Is Jesus Too Naive for the American Christian?

“I wish everything only costed $1.”

This was the statement my 8-year-old made recently. The context was what you’d expect – he wanted to buy something and had found out how much it would set him back. And he was lamenting that he didn’t have enough money for that particular thing, and then while he was at it, was thinking how nice it would be if he could just take his few dollars and go to a true dollar store where they had everything – and anything – for sale for just a dollar.

Trampolines. Xboxes. Cars. Whatever. Everything is a dollar.

He wished everything was just $1, and I responded, “No, you really don’t, buddy.” Thus began an attempt at explaining inflation, the cost of goods and services, and eventually even a brief journey into Communism. I’m not sure he followed all my attempts to explain to him why his simplistic view of finances just wan’t practical, and in the end, wasn’t really the best way.

You can see the dynamic, can’t you? An adult sitting with a child. The child naive in his thinking; the adult more schooled in the ways of the world. The child looking through a narrow lens; the adult equipped with every reason why the child’s approach was too simplistic. The child thinking in idealistic terms; the adult trying to pull him back to realism.

And I wonder if we have the tendency, especially in these days, to do the same thing to Jesus.

See, Jesus is many things. Wise. Loving. Compassionate. Understanding – just to name a few. But one thing that Jesus is not is complex. Rather, when turn to the pages of the gospels we find Jesus time and time again speaking in a directly simple sort of fashion. Jesus says what He means, and He means what He says. He does not shy away from difficult truth or sugar coat the soul-level important words of God. We always know where we stand with Jesus because of this simplicity and directness.

And yet there is a temptation in the face of such honesty and clarity to treat Jesus as a naive kind of Savior.

Let me give you an example: “Do not worry…” (Matt. 6:25). This isn’t a suggestion from Jesus. It’s not a self-help kind of pronouncement or a gentle counseling moment from an optimistic friend. It’s a command, and it carries with it the same authority as all the other commands of Jesus. That means the anxiety I feel is more than a momentary feeling; it’s disobedience.

Simple. Direct. Straightforward. And yet my typical response is to treat Jesus like that idealistic 8-year-old I have breakfast with most mornings and shake my head at His statement:

Poor, naive Jesus. I know you said not to worry, but have you looked around lately? Look at the economy. And look at the cost of education. And look at the environment I have to raise kids in. When was the last time you turned on the television, Jesus? Do you know what’s out there?

I’m sure there was a lot less to worry about in the old days – back when times were simpler. But not any more, Jesus. 

We live in a day of complex, troubling issues. And more and more, I fear that we as American Christians are treating Jesus in precisely this fashion. Sure, we know what the Bible says about how we are to treat people. About how we are to not seek revenge. About how we are to care for the least among us. About how we are to have confidence in God over and above any government institution. But in these days, Jesus needs a little help with these issues.

It can’t be as simple as He makes it out to be. Compromises must be made. Allegiances must be formed. Trade offs must be accepted. That’s the way of the world, is it not?

After all, the what’s the alternative? It would be a simple faith and trust that Jesus still expects us to actually follow His commands even if there is a cost to ourselves. And that’s just unrealistic in this day and time.

Isn’t it?

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  • Rebecca Smith says:

    Hello Michael! I very much agree with the article you wrote. It is strange how our minds can somehow change our perspective of the Lord Jesus; from being all-knowing, powerful, and wise, to a God who suddenly needs to know more info about our problems before He is able to aid us. Thanks for writing this piece. It helps me think this topic through.
    P.S.- Is there a word missing in the title of this blog piece? Or a typo. I can’t quite tell. God bless.
    -Becky Smith

  • Michael Kelley says:

    Thanks for these kind words, Rebecca. Glad the article resonated with you. And thanks for the title correction – I need to do a better job copy editing myself!

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