God the Monster
Pastor and writer A.W. Tozer famously said,
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
What we think about God will determine the trajectory of our lives. We can try the atheist and skeptical route but still have to deal with non-thoughts about God and implications of a meaningless life and world.
Most people who claim to believe in nothing are choosing to not believe in a warped and horrific God. Not so much choosing to believe in nothing or a closed system universe with no chance of the Divine or miracles. I gather most people won’t believe in the faulty portraits of God gathered along the way.
“I will not believe in that God of Horror.”
I get it. Been around long enough to hear most of the arguments why God is a monster - suffering and murder and strife in the world tops on the list. I know the arguments about the non-existence of God because apparently science has ruled out all cases for Divinity. I get it, the struggle is real.
Many people walked away from God and the church because of Sunday school teachers telling kids they would burn in hell because of lying, or stealing their siblings toys. Fundamentalist and controlling pastors /priests doing horrible things and abusing their power. I get it. Who would want to believe in a God leading to these kinds of atrocities?
Maybe a lack of faith because of a legalistic gospel that allows no freedom, fun, and joy in life. Rock music bad, Contemporary Christian music good. I get it.
But despite all the misrepresentations of God through sinful humans. The good news is the Bible can handle your doubts and fuzzy pictures of God. We have a perfect example in the teachings of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew.
One story of Jesus that is a prime example of getting out thoughts clear on God is a famous parable (Matthew 25:13-30). Jesus is getting near the end of his life and heading toward the cross. He gives a slew of teachings related to the end of the age and his promised return. This parable is called: “The Parable of the Talents.”
In this straightforward teaching Jesus explains a scenario where three people are given money (talents). These servants are working for a master/boss that needs to leave town for a while (alluding to Jesus’s death and future return). One man given five talents, a second two talents, and the last man, gets one talent.
The first two men (five and two talents) invest the money and watch it grow. When the boss gets back from the trip, he is pleased with the men for using the money wisely. He says, “Well done, good and faithful servants… enter the joy of my master.” No problem, makes sense, a job well done.
But the last man, instead of investing and growing the money… he buries it in the ground. When the master comes home, he’s upset. The reason the one talent man gives for not investing the money, and using it wisely, is because he was “afraid” and saw the man as “harsh.”
The lack of investment and poor stewardship for the one talent man predicated on his view of God. He saw his master as “harsh” and "hard", and afraid of him.
Like many who see God this way today. They're afraid of him and view him as harsh. He is God the Monster.
But is that the picture of Jesus you have in your mind? If we see Jesus, we see the Father, and when we see the Father, we see the Son (John 5:37, 6:46, paraphrase). Does the Bible paint such a bleak picture of God?
For many years I read this parable as a call to financial stewardship, and investing in the Kingdom of God, and not squandering what God entrusts to his people. It's not less than these things.
But the part I missed was how the one talent man missed out on the inheritance because of how he viewed God. If he’d seen the master/God as kind, gracious, merciful, and the giver of the money. Maybe things would be different. He wouldn’t have become sacred and hid the money for fear of screwing up.
You see, the story is not about doing enough for God so he’ll bless and love us. In fact, this story falls right in the midst of the teachings of Jesus that are preparing his disciples for the cross and resurrection. A message of grace, mercy, and justice- not of works. You can’t do enough that is why Jesus is enough. Why his death and resurrection are enough. You deserve to die because you’re not good at keeping the commands of God- but Jesus keeps the commands in our place; becomes sin for us.
The Parable of the Talents is a story about how we see God and our “doing” flowing from a heart of joy and gratitude. It was in the “seeing,” or lack thereof, that made the master angry.
We don’t get into the Cosmic Party of Grace by our efforts or good deeds or religious accomplishments or niceness. We're offered a seat at the table because of the Master who loves to give good gifts to his children.
I believe most of the universe goes to bed tonight believing in a God of Horror. Not, the God revealed to us in Jesus. Our eyes need adjusting, and our hearts need fixing, to know God is not angry at our feeble attempts at obedience.
The God Monster says: work for me.
The God of the Bible says: I already have worked for you. Come and rest and live from here.
What we think about God is of utmost importance.