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Friday, November 13, 2015

Economic Deists

Let's just say you're a good Christian. You know, not just a professing Christian, but genuine. You read your Bible. You go to church. You have faith in Christ and a real relationship with Him. You try to be a godly person. A real Christian. I have to ask, are you an economic deist?

We all know the difference between an atheist and a theist. The theist believes in God and the atheist believes there is no God. Clear enough. What's the difference between a theist and a deist? Well, deism is the belief that God created the world and then sort of took His hands off, so to speak. It all runs on natural laws and such. He doesn't have to do much. Theism argues that God never took His hands off. He is always and intimately involved in everything. In practical terms, we Christians often lapse into deism over theism. We'll classify things as "secular" or "sacred" as if God is not part of the former. We'll think that work, traffic, how I dress, and so forth are not part of God's concerns while sin and worship are. The theist, on the other hand, would have to admit that, while "secular" and "sacred" are possible categories of thought, there really is no distinction to the Creator and God is intimately involved and deeply concerned with it all. You know, like Jesus said when He claimed, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered." (Matt 10:29-30) If God cares about sparrows and hair follicles, it would not be accurate to suggest a "hands off" God in Christian theology.

In fact, the Bible doesn't merely suggest theism. It demands it. We know that "all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (Col 1:16-17) In the phrase "in Him all things hold together" we see Paul's reason for claiming, "In Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28) The biblical assertion is that we owe everything to Him "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen." (Rom 11:36) These are not small claims. They are all-encompassing. This is why it makes sense to "present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God" (Rom 12:1). This is why we have the overarching purpose statement of all existence in the command, "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor 10:31) The reach of these passages leaves nothing untouched. Everything is about God. Everything belongs to God (Psa 24:1). He is the Creator and owner and purpose for everything.

So ... you Christians -- you know, the good ones, the real ones, the ones intent on serving and glorifying God -- I have to ask. Are you an economic deist? The question occurred to me the other day about myself. I'm not claiming superiority here. But I suspect that I'm not alone in this. I recognize that everything belongs to God and everything I do should glorify God, and then I look at something I want to buy and never ask, "Will this glorify God?" I think I belong to the Lord but act as if my money is my own. I argue against the concept of "secular" versus "sacred" and then make the very distinction when it comes to spending the money He has given me.

Here in Arizona we had a recent case where a woman who worked for a charitable organization called Cancer Support Community Arizona was arrested for spending more than $150,000 of their money on herself and overpaying herself an additional $40,000. She used "the charity's credit card to buy herself concert tickets, clothing and electronics." And you wonder, "How in the world could anyone do that?"

And do you ask yourself the same thing? "How in the world could I think of spending God's money on concert tickets and clothing and electronics?" Where did we get the idea that God cares about everything ... except how we spend the money He gives us? Now, I'm not saying it is not possible to buy tickets, clothing, or electronics for God's glory. I'm just concerned that we don't.

It's something I need to think about, examine further, and certainly change. It's a heart issue (Matt 15:18-20). It may be encouraged by my capitalist, self-centered, self-serving commercialist environment, but it's a problem with me that I need to submit to the Lord and the work of the Holy Spirit. I'm just wondering if there are others out there with the same difficulty.


Marshall Art said...

Frankly, I never gave it much thought. Perhaps more precisely, now that I am thinking about it, I can say with some measure of certainty, that I intend that nothing I do displeases God, even if I'm not consciously out to please Him with every move I make. It is my intention to please Him, even if I naturally do not with consistency, and even if I am sometimes merely thinking of pleasing myself. I don't want the two to be mutually exclusive, though of course, that is likely more often the case than not. But again, it is my intention to please Him always, and my hope that I don't fail to do so with great regularity.

Another great thought-provoking post!

Stan said...

I've found that I don't typically naturally aim to glorify God. It looks like I need to do it intentionally because there appears to be a defect in me. I call it a sin nature. I don't know if anyone else has that problem.

David said...

Marshall, sounds like you are deceiving yourself or playing word games. If you can honestly say you never intentionally displease God, you are an impossible man. I am always intentionally sinning. I don't think I ever just trip into a sin. Going along, intending to glorify God and, oops there's a sin. I certainly regret my sin, but I always will my sin. My intent certainly isn't to displease God, but I definitely intend to sin. Anything else is beyond my capacity.

Marshall Art said...

@Stan---I think we're on the same page here. I set out to please God, but I am not saying that I do it naturally. I'm prone to please myself first. But my intention is to please Him, regardless of how well I accomplish that task. So, yeah. I suffer from the same defect.

@David---Nothing impossible here, except perfection in being the person God wants me to be. I don't consider succumbing to temptation the same as intending to sin. I don't consider reacting badly to life's challenges intending to sin. Maybe it is semantics, but then, I'm not willing to concede the point that I'm intending to sin. Not as a rule, anyway. I struggle with my shortcomings, but I intend that I should overcome them. I don't claim perfection...not by a really, really long shot.

Now, if YOU intend to sin, maybe you need to work on that. I intend to please God. I often fail. Way too often, but my intention is always to please Him.

Stan said...

Marshall Art, I AM a bit awed to meet someone who does not sin intentionally. I've never known anyone like that before and I know I am not that person. I know we all sin unintentionally and I know that my aim is to always be the man God wants me to be, but there are times when I knowingly cross the line and I wasn't aware that there were those who could say otherwise.

All of this is beside the point, however, since the topic was about being unaware that we are not spending our money for the glory of God.

Marshall Art said...


I don't think anyone intends to sin. Who goes around thinking, "What can I do that is in clear violation of God's teachings regarding sinful behavior?" One might say, "I'm going to kick that dude's butt", but I doubt he's thinking in terms of the act being sinful. Thus, the intention is to kick the dude's butt, not to sin. Most people who sin must be convinced that their sinful act is indeed sinful. It's just that few people think in those terms, and fewer still weigh their actions according whether or not they believe it is sinful. Thus, to "intend to sin" is a conscious act and a specific one. It is a goal.

The point is that while it is true that it would be better if we made a conscious judgement regarding whether or not our actions (or purchases---just to stay on topic) glorified God, I do not think that not doing so equates with intending to sin. It's simply going about one's business and intending no more than that.

Marshall Art said...

As to the topic specifically, I would say the concept carries over. While, again, consciously considering whether our purchases glorify God or not, it is a stretch to say that NOT considering that equates with intending to do otherwise, even if the result is that we did in fact do otherwise. I would not argue that all we have is what God gave us, or allowed us to have or some other similar language. But you're post and subsequent comments suggest that we are to make no move without considering whether or not it glorifies God. I don't know that we are to have that level of regard whereby if we fail to do so there is a problem or it says something negative about our devotion and reverence for Him.

I will say this, however: the more we do the more we will be glorifying Him in all we do. The more we do, the more we will develop and ingrain the habit.

Still, if I buy for the pleasure the purchase brings to myself, I don't see that as a problem. I don't believe we are to deny ourselves pleasure entirely, but only that pleasure that displeases Him. But to flesh this out a bit more, perhaps you could speak on how a purchase made for one's own pleasure necessarily glorifies God. That is, if I buy an ice cream cone, or a game or concert tickets, how can doing so glorify God?

Stan said...

As I said, you're a better man than I. Better than any I've known. To never intend to do what you know is sin is very, very impressive.

Stan said...

"If I buy for the pleasure the purchase brings to myself, I don't see that as a problem."

I suppose, then, that this would be a point on which our views differ. That something I buy might bring me pleasure is fine. I not only agree that we are not called to eliminate pleasure, but, rather that we are made for pleasure. That primary pleasure, however, is in Him ... something natural man is sorely missing. But to buy something purely for my pleasure would, as I understand Scripture, violate the command to do all to the glory of God. So I cannot explain how a purchase made purely for one's own pleasure could glorify God.

I could see how, as a ministry to my wife, I would take her out for a dinner and a movie or concert or some such and that would be aiming at glorifying God. I don't think all pleasurable purchases fail to glorify God. I think, however, that anything we do that is done purely for ourselves would fail the test.

Marshall Art said...

Then we do disagree, because the type of micromanaging of one's actions inhibits one's ability to act at all. I don't know that the command to do all to the glory of God requires that kind of attention to detail, even if we were capable. For most of us with more than a cursory interest in the faith to which we claim to adhere, I think it is apparent when we are about to do something that clearly does NOT result in glorifying God, or more precisely, does the opposite. Can we even focus on the task at hand by constantly weighing whether each action glorifies God, when our intent in generally to do so and not to do what displeases Him?

If a purchase made purely for one's own pleasure is not inherently sinful, then can we say that pleasing know, enjoying the gifts that God has given us...automatically NOT glorifying Him (or whatever you wanna refer to as the opposite of glorifying)? Consider a purchase of travel. You buy plane tickets and rent a hotel room in order to enjoy the sun and beach of Maui to rest, relax and re-charge after 50 weeks of labor. That's definitely doing for the self. How is that so selfish as to conflict with the concept you're trying to get across?

Stan said...

You're using the word "purely". That's where I run into problems. In your example of a vacation to recharge, if it was purely for me, it would be ... purely for me. If, on the other hand, I was recharging for the purpose of returning with vigor to the work God has for me, it is not purely for me, is it? It goes to intent. I'm not talking about a moment-by-moment micromanaging thing. What is the intent? Is my intent (in this food or this action or this purchase or this conversation or ...) to glorify God, or is it purely for me? The former can encompass lots of things and would be right. Those very same things done purely for me would not.

David said...

If the command is to do all things to the glory of God, then we should be weighing every action and choice accordingly. This wouldn't be a long, agonizing, debilitating process. It would be adding one additional step to every decision making process we already use. Anything less would be falling short of the glory of God.