n the most recent episode of “It’s Really That Simple” (the podcast that my lovely wife Christy and I co-host), Christy and I talked about our thought of simplicity in trusting God. If you have a half-hour free, I’d encourage you to go and listen to that episode, as it will form the basis for this post. However, I’ll also try to summarize as much as I can so that you get the gist of what we discussed.
As an example of trusting God, we talked about the daily provision of food. Jesus told us in Matthew 6 that we should not worry about food or clothing, but that we should seek after the kingdom of God, and everything that we need will be provided for us.
In response to that episode, my favorite skeptic/agnostic/atheist (depending on the context in which he labels himself!) Sid Faiwu (not his real name, by the way, and it’s pronounced FAY-woo, as I have taken a long time to learn!) asked a very good question. I will repost the entire relevant part of his comment here so that you don’t have click over if you really don’t want to…
Taking literally the idea that if one trusts God, then one will be provided with food, clothing, etc. is morally problematic. Every true statement’s contrapositive is also true. The belief you hold to be true is:
If one trusts God, then one will always have enough food.
It’s contrapositive is:
If one doesn’t [sic] not have enough food, then one does not trust God.
It means that if someone starves or is starving, then it’s their own fault for not trusting God. It blames the victim. I’d imagine this is why so few people take this part of the Bible as literal truth.
Secondly, I’d argue that such a belief is simply false. It suggests that Christians should never starve if they truly trust God. I would argue that of all the Christians who have died of starvation over the centuries, at least one of them trusted God in this way. She/He trusted God to provide and he failed to come through.
I completely understand where Sid is coming from on this. And on the surface, I would agree that it sounds more like blaming the victim. But I think there are some assumptions made in Sid’s argument that could use a little scrutiny.
First of all, I don’t think there’s any way to argue the actual point regarding contrapositives. Sid is entirely correct that the contrapositive must be true. It’s in the evaluation of that contrapositive that I think there are some problems.
Sid says that the original statement by Jesus is morally problematic. I’m not sure about the “morally” part, because I think that putting the responsibility on someone is not necessarily “blaming the victim”. In fact, the very phrase “blaming the victim” causes problems because it assumes victim status where none has been established. In other words, if the words of Jesus here are, in fact, correct, then one who does not heed his words would not be a victim. They would, in the words found elsewhere in scripture, “reap what they sow”.
So, from that standpoint, I think we need to withhold judgment on whether or not someone is a “victim”. Let me explain a bit further. The concept of trusting God (or “faith”) appears many, many times in the New Testament (especially, the four gospels) in conjunction with healing. Now, I know that we’ve discussed this on this blog in the past, but I think that often we put the cart before the horse. Rather than assuming that Jesus was telling the truth, we try to find other explanations for what we see.
I’ve said it before here: Read the four gospels and make a note of anytime Jesus heals someone from a physical illness. In those instances, note how often Jesus comments about their faith. Statements like “your faith has healed you”, or “if you believe, all things are possible” jump out at me. They are not isolated statements. They are woven consistently through every physical healing with very little exception.
Today, however, when someone does not get healed, and one dares to raise the question of faith, emotional responses often claim that we’re “blaming the victim”. But if that is true, why did Jesus talk so much about faith in those situations?
From that standpoint, the passage regarding food and clothing is not anything out of the ordinary for Jesus. In fact, I think it is entirely consistent with the rest of his teaching. Faith is an integral part of receiving what the Father provides.
Take the story of the prodigal son. While he was sitting in the pig pen wishing he could eat the scraps he was feeding the pigs, was he a victim? He was the son of a man who was providing everything he needed — food, clothing, shelter — and yet he had not received what his father was providing because he left home. He was not a victim. He received the consequences of his own choices.
Sometimes the situation is not so clear. One may claim they are trusting God for their provision, but maybe they are hiding their own doubt and worry. Maybe they are seeking after their own provisions and not really seeking first the kingdom of God, as Jesus instructed. We can’t judge their hearts, obviously, but I think it doesn’t really make sense to just throw out the words of Jesus in our own lives because of what we think is going on in someone else’s.
Let me turn, now, to the second objection Sid raises. I have to admit that Sid surprised me with this one, because Sid is usually very concerned about empirical evidence. Verifiable facts. And yet here, he throws in a highly hypothetical situation, rolling the dice of history and assuming that somehow he can roll the right number.
Sid says, “…of all the Christians who have died of starvation over the centuries, at least one of them trusted God in this way.” This pits the statement of Jesus against some “odds” that seem pretty incredible. I would argue that this is not a logical argument, and therefore is not valid.
It’s not able to be proven or disproven because we can’t go back through history and interview those who have died. In fact, I would say that there is stronger evidence (eyewitness, even) for the resurrection of Jesus, yet Sid rejects that account, by his own admission. Yet, in this case, Sid is willing to pit the words of Jesus against unknown, unverifiable, unrecorded “witnesses”.
All I can offer, Sid, is my own testimony. My own eyewitness account. I have shared some of these accounts on this blog and on the “Beyond the Box” podcast in the past, so I won’t recount them now. But if there are any questions, I’ll gladly share them again. I can’t answer for anyone else, but I have found the words of Jesus — all of them that we have recorded — to be accurate, truthful, and consistent in my life. When I have trusted my Father, I have never been disappointed. I have never been rejected by him. And whatever he has promised has come to pass. When I have not trusted him, I have found that the consequences of not trusting him have borne out the very promises he made — I have, indeed, reaped what I have sown.
Now, before I close, allow me to say a brief word about “faith”. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith for us. I like the way the New International Version words it: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Faith is not always based on what we see or what we can touch or what we can prove with our senses. Faith believes that truth can sometimes supercede evidence.
I know that sounds wacky to some, but I hope you can understand where I’m coming from. Right now, in fact, we are going through another mini-financial crisis in our family. A check that was supposed to arrive over a week ago (a substantial part of our monthly income) has not arrived. We honestly don’t know how we will pay for stuff this week. Bills that are due, rent that will be due on the 1st, food and gas that are needed this week — we don’t know how we will pay for all of that.
But we trust. Why? Because of our faith. Because we know that God has promised. And in addition to that faith, we have the track record behind us to prove it. Whenever I have sought the kingdom of God first in my life, all of my needs have been provided for. Sometimes in really cool “miraculous” ways, sometimes in much more ordinary ways. But always, always, always, my Father has kept his word.
So, does believing that faith is something we possess and exercise put blame on someone else who doesn’t? That’s not really the point. The point is, Jesus said that we can trust the Father for this, and I have found it to be true in my life. That is the testimony I provide.
Until next time,