Thursday, May 1, 2008

WWJOD (What Would Joel Osteen Do?)

photo of sub sandwichI finished up a run while on my layover in Dallas. It was dinner time, and I didn’t feel like turning getting something to eat into too much of an adventure, so I decided to grab a sub at Subway. Before I went in I checked the posted hours of operation. My watch said 6:32 p.m., but it was 8:32 Dallas time. The sign said they were open until 9:00. No problem!

As I went in, I noted that one of the employees that was headed for the back kind of rolled his eyes - then I saw why. You know the little tubs they keep all the ingredients in behind the glass at Subway? Well every one of those was pulled out and stacked up on the edge of the counter with lids in place. Every single one. (Except for the ones I shortly discovered they already hauled off to the refrigerator.) At that point I considered going somewhere else, but the other guy grudgingly came up and asked me what I wanted. I gave him my order as I dutifully waited for him to fumble around, trying to find the ingredients I wanted in those huge stacks of tubs.

Eventually he had my sub assembled, minus a couple of things because I didn’t want to wait all night. Time to pay. He then said something rather unexpected. He told me he’d have to do a “drop” in order to have me pay, so he let me have my 6" sub and medium Diet Coke for free. I wasn’t totally sure how all of this fit together in the grand scheme of things, but hey, who am I to argue? So I grabbed my sub, filled up the cup, and sat down to enjoy my free meal.

As I was munching away, oil and vinegar dripping on the table, I said what was probably a rather selfish prayer. I prayed that the Lord would send somebody else to come in and order. I didn’t want to be the only dunce in a rather large Subway eating at 8:40 p.m.

My other thought was a little more of a theological one. What would Joel Osteen do (WWJOD)? (This isn’t an original expression - I’m not sure who first phrased it.)

Pondering, I remembered a sermon of Pastor Osteen’s that I saw him preach on TV. He was talking about God’s favor. Now think about how he’d say it too. “God’s faaaa-ver.” That’s right! The part I really remember is him talking about getting on an airplane and having a seat in coach. He got settled in, and then out of the blue the Flight Attendant asked him if he’d like to sit in First Class. Of course, just like me, he said yes. He related that event to God’s “faaaa-ver.” The thought goes something like this: If we do things that God likes, if we walk in His ways, we get a reward. A sort of “tit for tat” relationship, in a good way. If we think positive thoughts, good things will happen. Basically, we control our own destiny, and God tags along because we’re so likeable.

I guess I just can’t quite see eye to eye with Pastor Osteen on this one though. I think it went more like this: The two guys in Subway just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. They were being poor employees by putting stuff away too early. I just happened to walk in at 8:32 and get a free meal because of their slothfulness. It wasn’t because of God’s faaaa-ver. As a matter of fact, I’d have to say just the opposite. I’d say what I do in life often warrants God’s dis-faaaa-ver. It’s only because of the work Jesus did for me on the cross that God sees me in a favorable light. Otherwise, I’m sunk. The good works I do were created in advance for me to do, and without Christ’s righteousness covering me, they’d be useless.

Pastor Osteen’s faaaa-ver sermon is nothing more than a Theology of Glory. He’s turning God into what he wants God to be, not how God has revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ through the prophets and the apostles. He wants God to be a glorious God who faaaa-vers us when we get a good report card. But God doesn’t promise us a wonderful life. Our life as Christians is tied up in Jesus’ death and resurrection. It’s not a life that the world would picture, but often a life of humiliation and suffering. It’s a life of weakness and trust not in ourselves, but in Him who atoned for our sin on a cross. It’s the exact opposite of the god the world wants. It’s not a life that we Christians always want either. But it’s a life that, through our suffering, draws us closer to Christ. While we may kick and scream at God’s treatment of us, just like a parent disciplines their child, it is for our good. And that’s why it’s good to eat at Subway. You get a free meal and a little theological topping to go along with it.

Oh yeah. At 8:46 p.m. two other people walked in and ordered. I didn’t have to sit there and be the only person after all. God does answer prayer!

1 comment:

wrmyers said...

To put the best construction (I've received recent catechical instuction online regarding the 8th commandment!) perhaps the Subway employees were not being slothful. Rather, they may have remembered the Olsteen sermon I listened to yesterday on an old "Issues" mp3 in which JO was teaching how to "make deposits" in the "accounts" of those they meet in their daily lives. Now, if I remember correctly, your account is in deficit, and you OWE the slothful workers big time!