In an adult church school class recently, we were talking about “depending on God,” especially whether that meant waiting passively for help when we have trouble, such as being unable to pay a bill. We didn’t resolve anything in the brief time we had, but we did raise the issue of our responsibility for taking appropriate and timely action to take care of our own needs and for making thoughtful choices.

There’s apparently a whole school of Christian thought out there that God will rescue us from our foolishness and bad decisions. Isn’t that what the Bible says? We need only cite Psalm 34: “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles…. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord rescues them from them all.”

So the woman who overspends on her credit cards on stuff she doesn’t need and then can’t pay the bill when it comes due believes that the check her friend sent out of the blue “because the Lord told me to” is a sign of divine favor and a divine sanction to keep on running up the bills. Or the man who knows he cannot afford a new home unless his old one sells signs the contract anyway and sweats how he will pay. Then a relative at the last minute provides the money he needs  because “in my prayers last night, God laid it on my heart” to help out. And so the man continues thinking that God controls every little detail of his life and will never let him be in dire straits because God always cares for his sheep.

Surely these folk are favored by God! Which means the poor widow on a limited income must not be righteous because she has to watch every expense and even has some utilities, like cable TV, cut off because she can’t pay the bill. Or that the man who dies in a car wreck or from a shooting must have resisted God’s plan for his life and angered God, who abandoned him to whatever may come. Or if victims of a corrupt and/or selfish government would simply trust Jesus, they would have what they needed.

What sort of God is it whose “plan” consigns some to hunger, poverty, grief, and pain while others live charmed lives and get away with anything they do, no matter how stupid or irresponsible?  How can anyone believe in a God like that? If God is like Jesus, then God as he truly is has harsh words for the self-assured, the selfish, and the self-righteous who are certain of divine favor and gentle compassion for those who struggle on the margins, left-out, looked down on, and cast aside.

Besides, the Bible does not speak with one voice on the issue of rescue. Some of the poets may have believed that God delivered people from troubles, and all they had to do was wait on him, but the wisdom tradition differed sharply with such ideas. The sages emphasized good choices made at the right time with an eye to the future. The word “rescue” only occurs once in Proverbs, and then in a negative context (Proverbs 19:19). But over and over, laziness, foolishness, and irresponsibility are condemned.

So next time you get in hot water due to choices you made, don’t look to God to get you out of it. Bear the consequences, and then start making better choices. God gave you a brain; he’s depending on you to use it.

© 2013 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.