Jesus Is Not a Slot Machine

I have a friend, we'll call her Jane (this is safe because I do not, to my knowledge, actually  have a friend named Jane), who has of late started to really get into the idea that if she puts in, as she calls it "face time with the Big Guy Upstairs" that he's going to "honor and bless her obedience" - specifically, those blessings are going to manifest in increases in her home business. Every time she calls, she has to make some mention of how she got up early to pray or read the Bible or how she's working to make sure she prays while on the toilet, etc. etc. And on the one hand, I don't want to diminish the fact that it's GOOD to make time for devotions and prayer (though I, perhaps, could live without knowing you're doing it every time you go potty, but well, that's just me.) But Christianity is not a mathematical equation. You do not deposit five days of Bible reading and sixteen prayers and get four new clients. That's just not how it works.

I don't really know how to broach (is that the word I'm looking for? It looks weird.) the topic with her though. Especially as she has also really started being diligent about her business right now too, so she is getting new clients - but honestly, she's calling five people a day looking for them. I suspect the uptick in business has more to do with that than anything else. Which sounds like I'm saying that God doesn't provide blessings to the obedient, which isn't what I'm trying to say at all, it's just that if you base your faith completely on I did X and therefore God did Y (which is very much the mindset in the case of Jane, because she has said as much to me), then you're setting yourself up for a severe crisis of faith the first time you do X and Y does not follow. And that will, most likely, happen at some point.

What I find even more confusing (slash slightly ironic) is that she loves to tirade about the "name it and claim it" folks out there. So far I've managed to bite my tongue and not ask exactly how she's any different - because I think she'd be truly horrified/offended. But really...how is treating Jesus like a slot machine any different?

Yes. God blesses obedience. Sometimes tangibly. Sometimes immediately. And sometimes only in light of eternity.

I feel like I need to mention something the next time it comes up, but I'll tell you...I'm rather stymied as to how, exactly, to put it into words.


Eric Siegmund said...

Too bad you and Jane are not guys, because then next time he told you how this prayer thing was working out, you could reply, "speaking of that, I've always wondered...when you have two football teams with strong Christians as quarterbacks, and you just know they're both praying for victory, how does God decide which pray to answer?"

Then, since all guys are so introspective and sensitive and stuff, he'd understand that you weren't really talking about football at all, and give you one of those double-backtap manly hugs, and you could bump fists knowing that doctrinal equilibrium has once again been achieved.

But, in your case, I have absolutely no advice.

Jen said...

Sounds like she doesn't have a true understanding of grace. She's still thinking she has to earn her way to blessing when really God blesses as He sees fit whether we're obedient or not. Blessing has nothing to do with what we do and everything to do with what God chooses.

And that isn't helpful, either, is it?

beth said...

Eric - I might just try that tactic anyway. I could use a good back slap :)

Jen, that may be part of it. She was raised Catholic and I'm not really 100% sure that she actually has come to Christ (I've probed there and get questions about how she talks to God and they have a relationship - but nothing that, at least to my ears, sounds like a salvation story - but that's really between her and God so I try to just insert gentle thoughts here and there rather than beating her up about the sinner's prayer.) Coming around from the idea of grace though might actually be a good approach.

Eric Siegmund said...

Ooh, the Catholic background thing was a key omission in your story. I think Jen's onto something.

I visit with a lot of Catholics through our church's benevolence ministry, and while some of them are on pretty solid Biblical ground in the important parts of doctrine, many are still struggling on the wrong side of the grace/works issue.