One of my all-time favorite quotes (and yes I know I reference this a lot) comes from 14th-century German theologian Meister Eckhart where he says that his prayer is that God will rid him of God.
The idea being that whatever idea our finite minds come up with to describe and picture an infinite God, that idea is always going to be limiting and small. Therefore we should be continually striving to allow God himself to disrupt and redirect and better inform our understanding of himself.
I think our picture of God is askew and as such my prayer for myself and for others is that God will help us to break through our picture of God to a deeper truth and understanding of who he really is.
Let me give you 3 examples where Jesus is trying to give us a deeper understanding of God that I think we’ve missed.
3 parables in summary
1. The Parable of the bags of gold. Matt 25:14-30.
Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like….
A wealthy man who gives 3 servants the modern equivalent of 11.2 million dollars with little to no instructions on what to do with it and then goes away.
When he returns the servants tell him what they did with the money and he invites them to share in his happiness because they’ve participated in the master’s generosity.
Except for 1, he buried his gold, because he believed the master was a hard man. The result is that the servant was punished.
Here’s the catch – if you read the story carefully you’ll see the punishment was not because he buried the gold. The punishment was because he refused to believe the master could be so generous. The punishment was because he failed to accept the unmerited favor of the master.
The reason the master gets upset is because the servant rejected the idea that the master was as good as he seemed.
2. The Parable of the unforgiving servant. Matt 18:21- 35
Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like……
A King who gave a servant the modern equivalent of 14 Billion dollars and we’re not told why.
Then the king takes pity on the servant who couldn’t possibly pay that kind of money back and forgives this insane debt.
This King is ridiculously generous and filled with mind-boggling grace.
The servant, after experiencing the insane generosity and absurd forgiveness of the king, neglects to pass on generosity and forgiveness.
The king is furious because the servant refuses to continue the flow of generosity and forgiveness. He declines the invitation to participate in the way of the king.
3. The parable of the vineyard workers. Matt 20:1-16
Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like…….
A landowner who hires people to work in his vineyard at different times of the day and then pays them all the same.
The first group agrees to a fair days work for a fair days pay. Every group hired after the first group gets a better deal than the group before. The landowner at his worst, is fair.
From there till the end of the story the landowners generosity only grows larger and larger.
When he pays the men he hired he pays the last ones first, intentionally, so that everyone can see just how generous he is.
When the group who was hired first, who were treated fairly, see the generosity of the landowner they get upset. The landowner says why are you upset? I was fair to you. Are you envious because I’m generous?
The landowner is entirely unfair, but his unfairness is rooted in ridiculous generosity.
So If I’m going to take the Bible and the teachings of Jesus seriously, when you add up these three parables that Jesus says are a picture of the kingdom of God we get an incredible picture who God is and what his kingdom is like.
If we could summarize these three parables together it may look like this…..
The kingdom of God is like a master/landowner/king, who has endless resources and for unknown reasons shares these resources with his servants. The master/landowner/king invites his servants to participate in his generosity and to pass his generosity on to others. And apparently, the master/landowner/king is so excited about his insane generosity that he wants everyone to know about it.
The thing that makes this extremely generous master/landowner/king frustrated or upset is when the servants refuse to participate in what he’s doing or when they refuse to believe that the master/landowner/king is really as good as he says he is or when they confuse his generosity for something else.
With this in mind, it makes you wonder if, when people say things like the holiness of God allows God to commit genocide or when people use the idea of righteousness to justify the killing of millions, how does that picture of God hold up against the picture of God that Jesus paints for us in these parables?
Maybe I’m the crazy one, but it seems like some pretty incredible theological gymnastics to make God killing people because of his holiness fit with the picture of absurd generosity and grace that Jesus describes of God and his kingdom.
Oh by the way, did I mention that passage in Hebrews 1 that says Jesus is the exact representation of God.
All that to say….
May God rid the church of God. Seriously.
My hope and prayer is that God may intervene and open our eyes more fully to his nature. That we may have a deeper, richer, wider, and more beautiful picture of the God who is love.
That our picture of God may align with who Jesus says he is rather than who the white Euro-American traditions have tried to make him out to be.
That we may taste and see that the Lord is as good as he says he is.
That we may embrace the picture of God and the kingdom that Jesus came to tell us about which includes insane generosity that we have been invited to participate in and pass along to others.
Whatever our picture of God is? He’s better.