The Parking Space God

Is God your personal genie? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I was very pleased yesterday to hear my pastor speak out against those people that talk about how God provided a parking space for them when they were driving around and in a hurry. (Personally, I think if people would just be willing to park a distance away, not only would they get in some exercise, but they’d be in and out sooner instead of having to have the “terrible drudgery” of walking a little bit longer, especially when they’re going into a store where they’ll be walking a long time.)

This is along the lines of looking at what has been called Moral Therapeutic Theism. God is there in our lives to make things easier for us. When trouble comes, we look up and ask “What’s gone wrong?” It’s a wonder that we do this since we are in fact promised that we will have suffering.

My wife happens to be enjoying the Vikings series on the History Channel now and last night we saw an episode where a Viking agreed to be baptized, though apparently for show, and the way his fellow Vikings responded to him. Most notably was that how he had betrayed the gods. (And our preview of next week’s episode shows that he is to be offered as a sacrifice and it’s directly tied in to his getting baptized.)

Yet this is what Christians from the beginning had and what Christians around the world still face. It’s not something like changing your career. It’s making a statement about how you view the world and where your loyalty lies. To become a Christian would mean that to those who were loyal to the old view and the old deities, you are a threat. (That also includes the loyalty to the idea of a lack of deities)

Today, we have this idea reversed. We think that God is to serve us. God is to make our lives easier and if he does not do this, then something is wrong. We have lost the idea that we are to be servants. When we think God is to serve us, we make it clear that we view ourselves as greater than God, for who is greater, the master or the servant?

This also ends up with God being trivial. Of course God could provide a good parking space if He wanted, but why think He’s micromanaging the universe just so you don’t have to walk a little bit further? (In fact, in many cases, that could be encouraging laziness)

It also leads to embarrassment before others. I had a friend on Facebook recently put up a status about a lady in line behind him at the grocery store who said God told her to come to another store across town to save 50 cents on one item. My friend was thinking she probably spent that much on gas. What’s the impression given by this? Christians are idiots and God talks to them about matters like this.

Yet what about the person who is going through a struggle and says they want God to show up and nothing happens? What about the person who is not looking for a parking space but is looking for a meal to feed their family? What about the person who is wondering if God will heal their cancer?

Of course, God can provide small blessings at times to people for various reasons, but to emphasize those as a sure sign of His favor brings great pain to those in more dire situations and makes God appear trivial. It becomes the case that God is one who wants you to just sit back and be comfortable and let Him take care of everything.

Now in the long run, God does take care of things. If something is not in our control, by all means do your part and then leave the rest to God, but note that you are to do your part. If you want to be a good apologist, you are to read. If you want to be in good health, diet and exercise. If you want to be in a certain career path, then you need to study for that path and go to school. If you want to be an athlete, you need to train.

The church today needs a robust theology that recognizes God as the sovereign Lord of the universe and not a personal genie. We are to serve Him. He is not to serve us.

In Christ,
Nick Peters