God is not a vending machine

by Gavin  

God is not a vending machine

Christian-ese uses terms like this:


  • “May the Lord grant you grace to get through it…”
  • “Let’s pray that God would give you the power you need…”
  • “Let waves of God’s mercy envelop you…”
  • “Immerse yourself in God’s love…”
  • “We need a dose of God’s wisdom in this situation…”


Even some of the songs we sing feed into this…


  • “…Waves of mercy, waves of grace…”
  • “Flow like waters comes Your love…”
  • “…So let Your mercy rain, Let Your mercy rain on us…”
  • “…But Your grace found me when I wasn't breathing…”
  • “…It’s Your love that we adore, it’s like a sea without a shore, don’t be afraid, just set your sail and risk the ocean there’s only grace…” (that has to be my favourite from this list… dude, what are you saying…!!!???)


It’s like the mercy and grace and love and power and wisdom of God are commodities which are dispensed.  These benefits seem to flow to us as things disembodied from God, as if He dishes them out as and when there is need.  The levels of an essential benefit are lacking, so we pray and ask God to bestow more of what we need.  It’s like our receiving of the “every spiritual benefit in Christ” is nothing more than a divine dole, where believers come, ask, and receive – but something akin to a commodity.


Then we come to a verse like Psalm 57:3, and it just seems to reinforce that thinking…


He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Sela.  God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!” (Psalm 57:3, ESV)


Just ponder that last phrase a bit.


What does the psalmist mean when he writes, “God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!”  The context shows us that there was great need, and that God’s intervention was needed – that is clear.  It is 100% certain that this is about God’s actions, and working on behalf of a believer in crisis – we don’t quibble about that.


But at a quick glance this phraseology seems to feed the Vending Machine, does it not?  God, as a person, sends out love and faithfulness.  Even the Hebrew verb seems to add to that understanding, as שָׁלַח (šā·lǎḥ) means to send out, to dispatch, to send way or to set free.


But can I suggest that sometimes we miss something pretty fundamental?  God’s mercy, truth, faithfulness, love, steadfast love, compassion, power and wisdom are inherent parts of His nature.  They are what, in theological circles, we call the attributes of God.  They are intrinsically part and parcel of who God is, in His essential nature.


God’s attributes cannot be detached from who He is as a personal God. These aspects of His own divine nature are not disembodied packages which can be separated, boxed, duct taped, labelled and dispatched from God to people.


While the language may suggest a sending forth of an attribute, surely we should see that our experience and benefit of those attributes are to be found in God Himself.  Yes, to be sure, He radiates such benefits, and we enjoy and encounter and gain from that, but not in any way removed from Him.  As we know God, love God, trust God, fellowship with God, then we experience the radiation of His mercy and love and faithfulness more. 


Let’s not reduce our need, appreciation and appropriation of the glorious attributes of our God to nothing more than packets of commodities which we get.  Yes, they are sent out in a real sense, but they are sent out from Him as an expression of Himself. 


And so, instead of just desiring what the vending machine throws out, let’s be diligent to not forget the relationship from which those glorious benefits flow to us as believers.  Desire Him for who He intrinsically is.


1 comment

Comment from: Cobus Dreyer [Visitor]  
Cobus Dreyer

Thanks for sharing Gav. How often we pray for what we want, and not for what we need. Do we take the time to differentiate between the two before we pray? Just some thoughts…

03/19/19 @ 08:41 pm

Form is loading...