Monday, August 3, 2009

What If God Doesn't Bless You? Do You Still Obey?

a/k/a If I'm Not Getting Anything Out of It, Why Bother?

So, a comment to a post by Susanne reminded me of a post on another blog (I've looked but can't locate the post, sorry) from a while ago. The basic premise of the post, though, was what if you *knew* that no matter what you did, you were not going to be admitted to Heaven. As in, God Himself came down and said, 'Look, I appreciate what you're doing, there, obeying all my laws, worshiping. All in all being a great person. It's all very nice. But here's the thing. You don't make the cut. Sorry. Ta.' Would you, with certain knowledge that you're not getting the reward at the end of the race, keep playing by the rules? Or would you cut loose and indulge?

Most, if not all, of the people who responded said, no, of course I would still obey! Because it's God, and He deserves our worship, no matter what! And I'll be honest, I laughed myself silly and didn't respond, but the answer was, 'hell no! and if ya'll'd be honest, you'd say no too!' I mean, what's the point? If, no matter how good I am, no matter how perfectly I believe and keep the laws (whichever covenant you think applies), I'm damned? Hah. Then I'm going to live it up down here, because there's no frickin' point in denying myself! Drink, steal, sex *all over the place* because I'm not hurting myself! Mwahahahaaaa....*runs rampant over the earth*

And I forgot all about it. Then I saw the comment on Susanne's post. And the mention of the people who are promised that good things will happen to them if they just believe! If you just convert and join my church, all your troubles will dissolve! It's only because you lack faith that you lost your wife and your car and you job and your health is terrible! If you had faith you would be rich and powerful and healthy! Mental illness? God is *punishing* you for your lack of faith! *pauses to spit and gnaw on the furniture some more - jackasses* And these people, rightly, leave the church after they join and, lo and behold, their lives don't magically get better! We're not *promised* perfect lives, if only we believe. No, we're promised hatred and suffering as Christians in this world. So where in all the hells did these 'name it-claim it', 'prosperity gospel' yahoos get this idea? I mean, I know why they do it, they're all sleazeballs who want to get rich, and do. So, clearly, believing in God and following His commands is not done to get an earthly reward. Nope.

But isn't that, to a certain extent, what we do if we obey and believe just because we want to go to Heaven? It's not an earthly reward, no, but if that's the *only* reason we do it, because God dangled the shiny carrot in our faces, how is that better? Because you don't ever really *know* that you're going to Heaven. Not until it's all over. We have faith, yes, and we trust in God's mercy, but you have no concrete *assurance* of it. God doesn't hand you a key at some point and go, 'Okay, very nice. Your place is assured. Carry on.' Not until it's all over and there're no more chances to repent *or* to screw it all up.

So why *should* we believe and obey?

Because He is God, and is deserving of our worship and obedience.

Because we don't want to go to Hell.


  1. The last time I saw a post like that, I was on the "Of course I'd still obey!" side, and now I'm leaning towards "Um, no." so I guess maybe it depends on my mood, or I'm in transition, or something?

    I guess it depends on WHAT I'd obey. I think I would still live morally, not do things I believe are wrong, because I wouldn't want to hurt my fellow humans. But there are some things I would probably loosen up on, things I don't understand the reasons for and might be more tempted to decide didn't matter if I knew I would be condemned anyway.

    On the other hand, I can be very paranoid, and a part of me might think "It's a test! Obey just in case!" And also, since I'm leaning universalist now, it's not that I think I'll go to hell or anything anyway, I obey just because God said to, while still believing that people who don't obey will be right next to me in Heaven anyway. yeah, I'm all over the place here.

  2. That's a tough one! I don't even know what I think about it. I don't see myself leaving my morals since I was this way even when I considered myself an atheist.

    But if I had the certainty that God was sending me to hell, I might feel differently about right and wrong. If God is not just, God is worthless and I can be that way too.

  3. Loved reading this.

    I'm with you, if I KNEW I'd not go to heaven no matter how good I was here, I'd go out and have fun and not care about keeping moral rules. (Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow I die!) Why bother being Christlike when I was rejected by Him? Besides He says our power to do good comes from Him (John 15) so HOW CAN I do good apart from Him? I'd go live naturally!

    Agreed about the prosperity gospel ... Jesus promises us we will suffer persecution if we follow Him. Not a good, easy life. I don't know where those folks get their theology.

    Honesty I want to love and serve God for the right reasons. Do I want to go to heaven? YES! Why? Well, I don't want to burn forever. Plus I would much prefer spending eternity WITH God than be separated from Him. I *want* my motives to be right, but does that come naturally? Sadly, no.

    Many times I have to ask God to please purify my motives because I find even those are often selfish. :-/

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

  4. Sanil,

    Out of curiosity, were you firmly Messianic the last time you saw a similar post? All the posters who replied, 'of course I'd obey' were, as I recall, Messianic of one flavor or another.

    While my response was exaggerated, I still remain firmly in the 'hell no' category.

    As you say, I'd not descend into some morass of evil and rob and kill and wreak havoc, not really. But I'd stop obeying (probably) things that I do because of faith, I guess. As you said, if I don't understand the reason for something, I'd stop doing it.

    But, of course, this is just one of those weird, 'what if...' scenarios. It's not something that would ever happen, I don't believe in predestination, and I know that we never know the final state of our souls until all our chances have run out - death.

    That's a question I have about universalism. If it doesn't matter what faith we follow, or whether we follow one at all, then what's the point of the different faith rules? Is the theory that we (humans) need *some* sort of base line? Does that make sense, what I'm asking?

  5. Candice,

    That's actually a *really* good point.

    This entire process, religion, is predicated on the belief that God is *just*. However, in my scenario, God wouldn't be just, because he's condemning a person out of hand - no consideration for what they've done with the life and the opportunities that He gave them. (Which is, incidentally, why predestination makes zero sense to me.) And if God is not just, then He doesn't deserve worship or anything else for that matter.

  6. VG,

    See, this is why I wish I had better, deep thoughts more often, so I could get comments like these. Stuff that really makes me think.

  7. Susanne,

    Thank you for bringing that comment to my attention. I never would have seen it otherwise.

    It's an interesting 'what if', but as I've said, I don't believe that it works that way, so that's all it is. That being said, yes, 'eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die' would totally become my motto. I wouldn't go off the rails and do *bad* things, break the law, etc. because that's just not in me, really. But I'd be a lot more devil may care and lax.

    "Besides He says our power to do good comes from Him (John 15) so HOW CAN I do good apart from Him?"

    Another excellent point. I look at myself as a prime example of the fact that humans are, over all, selfish and self indulgent. It's part of our 'fallen nature', our separation from God, and the way we were meant to be. Only by being with God, in His grace, can we become anything else.

    Prosperity gospel people...ugh. I hate to say it, but I have *no* respect for those people. None. They've lost their way, and they're leading *others* astray. False prophets.

    I feel like, examining my motives, I'm obeying for the reward, and then I feel bad that that's why, but I have to be honest. Lying's a sin you know. ;) Perhaps, one day, we'll wake up and find that we've been cleansed of this? That's we're finally obeying for the right reasons? For the sake of loving God and nothing else. I can only pray it is eventually so.

  8. Yes, me too! (Last thing you said in the comments.)

    I enjoyed this. Thank you for bringing it to light here and allowing it to be discussed. :)

  9. That reminds me of a note my mom has had taped on her mirror for years. It has an illustration of Jesus and says "I never said it would be easy. I only said it would be worth it.".

    Anyone who believes that "having enough faith" will keep anything bad from happening to them is naive. Look at Job (I think it was him). He was considered the best of God's faithful, and God let Satan test him. He lost everything -- family, money, property, but kept his faith, which grew stronger in spite of his losses.

    That's why I think that hardships and troubles are God's way of making us into the people we're supposed to be. I also don't think God gives us more than we can bear; I think he gives us enough so that we lean on Him for support, rather than trying to do everything ourselves.

  10. Heather,

    I agree. I tend to think of hardships, when I'm not busying bemoaning them (I whine, I admit it), as tempering fire. You know, the cliche, 'what doesn't kill us makes us stronger'.

    I feel, despite the Protestant emphasis on the Scriptures, that many of them never actually *read* them. If they did, they'd see that everything was not constantly roses for the believers. Almost all of the Apostles were Martyred! That's hardly sunshine and puppies for life.


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