A GOD WHO SHARES POWER
is a common perception amongst many practicing Christians that God
favourites. If some of us lead a life of luxury and good
fortune then that should be accepted as God’s will is the usual
opinion. After all, does not the Bible say “The Lord sends
poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts” (I Sam. 2: 7). Is it
not written that Abraham was blessed with riches by God? Do we not
read that God allowed Solomon to amass wealth and revel in luxury
at the expense of his people who became labourers (I Kings 3: 10)?
If we find it hard to accept a God who has favourites and cannot see him
as a just and fair God, we are told to learn humility and listen
to God's words: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither
are your ways my ways, declares the Lord” (Isaiah. 55: 8).
Understandably many of us find the idea of a God who showers the select
few with good fortune, abandoning the vast majority to a life of
terrible hardship and suffering, offensive to our own senses of
justice and fairness.
We must ask if this is what faith means. Is the portrayal of God from
which such a call to faith emerges true to the Bible? No. It
cannot be. In that case what is faith? What kind of a God is it
that calls us to faith?
Let us try to trace a biblical portrayal of God. We should also try to
understand how and why a false picture of God has established
itself in tradition.
The God of the Bible abdicates power, shares authority and enables people
to grow in responsibility
God is the all powerful Creator. Nature’s complexity and splendour forces
us to perceive that we reckon with a great God, all-powerful and
all-wise. “Since what may be known about God is plain to them,
because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of
the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine
nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been
made, so that men are without excuse. (Rom.
We know from science that creation happened over millions of years. So
God as Creator brings into being and enlists the co-operation of a
number of natural processes. In other words God willingly accepts
That God intended to hand over responsibility for the care of creation to
humankind is seen Gen. 1: 26-27 “Then God said, "Let us make man
(humankind) in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over
the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock,
over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the
ground." So God created man (humankind) in God's own image, in the
image of God he created him (humankind); male and female he
What are the practical implications of such an understanding?
Let us take as an example the modern issue of planning families. God can
no longer be held responsible for the growth in population. That
has now become the collective responsibility of humankind. In law
courts traffic accidents are described as 'acts of God'. But
statistics have shown that when road conditions are improved and
safety regulations are put in place, the number of deaths and
injuries due to traffic accidents hugely decline. So human
responsibility and intervention play a significant role in how our
lives are shaped. So too is the case of epidemic diseases. The
development of immunisation technology and the provision of safe
drinking water and other preventive measures have completely
eliminated some of the world’s worst diseases.
All these are instances of human beings, created in God's own image,
assuming greater responsibilities. And God must be pleased. We
cannot blame God for our failures. The fact that God wants people
to assume greater and greater responsibility is beautifully
brought out when the Bible likens God to a mother eagle (Deut.
32:10-14). “In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling
waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the
apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and
hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and
carries them on its pinions.” When the young ones have grown,
the mother eagle pushes them out of the nest so that they may
learn to fly. When, during the first few attempts the young ones
cannot quite make it, the mother sweeps down and bears them upon
its wings. That process is repeated again, and again till the
young ones can take care of themselves.
There is a similar picture of God in Hosea. Read Hosea 11 and 12. At the
beginning of Chapter 11 we have this beautiful picture of God
breast-feeding God's people, (11: 3 &.4) bending down when
they were languishing under the yoke of slavery and enabling them
to walk upright in freedom. “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who
healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of
love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed
But what happens when they become free? They choose paths of injustice.
They resort to oppression and the amassing of wealth. Read
carefully and note that Jacob's cunning outwitting of his brother
does not meet with God's approval. Jacob's long service under
Laban all to win Leah and Rachel is seen as God's way of teaching
him to be righteous.
(Gen.32:1-33:10)Where does all this lead us? First of all
we see God willingly sharing power and authority, opting for a
self-limitation in order that the whole of humankind can grow in
responsibility. While the history of humankind does show that men
and women are capable of sharing in God's responsibility, they
still need to grow a great deal in emulating God's justice and
love. God cannot be blamed for the suffering in the world and the
injustices entrenched in social structures. Faith in God does not
mean that God will do everything for those who believe. Rather,
faith in God means that we shall be taught by God to emulate God's
justice and God's love.
Where do the false portrayals of God come from?
All religions have a tendency to make their own gods - gods who will
endorse existing social structures, especially unjust social
structures. Even the
Chosen peoples of
God are no exception. This is the anguish of the Deuteronomist and
of the prophet Hosea. This was also the anguish of Jesus. "Woe to
you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a
tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected
the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and
faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without
neglecting the former.” (Matt. 23:23). Under the pretext of strict
adherence to God's Law, the real concerns of the Law, namely
justice and mercy were ignored. This is true of Christian
tradition even today. In the name of Christ we endorse many things
Jesus opposed and even deliberately ignore what he stood for!
False images of God have held sway and faith has been reduced to a
way of seeking God's favour for securing material blessings and a
way of escaping death and damnation.
Questions for further study and reflection
Search for other mother-images of God. What does this mean to our
traditional way of understanding God only as Father? Can the
pronoun 'He' be used without hesitation to refer to God?
the widely assumed male superiority in accordance with God's
purpose in Creation? How do religions in general answer this
List what you think are some of the false images of God.