The more we read and study the Bible, the more painful it becomes when we hear a verse quoted out of context and even used to advocate for the exact opposite of the verse in its context.
In reading through Joel Osteen’s book, Your Best Life Now, this pain is fairly constant. But the worst context-ripping and heart-rending example is Osteen’s use of Colossians 3:2 in Part 1: Enlarge Your Vision. Verses 1-2 read:
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”
If this verse is teaching anything, it’s calling the believer to seek satisfaction and enjoyment in the spiritual realm not the material, in the eternal not in time, in heavenly pleasures not earthly pleasures, in spiritual wealth not in financial wealth, in Christ not in self.
Which, of course, is the exact opposite of what Osteen teaches.
So, how does he solve that “problem”?
Easy, just butcher the verse.
Osteen’s (per)version is, “Set your mind and keep it set on the higher things.”
Osteen manipulates and distorts this verse in three ways in order to make it fit his carnal agenda in total opposition to the Apostle Paul’s intent.
- “Things above” has been changed to “higher things.”
- “Where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God” has been conveniently chopped off.
- “Not on things on the earth” has also been eliminated.
With these three swift and not-so-subtle slashes of the knife, Osteen carves out the words he needs to justify equating “higher things” with greater money, possessions, power, popularity, promotions, and so on.
If we were in any doubt as to what Osteen is trying to do here, the remainder of Part 1 dispels them by his praise for example after example of rampant discontent, greed, and materialism.
The audacity of using a verse in God’s Word to promote exactly the opposite of what God intended that verse to teach is shockingly breathtaking. You’d think Osteen could find a verse or two that would be less obviously perverted and manipulated to support his deceit. But no, he takes one of the most “spiritual” verses in the Bible and mutates it into the most carnal agenda imaginable.
Perhaps it’s little wonder that verse one begins, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things that are above.”
In this case, it’s a big “if.”