Last week I posted an article that criticised the word of faith movement, following a critique of Andrew Wommack. Prior to posting them I was – and still remain – aware how these sorts of articles can be perceived: proud and presumptuous. I have also written on 1 and 2 Timothy, exploring the perils of being hypercritical, unhealthily fixated on controversy. But amidst those dangers, I am reminded of Paul’s description of an elder, in Titus 1:9, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Paul says elsewhere that with sound doctrine Timothy will save his hearers (1 Timothy 4:16). The implication being that unbiblical and false teaching results in the opposite. Therefore doctrine matters and correction is necessary. So I hope that this piece comes from the same place as Paul’s impassioned anathemas in Galatians 1.
Over the course of this year I have interacted with a handful of people about Joyce Meyer. Despite having written on the unhelpful and harmful half-truths championed by many of the faces that frequent TBN, I felt this short post necessary for at least one very important reason: Joyce Meyer speaks much truth. I have noticed this and so too have the people asking about her teaching. She also regularly quotes the Bible. That being said, Meyer’s entire ministry – indeed how she handles the Bible – is couched in what some have labelled: ‘prosperity lite’. Meyer’s message is a toned down prosperity gospel when compared to others like Creflo Dollar and Benny Hinn. She does not promise wealth, or deploy the tired televangelist rhetoric, ‘sow into this ministry and you will reap far more’; she says things like this: “Who would want to get in on something where you’re miserable, poor, broke and ugly and you just have to muddle through until you get to heaven? I believe God wants to give us nice things.”
The fact that Joyce Meyer does speak biblical truth in her sermons should not fool us into thinking that the rest of what she teaches is harmless. Imagine there was a trendy restaurant in your town that made delicious food, but 1 in every 10 of those meals is laced with deadly poison. Would you send your friends to that restaurant because there is a good chance they will get a tasty meal? No, if you cared about your friends you would never let them go where there is even the slightest chance they will be poisoned. It is no different with Joyce Meyer. Sometimes she serves up truth, but most of the time her messages are closer to Oprah Winfrey’s than the Bible. Like the restaurant that occasionally serves a meal containing deadly poison, Meyer’s teaching is laced with unbiblical and therefore spiritually noxious ingredients.
Maybe you are not convinced by my analogy, so let us consider a verse familiar to many, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe” (James 2:19). In this section of his epistle (2:14-26), James corrects belief, or faith, that is fruitless. He concludes by saying that faith without works is dead (2:26), or as the Reformers put it positively: true faith is never without works. Back to the point at hand, James says that even demons know true things about God. More than knowing things about God they believe them, even speak them (see Mark 5:7). Being familiar with aspects of the Christian faith or able to quote Bible verses occasionally does not mean faithfulness to God.
I have heard and read Joyce Meyer explain the gospel. But that does not mean she is safe and it definitely does not mean I would ever encourage someone to sit under her ministry. Using the logic that her writing and sermons often contains biblical truth – something I remain unconvinced about – does not undo the fact that most of her teaching is far from this. You would not encourage your friends to eat at a restaurant where they might be poisoned. You would not send them to a church pastored by a demon that knows some truth and holds a Bible while preaching. Nor should you endorse the teaching of Joyce Meyer.