Saturday, January 1, 2011

Words for Reflection - Does God Micro-manage All of Life?

So Eagle raised the question. I too had been hoodwinked in my early Evangelical days that God not only knew me and the hairs on my head, but God controlled those hairs . . . which side my part was on God controlled.

My simple challenge is to read this passage and to take off the Evangelical glasses. Think simply about the promises, if any, are made here. Maybe Eugene Peterson himself has been influenced by American (or Canadian) Evangelicalism and I wish we could read this passage in Greek . . . but I don't know Greek.

Matthew 10 (The Message)

The Twelve Harvest Hands

1-4 The prayer was no sooner prayed than it was answered. Jesus called twelve of his followers and sent them into the ripe fields. He gave them power to kick out the evil spirits and to tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives. This is the list of the twelve he sent:

Simon (they called him Peter, or "Rock"),
Andrew, his brother,
James, Zebedee's son,
John, his brother,
Matthew, the tax man,
James, son of Alphaeus,
Simon, the Canaanite,
Judas Iscariot (who later turned on him).
5-8Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:

"Don't begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.

9-10"Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.

11"When you enter a town or village, don't insist on staying in a luxury inn. Get a modest place with some modest people, and be content there until you leave.

12-15"When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don't welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don't make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way. You can be sure that on Judgment Day they'll be mighty sorry—but it's no concern of yours now.

16"Stay alert. This is hazardous work I'm assigning you. You're going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don't call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove.

17-20"Don't be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation—just because you believe in me. Don't be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they've done you—and me—a favor, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news! And don't worry about what you'll say or how you'll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.

21-23"When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don't quit. Don't cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you've run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.

24-25"A student doesn't get a better desk than her teacher. A laborer doesn't make more money than his boss. Be content—pleased, even—when you, my students, my harvest hands, get the same treatment I get. If they call me, the Master, 'Dungface,' what can the workers expect?

26-27"Don't be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don't hesitate to go public now.

28"Don't be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There's nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.

Forget About Yourself

29-31"What's the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don't be intimidated by all this bully talk. You're worth more than a million canaries.
32-33"Stand up for me against world opinion and I'll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. If you turn tail and run, do you think I'll cover for you?

34-37"Don't think I've come to make life cozy. I've come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don't deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don't deserve me.

38-39"If you don't go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don't deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you'll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you'll find both yourself and me.

40-42"We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God's messenger. Accepting someone's help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I've called you into, but don't be overwhelmed by it. It's best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won't lose out on a thing."


Anna A said...

I don't think that God is a micro-manager.

That said, I look back at my life, and can see his hand a lot, in the important choices of my life. I've never had a choice between two jobs, when I've been unemployed. And the ones that I would have been tempted to reject, I did so in my interview thank you notes.

I think that some of the challenge of God knowing so much about us isn't micro-management but loving knowledge. Just the way I know, without opening my eyes, which cat is sleeping with me, and which one just does a bed check. They both have free will, and there's room enough for all three in the bed. I am glad for the company, but they can sleep where they want to.

BYW, Here's to a good New Year to you and all of your readers.

jmj said...

The way I read that passage now isn't Jesus telling them that God directs each hair on their head, or causes each sparrow to fall to the ground, but simply He's very aware of it. So, when we suffer a great loss and come to God, He says, "Yes, I know ALL about it" in a very comforting way.

I'm not at all saying what Rabbi Kushner is saying, that God feels bad about your pain, would have done something about if He could have, but He couldn't. No. God can act and can overpower all circumstances . . . but He often chooses to let cause and effect take their course.

I could only guess why He does things this way, but I would only be guessing. So, I will have to ask Him why when I see Him.

This is far, far different from what most (Dualistic) Evangelicals believe. They believe that nothing in this physical world has any meaning unless it is tied to some spiritual meaning in the heavens (or hell), God doing it for a specific reason, or even Satan doing it to me.

In a monistic view, you say, this world isn't junk. Physics has a cause and effect. History is playing out via the great Domino effects of one chain of events th first causing the next. We each have great power (given by God) to use our freedom to really hurt other people badly . . . or tremendously help them.

God stands back and consoles but does not intervene except to have the whole ball of wax under control. No one is going to go to Hell by accident. No one is going to suffer permanent spiritual harm by God's absent mindedness.

Anonymous said...

Here's how I look at it:

When my husband and I go to Subway and we order our sandwiches, I am, of course, free to order any ingredients I want on my sub. We do not discuss ahead of time what I will order, and he doesn't give me a mandate, "You will not eat onions."

HOWEVER...he knows me well enough to know in advance that I will NOT order onions on my sub, because I do not enjoy them.

In the same way, God knows all of His children well enough to know what choice we will end up making; however, we are allowed the freedom to make the choice.

Obviously, I'm not a Calvinist ;o).

It's hard to wrap my brain around this, but I am okay with God being bigger than me, because that's what makes Him God.

I do believe that He has given us brains that He expects us to use, and that He is not overly concerned with things like, "If I go to Grocery Store A vs. Grocery Store B, I might miss an opportunity to witness to someone who needs to know about Jesus, so I'd better spend an hour praying for guidance as to where I should buy my milk and eggs."

As the Scriptures say, He gives us wisdom and guidance when we ask for them, but...all this to say, I do not believe that the Bible supports the notion that God micromanages our lives...

jmj said...


I am (or have always been) a Calvinist . . . yet I still agree with you.

Anonymous said...

Honestly I just happened to stumble upon this site after googling micro-manage. The reason I was searching for micro-manage is because I have very little understanding of this word and I had a lucid dream where someone who was speaking to me used this and wanted to see if anyone had any insight.

I didn't start off lucid dreaming I just eventually worked my way into it but some very friendly people were there with me. I asked them several times if I was dreaming and they replied yes, I then asked them how they got in my dream and one replied micro-manage. I didn't quite understand what he meant by that but instead of asking him to elaborate more on that subject. I went straight towards my own personal biggest question (I've been going through alot of hard times lately and have been having doubts) and asked if there was a heaven and they replied yes.

With that one yes I felt so relieved that I ended up waking up from excitement. I wish i could have stayed longer it felt so peaceful for me.

But anyway the topic is micro-manage and they used this word when I asked how they came to me. I still have no idea what it means, maybe you guys can figure it out.