Be Good Stewards of Pain, Or God’s Promises?

I read this irritating quote from Jerry bridges the other day.

 

“….We usually think of Christian stewardship in terms of money. Some churches have ‘stewardship campaigns’ during which they seek to get their membership to pledge toward the annual church budget. Then the concept of stewardship was broadened to include our time and talents—or as one slogan puts it, ‘Be a good steward of your time, talents, and treasure.’ The idea behind these concepts is that whatever resources God has given us, He has entrusted them to us as stewards to use for His glory.
“Now apply that idea to pain, either physical or emotional. If we believe God is sovereignly in control of all circumstances of our lives, then our pain is something He has given to us just as much as our time or talents or treasure. He has entrusted the pain to us as stewards to be used for His glory.
“How can we be good stewards of the pain God gives us? One way … is to trust Him even though we don’t understand the purpose of the pain…… ”
“Joy of Fearing God.” Pg. 225 Jerry Bridges.

Ontology Is Not Ethics

There are a few problems with this. The first main “if…then,” argument only in essence says, “ If God CAUSES all things, then God CAUSES this thing.” It is a broad but correct deduction. So far, so good. This category is only dealing with ontology. Yet, the conclusion he makes that pain is like stewardship, is an implied “ought.” So that we ought to obey God by using pain in such and such a way. This is now a category or ethics—a different category. Ethics is what God commands. However, Jerry provides no command from God (in what I read) clearly showing we “ought” to treat pain the way he seems to imply. It is made up human superstition and disobedience.

Informal Fallacy

This is an inductive argument in the form of arguing from analogy, which is invalid. [ That is, X, R, T, and F all have characteristic 1, 2, and 3. Also, X, R and T have characteristic 4. Thus, F has characteristic 4 as well. ]
The problem with an invalid argument from analogy is when one takes it further. If we see where it leads it would imply that pain is not merely something to “steward,” but even a “gift.” I surely take my “talent” to play music for God as a gift – and money, and time. Some theologies treat pain like a sick religious fetish. Christian masochists.

Hanna

We do in fact know –broadly speaking—what to do with suffering that GOD CAUSES in us. Everything in reality is explained by God directly causing it. So What? This gives us no command to know what we “ought to do,” when God causes something. Hannah knew what to do when she dealt with the pain of not having a child, she asked for a miracle and received one – a gift. She did not like the pain and wanted it to go away. God gave her a son, as a gift. The pain stopped. God has commanded us to believe in His promises. Christian ethics is not an inductive conclusion taken from some nebulous notion of what one thinks God’s causality is doing at a given moment.

Hannah, therefore, was a hero of faith and ethics. After speaking of God’s sovereignty (“God kills and makes alive”) she proclaims that for the humble who believe in Him, (1 Sam. 2:9,8) “For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s; on them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. It is not by strength that one prevails. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.”
Hannah, therefore, was a faithful steward of the promises of God by believing in them – and giving glory to God as a “GOOD” Father by receiving the very thing she asked from Him (a fish for a fish, bread for bread, an egg for an egg, and a son for a son).

 

God’s Will, Made Me Unwise

So the advice is if God sovereignly gives you something you accept it? How stupid can you get. God sovereignly gives and causes all things, even all sin. In this metaphysis sense, God is the metaphysical author of sin.[1] So what? This has nothing to do with human ethics, or that is, what we ought to do.

By God’s sovereign will, He make all of us born as unbelievers and sinners. How are we to “steward” this? The question is an “ought” question (not metaphysics); therefore, we need to know what God commands, and not what He has caused. God commands for us to repent and be saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, this is how we steward being born sinners by God’s sovereign will.

If you have a “lack of wisdom,” then God sovereignly caused you to have it. How does one steward this lack of wisdom? This again is asking an ethics question; that is, “what ought I do?” Christian ontology—God sovereignly making you have a lack of wisdom—is not a category of ethics; thus, to conclude from this descriptive premise of ontology into ethics is invalid. Pragmatically speaking it is voodoo and witchcraft.

As for ordinary life difficulties, it is God’s will for victory. James says if you face the common difficulty of lacking wisdom you are to ask in faith, and then God will give it to you. Think about it! It is not God’s will for you to stay in a lack of wisdom. What you “ought” to do is have faith and be victorious over this hardship of confusion by getting wisdom from God. This is not a self-help tip. It is a precept from your Master. The command is that BY YOUR FAITH, YOU are to obtain it. Obey your master.

Give it some thought.

If God directly controls all reality, then everyone who lacks wisdom is due to God’s Will.

(P) If it is God’s will [decree] for me to lack wisdom, (Q) then what I ought to do is accept God’s Will [ethic] and be unwise.

You realize how incredibly moronic this is, right? You realize how disobedient and disrespectful that is toward God, right? What God causes you to experience is not the same category of what you ought to do about it. If you want to know what you should to do, then ask what are God’s commands about this. Obey God. Get some wisdom by your faith. If you do not get wisdom because of your lake of faith, then you are in direct disobedience of God.

James command about healing, since we started about “pain,” is that we not merely pray about it, but that “by your faith” you actually get healed and get forgiven. How do people call Jesus Lord and yet, willfully live in rebellion and disobedience to Him?

 

——–Endnotes———

[1] I got this phrase, “metaphysical author of sin,” from Vincent Cheung. See, Systematic Theology, And Commentary on Colossians and Reflections on Second Timothy.