Ever said that one out loud? I have. I’ve said it pretty recently, as a matter of fact. In my circumstance, it came from a particularly difficult weekend dealing with disease and its implications for our family. And it came as Andi, my 1-year-old, was still crying at 3 am. And I looked up into the sky and said, “You owe me. With all of the stuff happening in our lives, we still go to church. I blog everyday about You. I wrote books and stuff. You owe me, even if it’s just a peaceful night.”
But that statement also finds its way into streams of theology like the prosperity gospel, which essentially claims that God will give you good material things in exchange for you doing the right thing. And there we have the key word – exchange.
We consistently, I believe, try to enter into spiritual bargains with the Lord. We want to exchange our obedience for money. Or our faith for lack of trouble. Or our commitment for a healthy family. We did it as children and we’re doing it as adults. As children, it looked alot like a belief in Santa Claus whereby we are good citizens all year long to make it on the “nice” list. As adults, the stakes are just a little higher.
It is in this statement, “You owe me,” that I see the true depth of my consumerism, even in faith. It’s one thing to come to Burger King and claim that I paid good money for this Whopper and I didn’t want any onions… It’s another thing to come to God Almighty and hold up my “rights” before Him.
I think today of Hebrews 11, and the rights of the faithful people recorded there:
And what more can I say? Time is too short for me to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength after being weak, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead raised to life again. Some men were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection, and others experienced mockings and scourings, as well as bonds and imprisonment.
They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground (Hebrews 11:32-37).
It’s remarkable how easily and quickly the writer transitions between those people who killed giants and saw the dead raised and those who were sawed in two and lost their lives. The common characteristic between them all? Faith.
It’s a them often repeated on this blog, but one that gets all the more real as time passes: Faith is not determined by circumstance; faith surpasses circumstance.
Faith that surpasses circumstances realizes that God doesn’t owe us a thing; it’s the belief that God does as He pleases, and that what He pleases is good. Even when we don’t understand.
God, save us from a consumeristic faith. Save us from petty bargains.