Saturday, August 27, 2011

God isn't a vending machine

One of the things I’ve been working on in my spare time is a writing project on the strange side of the Christian subculture when it comes to dating and singleness. I may eventually turn it into a book if I can find enough to say. One of the sections I’ve been working on lately is on questionable advice for finding a partner. A common sentiment out there I deal with in it is the idea that God will send along a partner as soon as you become fully content in God and with being single. Although there is some quite severe flaws in using contentment as a tool to get something, sometimes the logic is tempting.

It is tempting to think that we can do the right things and God will come through with giving us what we want. It seems like a relatively easy and very neat solution to our perceived problems.This doesn’t just apply when it comes to finding a partner. It might take the form of “give lots of money and God will bless you materially” or “Be really holy and God will heal you.” or “be dedicated to serving God and he will make sure everything works out”.

Contentment, giving, holiness and serving are all wonderful things and all Christians should be striving to improve at them. However, God is not a vending machine and those things are not coins. We don’t get to insert our goodness and have what we want appear.There isn’t an chart out there that lists the behaviors or states of perfection at the achievement of which God will automatically dispense what we want.

Rather than being a vending machine, God is a good father who gives good gifts. (see Matthew 7:9-11). He only gives us what will be for our good. Kids I know who have gotten pretty much everything they asked for from their parents have ended up pretty messed up. God is a better father than to let that happen to us. As is often the case with kids, we often get confused and a bit grumpy that we aren’t being given the really great seeming thing we’ve asked for. We can’t always see his perspective on what’s good. The things he gives us are also gifts. We can’t earn them or deserve them. Even if we could reach the unachievable standard of perfection we would only be mustering what would be an entirely reasonable response to a holy, loving and good God. Our salvation and any other good thing God chooses to give us are gracious, undeserved gifts.

It is usually insulting to try to pay someone for a gift they have given you. Instead of petty and fruitless attempts to earn stuff from God, we should be living a life of thankful worship to God. We trust him to give us what we need not because we deserve it for being holy but because he is our father seeking our good.