“God helps those who helps themselves,” is an idiom I’d hear every so often as a child to help illustrate that, in order for God to act in a person’s life, it requires a certain amount of effort. Nowadays I’ll hear a phrase, attributed to Robert Madu, that God is “motion activated.” These sayings seem harmless enough. After all, encouraging people to participate in the life of Christ is something we should all be involved in. But I’m concerned that, at the root of these sayings, there is a deep, underlying, theological assumption: That we, as humans, empower God and His Kingdom.
For those who would accuse me of over analyzing a “simple” phrase, please understand that for every person who would say, “We understand that it’s God, the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to work in and for the Kingdom of God;” there is another who will ask, “if we don’t do anything, how will God act?”
The truth is that we live in a results driven culture; and for some Christians there is an understanding that God is the best means by which to achieve those results. We talk about a God who’s activated with the right sequence; as though He’s MS-DOS and we’re just typing in file commands. But where is the right prayer that opens doors and heals the sick? What spiritual discipline gives us more faith and sheds our stress? Few of us would actually think of God like a computer program yet we’ll hold a largely “cause and effect” outlook in our relationship with Him. I call it “Christian Karma.”
I’m not above this in any way but it tends to manifest itself in a negative sense. Because while it’s a tad easier to remember that God has blessed me with certain gifts and skills without any personal merit; it’s really, REALLY difficult to remember that the things I struggle with are not all self-inflicted.
Why do we think this way though? Honestly, I think because the alternative is terrifying. Imagining a God who allows good and bad things to happen to individuals irrespective of our choices is just that: terrifying. When we’re blaming ourselves for bad things happening to us, at least we feel in control.
The reality is that for every prayer God answers (and make no mistake that He does, indeed, answer prayer), there are hundreds more who get what they want without a second thought. And for every person who is in the hospital because they were t-boned in the middle of an intersection; they are joined by one who hit them because they’d had one too many to drink, that night.
Trying to make sense of it all, why bad and good things happen to everyone, as if life and God are a huge cosmic puzzle, is not the point. Rather, I want my friends and family to understand that we, as people, are not in control. As much as we fight and claw our way to get the results we desire we are all dependent upon God. And while that may be a scary proposition, it truly is better that way.