There are many bible teachers who demand joy from people, even going so far as to deny the title “christian” or “brother” to those they deem to lack joy. Of course, it should be noted that the lack of joy one may have directly corresponds with questions or criticism of ministries.
It should be obvious that “joy” in this context is being misused, or rather abused. I have yet to see a person employ this tactic (pulling the joy-card) who isn’t later revealed to be a false teacher. Their false demand for an ambiguously defined joy is in essence a demand for people to not ask questions or levy any complaints their way. Taken to its logical conclusion, however, demands for joy is a demand for works in order to achieve righteousness and salvation. Red flags should be present whenever a “reformed” person pulls the joy card.
There are several reasons “teachers” employ the joy-card.
- Deflection: it deflects the inquisition, changes the subject, and redirects focus so now they ask the questions;
- it is a shaming tactic in order to appear morally superior;
- manipulation: it makes those who have questions or criticisms doubt themselves, and/or makes them fear of speaking up.
- arrogance: the teacher wont acknowledge your point or question as being legitimate. You are just mad and lack joy. End of discussion.
Such tactics are often employed on social media, where a false authority faces an information imbalance – a person knows more about them than the teacher knows about the random person. The teacher uses criticism (any criticism) from a random person to make themselves a victim. You, the random person, are spiritually wrong or weak to criticize you moral superior.
The fact that the target of these teachers is a lack of joy is interesting. An honest person who is troubled by unfair criticism would address creating division, enmity, etc. That acknowledges the criticism, however. Where there is criticism, there is often the question of whether it is justified. By deflecting and shifting the matter to a person’s alleged lack of joy, however, you don’t acknowledge any of that. The deflection is a result of arrogance. That arrogance is not a trait any “teacher” or “elder” should have. (Read Training Pastors and Elders in the Church).
If you have a shaming tactic used against you by a person claiming to be a church authority, you have encountered a spiritually abusive person. Spiritual abuse is a fruit of an evil spirit. I will have to discuss that at some point in the future. Until then, I encourage all to read The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen.
- Joy is experienced by those who aren’t saved
- Those who are saved can have few moments of happiness in their life. Persecution cough cough.
- There is a significant difference between Joy and comfort/Peace. Notice how these types avoid this discussion entirely. They thrive on ambiguity. (See my article on word salad).
Yes, Joy is a fruit of the spirit, as discussed in Galatians 5:22. It is set in a list of fruits of the spirit that contrast with deeds of the flesh. You will not find “sorrow” or “pain” among the list of deeds of the flesh. That is for a reason. Scripture is full of sorrow and suffering. Think of Job, the psalms, or of the origination of “the man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3).Romans 15:13 associates joy and peace with trust in the lord (sometimes translated as faith or hope).
It is theologically problematic to associate criticism of a “teacher” or ministry as lacking joy, just as it would be problematic to associate all criticism with several deeds of the flesh. It is especially problematic when the ministry or teacher regularly engages in criticism of others themselves (such as feminism).
Don’t get caught up in the fear-inducing demands for works, and extra-biblical mantras such as “Christian hedonism,” etc. If you see “teachers” exhibiting fragility online, stay away from them.