Watch That Vending Machine!
I was surprised to discover that some 1700 people are injured each year from vending machines, including 2-4 fatalities. But after some thought, I can identify. I have shaken more than one and even kicked a few. After all, those menacing thieves just take your money and stand there with no apology, and they offer no recourse.
Then, I thought about the people I know who have perceived of God as a vending machine. They have kicked him, shaken him, and finally rejected him just because he didn’t belch out the goody they thought they were getting when they did their part.
It is easy to see why so many view God in this way. We live in a transactional world. We have been sufficiently warned that there is no free lunch. You get what you pay for.
Sadly, the message of the church is often a transactional one. We hear it often, as some spokesperson for God reminds us that if we only put in the right coinage, God will spit out the blessing we have selected. We merely need to know the currency that he accepts and identify the buttons to press.
Kicking the Vending Machine
Myrtle was a handful. I’m told she was once the beauty of the town. Now, however, she looked hard and hopeless. She demanded her way in the local church, the community and in her dysfunctional marriage.
When a counselor asked why she was so negative, she revealed that God had let her down. She had prayed for her sick child to be healed, but the three-year-old girl had died. “Prayer doesn’t work.” She said. “God is a hoax. If he were any good at all, he would hear the prayers of hurting people like me.”
For Myrtle, prayer was the coinage inserted into the vending machine god. It malfunctioned.
Charles and Sarah had returned from the mission field. They were not only tired from years of hard service in poor living conditions, but they were also depleted in their souls.
They had been eager to go and serve the poor and lost, assured that God would bless them for their sacrifice. They did not see much success from their work, and their own children had turned against God and the church. “I just feel like God let us down,” Charles mumbled.
Avoid the Vending Machine God
We don’t do well trying to negotiate with God. We don’t have anything he really needs. He has negotiated with himself to provide for us what we really need. God the Father promised some humans unimaginable blessings for their obedience. No one could fully obey. God the Son became a human and obeyed. He received the fulfillment of the promise.
Our only hope is to be included in the Son’s identity. That is exactly what he offers. We buy without money and without price. (See Isaiah 55:1.) It is true that nothing is free. Jesus paid a heavy price for our privilege of enjoying fellowship with God. His radical grace calls for a radical faith that embraces his life as our own. We then find ourselves giving and serving out of his abundance rather than in an effort to gain it.
Avoid the vending machine god. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has prepared for us a feast-table in the presence of our enemies. Humbly we accept his invitation to “come and dine.” His blessings are beyond number, and his willingness to bless is beyond measure.