In my high school, we had a very large area to gather and eat. It’s been nearly a decade since I’ve walked into my high school, but I remember it clear as day. Walking in the main doors, you were immediately standing in what was referred to as the Commons: a massive space with long tables with the small stooled seats attached to them. There were rows after rows of these tables.
To the left of the Commons were four vending machines. Two for soda (or pop depending on where you’re from), and two for snacks with absolutely zero nutritional value whatsoever. One of these vending machines was notorious for your candy bar or chip bag getting stuck. So there you were, waiting to get your non-nutritional snack in time to make it to class before the bell, and suddenly the rotating coil would stop, leaving your candy suspended.
Now your time before class was running out, and after doing a quick scan for a Dean or a teacher and determining the coast was clear, you decide to try to shake or kick the vending machine to loosen your candy hostage. Most often this worked and you went on with your day not giving it much thought whatsoever.
It was a pretty simple transaction, really: determine what you want, insert money, shake it when it felt stuck, carry on once you get it, get to where you were going.
I wonder if we have a tendency to approach God in the same way. It can be so tempting to treat God like a vending machine. A broken vending machine, at that.
If I’m honest, it can absolutely be a temptation for me even now.
It is so easy to reduce our relationship with the Triune God of Grace to nothing more than a cheap and convenient transaction, offering our obedience like pocket change. We approach God with a clear menu of potential blessings we could receive and we make a selection:
The particular healing.
And when the self-selected blessing doesn’t come in our timing or doesn’t come at all, we are tempted to get frustrated and feel rushed to get wherever it is that we think we are going to be late arriving to. Suddenly we look around to see if the coast is clear and we shake our fists and kick our feet wondering why God seems broken.
Our minds wander to wondering why we should offer up our obedience at all if there was no guarantee on our assumed return on investment. This is such a heartbreaking posture to have because it completely misses the point of what we are being offered in life with Christ.
And we all are susceptible to it.
When we reduce life in Christ to nothing more than a transaction of goods and wishes, we will always be left wanting because the very thing that we desire is found not in God’s stuff, but in God’s self. We, like the Prodigal Son in the Gospel of Luke, rush in demanding our inheritance instead of seeing greater value in nearness to the Father.
To be clear, it is good to approach the Father with what we need — even what we want. Throughout scripture, we see that God delights in giving good gifts to His children. But when we are able to see obedience to God as an overflowing response to who God is, rather than a coercion or transactional shortcut to get what we want, we are freed to fully enjoy the gifts of God that are sure to come — even if they don’t come in the way we want or expect.
So may we seek to be a people who are quick to desire the person and presence of God more than the blessing or benefit of God. For it is in the very person of God where we will find our satisfaction and rest regardless of the blessing that does or doesn’t come.
Written by Lindsey Bandy Blodgett