Question: “Can Christians live their best life now?”
Answer: Joel Osteen’s bookYour Best Life Nowhas caused many people to seek their “best life now.” Among the claims Mr. Osteen makes are “God wants to increase you financially” (page 5). He goes on to explain that this quest for financial and material increase is actually pleasing to God. No doubt, Osteen is sincere in what he says and believes that wealth and success really are the way to happiness. But is that what the Bible says? Does God want all His children to be wealthy, and does He tell us that is the way to find happiness? More importantly, is our best life now or is our best life in the world to come?
To say that life on this earth is the best you can have is absolutely true—if you’re not a Christian. The non-Christian lives his best life in the here and now because his next life is one of no hope, no joy, no meaning, no satisfaction and no relief from eternal suffering. Those who have rejected Jesus Christ will spend an eternity in “outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This phrase is used five times (Matthew 8:12,22:13;24:51;25:30;Luke 13:28) to describe the miserable existence of those who are thrust into it at the moment of their deaths. So, seeking to enjoy life while they can makes perfect sense for them because they really are living their best life now. The next life will be truly dreadful.
For the Christian, however, life here, no matter how good it is, is nothing compared to the life that awaits us in heaven. The glories of heaven—eternal life, righteousness, joy, peace, perfection, God’s presence, Christ’s glorious companionship, rewards, and all else God has planned—is the Christian’s heavenly inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-5), and it will cause even the best life on earth to pale in comparison. Even the richest, most successful person on earth will eventually age, sicken, and die, and his wealth cannot prevent it, nor can his wealth follow him into the next life. So, why would we be encouraged to live our best lives now? “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
This verse brings us to the next difficulty with the “best life now” philosophy. Our hearts reside wherever our treasure resides. What we value in life permeates our hearts, our minds, our very existence, and it inevitably comes out in our speech and actions. If you’ve ever met someone whose life is bound up in pursuing wealth and pleasure, it is obvious immediately, because it’s all he talks about. His heart is filled with the things of this life, and out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). He has no time for the things of the Lord—His Word, His people, His work and the eternal life He offers—because he is so busy pursuing his best life now.
But the Bible tells us that the “kingdom of heaven,” not worldly wealth, is like a treasure hidden in a field—so valuable that we should sell everything we have to attain it (Matthew 13:44). There are no scriptural admonitions to pursue and store up wealth. In fact, we are encouraged to do just the opposite. Jesus urged the rich young ruler to sell all that he had and follow Him so that he would have treasure in heaven, but the young man went away sad because his wealth was his heart’s true treasure (Mark 10:17-23). No doubt the young man experienced his best life on earth, only to lose the hope of real life in the future. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
But doesn’t God want us to live in comfort and financial security? We have only to look at the Lord Jesus and the apostles to know that the “best life now” philosophy is devoid of truth. Jesus certainly had no wealth, nor did those who followed Him. He didn’t even have a place to lay His head (Luke 9:58). The apostle Paul’s life would certainly not qualify as blessed by Osteen’s standards, either. Paul says, “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27). Does that sound like Paul was living his best life? Of course not. He was waiting for his best life in the future, his blessed hope, “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” for him and all who are in Christ. That is our best life, not this “vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).
How can we expect a world infected by sin to provide our best life now? How can we ignore scriptures like “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7) and “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12) and “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2), and tell people their best life is here and now? How can we count as meaningless the suffering of the early Christian martyrs who were hanged, burned at the stake, beheaded, and boiled in oil for their faith and their faithfulness to Christ, gladly suffering for the Savior they adored? Did they die these excruciating deaths because no one ever told them they could have experienced their best lives if only they pursued wealth and a healthy self-image, as Joel Osteen claims? The Lord never promised health, wealth, or success in this life. We can’t expect the promises He makes for heaven to be fulfilled now, and the Church dare not promise people the impossible illusion of their best life now. Such a promise encourages people to decide for themselves what will constitute their best lives and then reject Jesus when He doesn’t deliver.
The “your best life now” philosophy is nothing more than the old “power of positive thinking” lie repackaged to scratch the itching ears of the current generation. If we know Jesus Christ as our Savior, our best lives await us in heaven where we will spend eternity in joy and bliss, enjoying a life which is better than the “best” we could have now.