Editor’s note: I started this post almost a year ago and shelved it, but after having discussions this week with some other believers about the integrity of God’s Word and then seeing a video clip that reminded me of this post; I decided to come back and finish it.
Back about a year or so ago, I saw one of those Joel Osteen sermons on TV. He used a verse from Proverbs 16 and seemed to quote it accurately but got a completely different meaning out of the verse than I ever would have. The verse he used was Proverbs 16:9 which says, ” In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” I don’t know how you read that verse, but I take it to mean that God’s plan is the one that wins out over mine. For Joel it says that if we don’t make plans, God can’t direct our steps! He then says, “Noah had a plan for the ark. Solomon had a plan for the Temple.” He doesn’t mention that both of those plans came directly from God Himself! But this is what he does with a verse that he quotes more or less accurately. What about all of the ones that he seemingly creates out of thin air or quotes incompletely?
- Faith without corresponding actions is dead – James 2:17 (not sure what translation this is, possibly “New Testament in Modern Speech” based on a search engine hit, whatever version that is)
- Write the vision and make it clear – Hab. 2:2 (only part of the verse and even less of the overall context of the passage)
Then there are verses that are so mangled that they hardly resemble any verse of Scripture anymore:
“Long before God laid down the earth’s foundation He had us on
His mind. Because of the sacrifice Christ made we are free people
and not just barely free but abundantly free.”
If I simply asked you to try and find this in Scripture using a search program, I doubt you would have much luck(I put the first sentence in Google’s search engine in quotes and got zero results); especially if you searched in an actual translation text. The above quote supposedly comes from Ephesians 1:4 according to Joel, but I cannot find any translation or paraphrase of Scripture that actually says this in Ephesians 1:4. The closest match I have found is the Message, which is a paraphrase and not a translation of the Greek text as much as it is a “translated commentary” of some kind. The Message is fine for reading to get a fresh take or something, but it is wholly inadequate for serious study or preaching and teaching. That said, the verse that Joel quotes isn’t even found in the Message itself. It is sort of a patchwork job using the text of the Message “verse” (it appears he may have borrowed some words from other set of verses, even though the Message numbering is pretty loose anyways) as a framework or starting point to create a verse that says what Joel needs it to say.
There is a growing trend among Christians to pick and choose what they like in God’s Word and what they don’t like, which leads to a lot of trouble. This is kind of an obvious example of the problem, but this is a man who gets a lot of respect and obviously has drawn a great crowd of people who wish to hear his message. I pray that God uses the small snippets of gospel that might accidentally find their way in to the broadcasts to make someone ask about who Christ truly is, but I know that they won’t get the true picture from just watching Joel.
I am not doing this to say that Joel is condemned to damnation or anything like that. In all candor, I may never write another post about the guy (after all, this post sat around for a year almost before I finished it). In all seriousness, if someone can kindly point out to me what translation of Scripture Joel uses, I would appreciate it. After a bit of research, it really looks like he is writing and teaching from his very own personal version of a scripture that only loosely resembles the real deal. For that reason alone, I wouldn’t want anyone to take him too seriously.