a vending machine work? How does a vending machine supposed to work? You insert your money, pick out a snack or beverage, and out it pops. (Sometimes it requires some kicking and shaking to get that which you desire) but this is how a relationship with a ‘functioning’ vending machine works. You put something in, to get something out–an equal exchange.
How many times are we guilty, of allowing this train of thought of equal exchange, lead our Christian walk?
Oh, the blessings come down
As your prayers go up
The blessings come down
As your prayers go up
The blessings come down
As your prayer go up
So build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our relationship with God, like any relationship, is complicated, yet simple. Firstly, there can be no equal exchange (nor does He usually supply instant gratification). We cannot earn our way to heaven. Why else did Jesus pray in the garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Mtt. 26:39 ESV). Only because of love, grace, and sacrifice, are we able to experience the freedom from sin and the gift to worship our God for eternity. Our sin was too great, “Who, oh Lord, could save themselves, Their own soul could heal?” (Matt Redman “You Alone can Rescure”), only the blood of an innocent savior could ransom us.
This can be a very difficult concept for us to understand. C. S. Lewis himself explored it within his book, The Skrewtape Letters. Throughout the book, one of the minor themes within it is love. The demonic forces within these pages are confused, for divine love can be explained as 2=1 or 3=1, that God gives freely, and gives beyond than what can be repaid. While demonic love can be explained as 1=1, that they give only so that they can benefit, and their love, is like our love for a hamburger. The two do become one; however, the stronger benefits from the destruction of the weaker, which can be clearly seen in Skrewtape’s finale letter to his nephew, “The difference is that I am stronger. I think they will give you to me now; or a bit of you. Love you? Why, yes. As dainty a morsel as ever I grew fat on” (171).
Like us, God wants a genuine relationship. Can a marriage be souly built on flowers, chocolate, and sex? Can a marriage stand on things, or on love?
Long ago, when man believed more in gods than science, the ancients thought that they could manipulate the gods by their acts. If they offered the gods sacrifices, prayed to them, worshiped them through their priestesses, then they would win favor from the gods. But if they neglected the gods, then they would suffer their wrath. However, God is not like these gods. Though He desires obedience, is He not the one who “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust?” (Matt. 5:45)
You cannot accumulate karma with God. He does not abide by Retribution Theology, for He does not always reward the good and repay the evil by each act. The book of Job serves as a disclaimer for this type of belief: “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east” (Job 1:1-3). Job was faithful to God and He had blessed His servant. However, on one occasion, Satan came before God and claimed that Job only loved Him, because He had blessed Job, for Satan did not believe that Job truly loved God, only the things that God had blessed him with. (There is some question to whom ‘Satan’ is within this passage. The Hebrew for this word is הַשָּׂטָן (hasatan) which is translated as “the satan.” “Satan” in Hebrew means “adversary” or “accuser,” meaning, that this could either be the Satan, the Devil, who we know because of the insight of the New Testament, who doubts that man can love God; or, it could be “the satan” a member of the Divine Council, the prosecuting attorney, who truly cares about Yahweh’s relationship with man. There is both support and hurdles to leap over for both interpretations.) Nevertheless, God allowed Job to be put on trial; Satan took away everything from Job, his herds, his children, even his health. His friends and wife asked Job what he had done to deserve this, and he told them ‘nothing,’ that he had not earned this wrath. Yet, after all his blessings had been taking away, leaving a wife who told him to, “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9), Job remained faithful to God, proving that a genuine relationship between deity and man can exist.
Christianity, is not a vending machine religion, so let us not practice it. Let us love the Lord as the Shema commands, with all of our hearts, souls, strength and minds (Deut. 6:4-9); love Him, not because He is a genie who grants us wishes, or Santa Claus who brings us presents, but because He is God, because He is love.
*Inspired from lectures by Dr. Youngblood and Dr. Hunt