Summary: The second in the series. About limiting God and how our view of God effects our life. Our attempts to try and manipulate God.
The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Christians (2)
Put God in a Square Box
9 January 2000
Tonight we come to the second in our series on the seven habits
of highly ineffective Christians. Some of you are perhaps
concerned by the topics we are looking at since your desire is for a
deeper, more real relationship with the creator God. Well let me
assure you by pointing out that being ineffective is one of the few
things I can actually 100% practice what I preach, so these
messages will also be ineffective and you will probably be more
motivated towards discipleship and being effective in you’re walk
with God than before.
The second habit of a highly ineffective Christian is that they “Put
God in a Square Box”.
Your concept of God has a great deal to do
with the way you live your life. This is why you must limit God, or
put him in a square box. So how do you put God in a box? Well
firstly you need a very big box. Maybe one from a fridge or
something. No of course that wouldn’t work. Who ever heard of a
square fridge. Perhaps we better make our box to be a symbolic
one but a square nonetheless.
The way that you limit God is that you believe that God will behave
in certain predictable ways and that you in fact can have control
over God’s behaviour by doing certain things. God is not given any
choice, no room to act in any way he pleases but must respond in
the correct way if you pull the right strings.
There are two ways in which we can relate to any person even
God. One way is to see them as objects, to see them for what
function they serve for us. The best example I can think of is the
way we view automatic teller machines at the bank. We see them
for their function, giving us our money. And we have no regard for
how the ATM feels about the transaction. It is an object with a
function of serving us. When we treat people this way, we do a
great deal of damage to them.
Have you ever stood in MacDonalds and become frustrated with
the other lines moving more quickly than yours? The quiet rage
you feel within at the slowness of the girl serving your queue is the
same detached frustration we usually reserve for machines. Now
we feel that irritation towards a living human being. It’s as if you’re
seeing her as having no value other than to fulfill her function to
In order to be highly ineffective in the way you relate to God you
need to treat God in the same way. By doing so you dare to
suggest that we can use God, to push the right heavenly buttons
so that he will come good with whatever we happen to want or
need. In other words, we can bribe him with pious actions or
flattering words. In doing so we make God an object, someone we
can use. If we want to have an effective Christian walk we need to
meet God, not manipulate him.
God’s interest in us is to meet us, not to make use of us for his
own benefit. There is nothing in it for him other than the basic
satisfaction of having secured for the people he loves a more
enriched, more fulfilled way of living. This is truly foolishness in a
world grown used to manipulation and coercion.
The truth is that we can treat God like on object, but God cannot
be manipulated, there are no buttons to press. We just wish there
were. It would make things much simpler if God wasn’t a complex
individual. And God doesn’t manipulate us either. Instead, he
wants to be treated as a significant other whom we encounter
rather than use. And vice versa. When we serve God or others for
what we can get out of it, we turn them into utilities for our personal
gain. Jesus radically changed the perception of the way we relate
to God. He bluntly suggested that if we are in this game for what
we can get out of it, whether that be crowns, mansions or
individual blessings here on earth, then we have no relationship
It makes much more sense to us when those of us who worked
harder or longer receive some kind of greater recognition. Don’t
you think there ought to be a kind of celestial merit system. Those
who are involved in doing more religious activities should get a
reward of some kind.
Jesus was keenly aware of this basic urge for extra recognition. He
told a powerful story about service and reward that concerned the