Betting is not something my family does often. In fact, I was taught growing up to, “Only bet if you know you’re going to win.” And, really, at that point it’s not so much gambling as it is an investment with no money upfront. I’ve only ever won two bets in my life (with actual money on the line) and it was over things as silly as what kind of batter was used on the Marietta Diner’s Monte Cristo sandwich and whether or not Sicily was an independent state apart from Italy. Regardless of the winner, I learned that debates often get settled and can end on good terms, or can end up with both parties frustrated.
So what happens when we argue with God? Or, maybe a better question is, “can we argue with God?”
To answer the second question first, yes, we can argue with God. Moses debated with God. The psalmists argued with God. Abraham bargained with God. Jesus had some back and forth in the garden. Jacob wrestled with God, and Job called God to a court date. So as far as the Bible is concerned – go for it. Now, the only caveat there would be the first question – then what?
Well, it turns out remarkably well for most of these people. Moses and the psalmists are reminding God of His promises, and those promises are honored. Abraham is bargaining for the lives of some fairly questionable people, but still in line with God’s character as described in 1 Peter where God is patient and wants everyone to come to repentance. Jacob leaves with a blessing… and a permanent limp. And Job… well… let’s talk about Job.
Job’s life was great, until it wasn’t. God had enough faith in Job to call the Accuser’s bluff and allow a trial by fire. Job had nearly everything taken from him, along with his health. And he wonders out loud how this sort of thing happens. Job calls on God to answer him, to just give him some reason of why. Job is willing to admit his guilt, if there is something un-confessed and un-forgiven, and to submit to God, if only God would answer. Obviously, from chapter one, we get to see that Job’s and God’s relationship is mature, clear, and healthy, but suddenly Job is thrown into uncertainty and just wants an answer. He gets a little terse with God in his speeches, though not going so far as to blaspheme or speak against God.
Then God shows up. And God is ready for the trial. He uses the same confrontational tone Job does, respecting the relationship, and calls Job to the floor asking him to explain how the universe works and asks Job if he has the power to run the world. Job realizes what having a full-on come-to-Jesus meeting really means and answers demurely that God’s right. God, however, keeps going, creating more questions than answers. And we have to assume that over the course of those questions, Job begins to realize that God had never forgotten him or looked away, despite the horrific pain Job experienced. (God speaks about watching over the lives of animals who live far from human eyes – and why wouldn’t God keep an eye on Job if He kept an eye on them.)
We have full rights as children to question, debate, bargain, and argue, but we have to consider what we will do when God does show up. What happens when we offer up something huge to God and he actually calls our bluff? (I still feel like God smiled a little too quickly when I halfheartedly filled out an application to teach English in China. My bluff was called and I ended up going.) God is our Father, and we can often act pretty childish sometimes. But the more our relationship with God matures, we realize that we can speak openly,plainly, emotionally, and vulnerably with Him. And, He will respond in kind, by leading us through questions and situations that help us to better understand our relationships and lives.
You can argue with God, but, remember, “With great power comes great responsibility.” When God does answer, and does show up… how will you respond?
How do you handle debate and argument in your family? Do your children feel able to come to you openly and vulnerably? Are discussions shut down quickly or is understanding reached? How does your style of discussion and debate model God’s responses to His people?