God is not a vending machine

18Apr11

Wednesday lunch time las week was good. A sandwich alongside a conversation with Martin. We talked about a lot of things and not just about being part of God’s church.

As we parted, heading back to our desks the conversation paused, paused on the statement of this blog post title: God is not a vending machine.

Later that day, as I cooked tea in relative peace (Mary was out for a walk round the block with the wild things) I started to think through this statement a little more and I want to unpack it a little bit. One thing I have been learning more about on my journey is the value of prayer. One of my personal reflections is how easy it is to fall into a monologue and then think of this as prayer. Presenting a list: I need this, that, oh, and while I am thinking of it, could I have one of those and could you please arrange for this to happen/not happen. Its not like I am after a Mercedes Benz (I have the work car rental lucky dip for that, but that is another story), just simple things like health, no accidents, happiness and so on. It is so easy to think of a relationship with God with him playing the part of the “cosmic butler” (take a look at the work and writings of Mark Sayer and Don Miller for more on this).

Now, I might have this wrong, but I believe God does not exist simply to turn up at the right time with the right things so my life is easy (but I accept this might be because I am praying the wrong prayers or have not given enough money to the church) and the more we think God acts like this, the less the world makes sense. I mean, if he turns up and gives me good things, who’s to say he doesn’t turn up and give other people bad things. This is not the God I have come to know, and believing this kind of God will ultimately make things much harder as life being life, I will experience some misfortune and have no way of understanding it.

Now, these thoughts are still a work in progress, but I happy with that and while I have questions and do indeed search for answers these words from Don Miller are helpful:

Do right theological answers matter to me? Absolutely. Do I believe there are right answers to hard theological questions? Of course I do. Do I believe God has given us the answers to all the tough questions? I absolutely do not. I think God has given us limited information, much like a father does His children, giving them more information as they need it for their stage of life.

The issue to me is, then, about trust. Do I trust God? Do I have faith in God? Do I love God?

I often meet people who trust their answers about God, but it doesn’t seem like they trust God. When they but up against the unknown complexities of life, they find security in their own answers. They love their own minds. From a Donald Miller blog post

I love the bit about trusting in *our* own answers about God, rather than trusting in God. And, while I am sure people will disagree with me (or Don, but take that up with him), I think the idea of  treating God as a vending machine sits in the first camp – a particular view of God has been constructed and trusted – whereas I believe the reality is a little lot different: God wants brokenness to be restored through relationships, relationship with him, with others, with the world we live in and with ourselves.

peace

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3 Responses to “God is not a vending machine”

  1. Resonate with what you are exploring T, immediately brought to mind the following

    “Prayer might not change things, but it will change my perspective of things. Prayer might not change the past, but inevitably, it changes the present.” – Margaret Feinberg

    I think it’s easy to get sucked into having a consumerist approach to God when some times it is more approariate to, as a spiritual practice perhaps more relevant this week as we prepare for Easter, as we look forward to and anticipate the bright light in the darkness, join the dark parts of our hearts and the dark parts of world and rest there and ask God to join us.
    Remembering all the time that our circumstances don’t change who or what God is and that just because we are not experiencing seasons of material / health / financial / other ‘blessing’ that doesn’t mean God is not with us.
    I found often that God is even more present when it all goes belly up because I have no-one else to rely on and I feel God with me more than when I am seduced into relying on myself / my money etc.

    A good word Tobs, keep challenging.

    Grace & Peace

    A

    • 2 tobit

      thanks Al, I like the quote. I like to think prayer can change the future though, at the least, our perception of it – I hold on to Abraham’s exchange with God about Sodom

      • I like to think that too, and I think that the key word in the quote is ‘might‘ – “Prayer might not change things” But also, it might change things and I live in hope that is the case.



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