I’ve noticed a disturbing view that many Christians seem to absorb who grow up in the church. Basically, the church view says that life is so unpredictable and unknowable that it’s pointless for Christians to make plans to achieve goals. In fact, the only thing that Christians can do, on this view, is to wait for God to provide whatever he’s going to provide, without the person having to know or do anything that they don’t feel like knowing or doing. On this view, it’s best not to know too much about how the world really works, because what God wants from us is not to produce a return on our talents, but for us to just muddle through on our prayers, intuitions and feelings.
Well, which view is right? Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason has an opinion on this question.
In Matthew Jesus talks about prayer and says, “Ask and it shall be given to you.” But Jesus didn’t stop there. He went on to say, “Ask and it shall be given to you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened.” So it’s not just asking, there’s seeking and knocking as well. In the same passage Jesus gives us this famous promise. He tells us not to worry about food and clothing because food and clothing will be provided by Him. He says, Look at the lilies of the field, they don’t toil or weave. Look at the birds in the field, they don’t plant and harvest. The Father takes care of them. He’ll take care of you as well.
Now, are we going to read that verse and conclude that God doesn’t expect us to weave or till the soil? Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3, “Anyone who does not work ought not eat.” It seems to me we could say to Paul, “Why should we work? Jesus has promised to take care of us.” We all understand that in a verse like there is a corporate effort. God has promised to take care of us, but we have to couple that command with other commands that God has given us to toil and weave, as well. To work, as well. And, I would say, to try and find ways to get pregnant that are morally acceptable. The same thing with dating and getting married. We have the liberty to find a mate, and I don’t see in any way, shape or form that that’s not trusting God.
Now, in any of these things there may be a sense of franticness in getting a job, or getting pregnant, or getting a mate that represents an attitude that’s wrong. It can be taken to extremes, but then our Christian ethic would inform our attitudes. The very act of taking the initiative in itself is not unbiblical.
In fact, the way I would put it is that it’s 100% God and 100% man. What does that mean? It means that God, even though He is in control and we must look to Him, still delegates a portion of active responsibility to us so that He can see to it that we’re fed and clothed, but it’s our responsibility to go out and look. You can do the act of looking with confidence that God will provide. I think that that obtains in all of these other circumstances, as well.
So there’s is not this sharp dichotomy between God working and our working. They go hand in hand. If God expects our initiative in the area of food and clothing, though He has promised to provide, by what standard do we disqualify taking initiative in the ares of reproductive technology and dating? It appears that He’s in control here, too.
I think that there are three places where the fatalistic view is most likely to creep up. Those are: 1) romantic relationships, 2) parenting and 3) money management. I think people really want to be free to do whatever “feels good” in those areas. Praying about these matters is a way of stealing God’s blessing for a decision that we are making based on feelings, because we don’t want to be bothered to take the initiative and do what we have reasons to believe will work. We don’t want to have to put in the work to study something and then bind our will to what our investigation shows is the most prudent course – even if it’s more difficult.
Some things aren’t going to work whether we pray about them or not, because of the way the world works. For example, buying lottery tickets instead of stocks as our retirement plan or marrying the buxom blonde stripper. Praying about a bad idea isn’t going to make it work, because our feelings don’t change the universe in any way. The universe is the way it is. My advice is to set specific goals, find out how the world really works, and then make informed decisions to achieve those goals. At the very least, don’t think that praying about something morally wrong gives you permission to do it.
I really recommend that people consider reading “Decision Making and the Will of God“. And, if you are male and you like fiction, then read “Rifleman Dodd“. In case you missed my previous post on decision making and the will of God, you should definitely click through and read it.