Let’s not mince words:
God is not coin-operated.
Yes, I know, this is obvious. We all of us readily admit we know this.
Then why, I must ask, do we stand in front of the imagined vending machine from heaven, banging our fists on the glass, punching the coin return button, incessantly pushing on the trap door and groping around for the item we thought we’d purchased, venting our frustration and demanding justice, or at least an acceptable explanation?
Do we believe God is true?
Do we believe he is sovereign?
Do we believe he alone has the words of life?
Do we believe he knows our circumstances and understands our days?
Yes, I believe, we all of us, again, readily admit we know this.
Yet, as we find in the well-intended, but misguided words of Elihu, Job’s most eloquent comforter, a subtle yet significant flaw in our reasoning about the implications of such knowledge. Elihu says, in Job 37:23-24 (MSG):
“Mighty God! Far beyond our reach! Unsurpassable in power and justice! It’s unthinkable that he’d treat anyone unfairly. So bow to him in deep reverence, one and all! If you’re wise, you’ll most certainly worship him!”
So much rides on that word “unfairly”. Imagine Job, whom God, himself, describes as “honest and true to his word – totally devoted to God and hating evil.”
Doesn’t seem fair, does it, the things which have befallen such a man? Elihu is trying to convince Job to confess all that he’s done wrong to deserve God’s harsh judgment.
Our view of God’s fairness is far too often centered on us – our self-centered interpretation of his actions.
So, am I saying it’s possible God could act unfairly? Honestly, my perspective would frequently label his actions as such. Yet, to believe what I truly believe, I must admit my perspective is not accurate, or at least not complete.
In light of his view, of which I have only occasional, fleeting glimpses, I trust there is nothing unfair about his actions, though my view stands in contrast, admittedly corrupted by my weak, self-anchored vision.
I trust, at least I try to trust, that he does all things well.
As Jesus says himself in Matthew 11:16-19 (NIV):
“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating or drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors, and “sinners.”‘ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”
Yes, wisdom is proved right by her actions. Of course. Yet, we wonder, how wise can it be for Jesus to befriend such as these? Are these actions wise?
Seems awfully unfair. Especially since he hasn’t danced to my tune. This is not what I ordered. Can I get my money back?
Please, Lord, save me from the folly of presuming to know what you ought to do.