You have probably heard by now that the millionaire Prosperity Gospel preacher Joel Osteen refused to shelter people in his megachurch during the catastrophic Houston flood this week. The church was initially said to be closed, when people all over Houston were desperate for refuge; after an enormous media backlash, Osteen opened it as a shelter and distribution center and is now claiming it was never really closed in the first place.
I’ve made no secret about the fact that I believe the Prosperity Gospel is nonsense, and not only nonsense but pernicious error. I have no affection for men like Osteen who have made a fortune preaching it. But I don’t know the facts of this particular story or whether Osteen really behaved as despicably as he seemed to. I have noticed that such selfishness is completely in character, for people who profess that God rewards our devotion and positive thinking with earthly prosperity, whether they are nominally Protestant, Catholic or anything else.
I have, however, just heard a story of generosity which washed the Osteen taste right out of my mouth: the story of Mattress Mack.
I’ve never been to Texas or heard of Mattress Mack, but apparently he’s famous in the Houston area. Mattress Mack is a furniture salesman named Jim McIngvale. He is locally well known for his silly commercials and his two gigantic stores, which some tell me are each ‘big as a village.” These stores are built on elevated floors to protect them from flooding.
“Think a slumber party on steroids,” Mattress Mack reportedly said.
I think it’s the Kingdom of Heaven.
I have no idea what Mattress Mack believes, but he’s living the Gospel. Not preaching his own false Gospel for a tidy sum, living the Gospel. He’s giving up his livelihood to shelter his neighbors.
I am sure that Joel Osteen knows that Proverbs 21:13 tells us, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his deed.” I don’t think Osteen will admit that neither he nor I nor Mattress Mack know exactly how that promise will be fulfilled. Certainly not as some predictable monetary windfall right here on this earth, as nice as that would be, but it will come to pass in some way, in this life or the next.
I pray that God grants Mattress Mack many happy and blessed years, whether in this life or the next, and that He raises up more generous men like him.
(image via Pixabay)