prosperity gospel teacher? I’ve heard some of her talks before, and the only thing I can discern, is that as a Protestant, she interprets Scripture differently from us Catholics, which I know is to be expected. She speaks on topics that one could easily relate to; such as, how it’s wrong to talk about others behind their back. Is it okay to listen to her, if I remember that her interpretation of scripture is wrong? Or is there more I should know so as to not listen to her?”
I would not advise you to spend too much time listening to Joyce Meyer’s ideas about God and what He expects of us. Even though she may preach about loving one’s neighbor, her philosophy is based in the typical prosperity gospel which is a gross distortion of the teachings of Jesus Christ.
For those who don’t know who Joyce Meyers is, she’s a popular TV evangelist who, like Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, has made a fortune teaching people that they must believe with all their heart that God wants to improve their lives – and be generous to a fault because God loves a cheerful giver. Supposedly, the more they give away, the more they’ll receive.
Fortunately for people like Meyers, who jets around in a $10 million corporate jet and lives in a $2 million home, all that generosity has paid off for no one more than her.
Meyer, born in 1943, is a one-time bookkeeper and mother of four who was sexually abused by her father. She grew up and married the first man who paid any interest in her. He turned out to be a con-artist and the two were divorced in 1966, leaving Joyce and their young son David destitute.
A year later, she met and married her second husband, Dave Meyer, with whom she had three children. In 1976, she claims she was stopped at a red light while driving home from the beauty shop when she had a religious experience that she described as filling her heart with faith about what God was going to do for her. Even though she had yet to realize anything, she began thanking him for it.
Six years later, she left her Lutheran church and became an assistant minister at Life Christian Center, a storefront church. A year later, her first radio show began airing, and eventually spread to other markets. In 1985, her Life in the Word ministry organized itself as a “general not-for-profit corporation.”
In 1993, her husband, had his own religious experience – in the bathroom – where he said “God opened his heart to me.”
The two have built a $90 million-a-year empire which offers television and radio programs to millions of people in 70 countries. She has long been criticized for her lavish lifestyle and there have been a number of scandals associated with her ministry which can be read about here.
As for the prosperity gospel, aka the “name it and claim it” theology, not even Protestant theologians support it.
In this article appearing in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Michael Scott Horton, who teaches historical theology at the Westminister Theological Seminary in Escondido, Ca., said the message is a twisted interpretation of the Bible — a “wild and wacky theology.
“Some of these people are charlatans,” Horton said. “Others are honestly dedicated to one of the most abhorrent errors in religious theology. I often think of these folks as the religious equivalent to a combination of a National Enquirer ad and professional wrestling. It’s part entertainment and very large part scam.”
Sociologist William Martin of Rice University said that in spite of the lavish lifestyles of these preachers – which should be a red flag to their followers – devotees believe their wealth is a “confirmation of what they are preaching,” Martin said.
Jim Bakker, who spent five years in prison for defrauding Heritage USA investors, is now filled with regret for telling so many people that “God wants you to be rich.”
“For years, I helped propagate an impostor, not a true gospel, but another gospel,” Bakker has said in his 1996 book, “I Was Wrong.”
“The prosperity message did not line up with the tenor of the Scripture. My heart was crushed to think that I led so many people astray.”
Meyer is nonplussed by these arguments and insists that God never meant for the godless to have everything while the faithful languish.
“Why would He (God) want all of His people poverty stricken while all of the people that aren’t living for God have everything?” Meyer said. “I think it’s old religious thinking, and I believe the devil uses it to keep people from wanting to serve God.”
It’s easy to see why someone would come to adore the message of Joyce Meyer. Who doesn’t want to believe that God is going to make them rich? The problem is that it leaves them unprepared for something that every Christian knows is a part of the walk – the cross.
Regardless of how good this kind of preaching might make you feel, don’t listen to it. Feeling good is not what our faith is all about. We’re in the business of “being good” like the God we imitate – Jesus Christ. And we can never afford to forget that His path to ultimate victory led straight to Calvary.