Using God

Erik Cooper —  September 30, 2009 — 4 Comments

Confession time.  I think we use God.

Now maybe that statement takes you back, or maybe it’s as obvious as the nose on Owen Wilson’s face.  Either way, it’s true.  If we’re really honest…I mean really honest…most of us would have to admit we like having God, or at least the idea of Him, in our lives for relatively selfish reasons. It can easily become more about the pursuit of happiness than truth.

And in America, more than any other country on earth, the “God-subculture” provides big opportunity to capitalize on that self-interest.  There’s big possibilities in the “God-business” (and not just for full-time ministers).  We have Christian versions of everything: music, movies, television (God help us all), books, schools, seminars.  Even our churches themselves become big platforms for aspiring artists, speakers, teachers and thinkers.

And (hear me very clearly here…seriously, are you listening?) none of these things are wrong in and of themselves.  In fact, there’s a lot right about it (except for Christian television…I’ve got nothing there).  I’m glad we have talented believers in Jesus Christ dreaming big, creating cultural goods to launch into the world, reigniting creativity and the arts, making our local communities and church gatherings full of vibrancy, and life.  I hope I’m one of them.  But here’s the haunting question:

Are we ever guilty of using God, His Kingdom, His people, His Name as just another of the many available avenues to fulfilling our own, self-promoting aspirations? Is the Kingdom we’re pursuing truly a call to service, to death-to-self, or is it just another vehicle for self-absorbed people (who maybe couldn’t make it to “market” through more traditional means) to achieve their 15 minutes of fame?  I don’t like asking that question.  It makes me uneasy.

The Message paraphrase of Matthew 7:23 puts it in another uncomfortable way:

“All you did was use Me to make yourselves important.”


I don’t enter this dialog with judgment or condemnation.  I’m just learning to live in the tension, to never allow myself to fly forward unchecked without moments of deep introspection or wrestling with the difficult questions.  To never stop diagnosing my motivation, what I see, what I’m pursuing, and why.  I’ve learned my broken humanity too well.

So, what do you think?  Do you ever use God? Is the Kingdom you’re pursuing a way for you to give, to serve, to bring God’s hope and new life into this broken world?  Or is it just another method, an avenue, a vehicle for you to get your fair share from the system? Have you simply invited God into your story, or have you allowed your true purpose to come alive in the role you were designed and destined to play in His?

4 responses to Using God

  1. Ouch! You keep messin’ with my sandbox … keep it up!

    I think Jesus encountered the same attitude in His days on earth. Peterson says it well, “Jesus answered, ‘You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs – and for free.'” (John 6:26) Seems there have always been what’s-in-it-for-me “followers” of Christ.

    Unfortunately too much of what passes for a Christian message has been geared to this appetite for way too long. So … how do we change that?

    • Constant tension we live in, isn’t it Chuck? I think we have to continue to challenge how much of our definition of Kingdom has actually been clouded by our Americanism (or whatever culture we live in). Not to beat up America…couldn’t be happier to live in this amazing country. But I think I get confused (innately…naturally) into thinking that the Kingdom is about pursuing my happiness, getting my fair share, the American dream. So I guess my answer, on some level, is “I don’t completely know.”

  2. that explains a lot of what I just couldn’t put my finger on or should I say my tongue couldn’t define what I was feeling. Thanks for speaking it out in words that I could identify what it is that keeps bothering my soul in many areas of “christianity”. It’s the motive, not the message.

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