Skip to main content

I’m not sure why I’m thinking about this, but here it goes.

What does faith in God look like when you’re not thinking in terms of something you get in return?

Does that make sense?

What if we lived a life of faith without thinking of future outcomes? What if we lived a life of faith in God not centered on “Now I know what will happen to me if I die,” or “Now I know all my needs I will be cared for, ” or “Now I can be happier”?

What if the life of faith were defined more by the experience of the moment, and pleasure, inner peace, and joy of being where you are with the Spirit of God?

Wait, it just hit me. I know why I’m thinking about this. I’ve been looking at the book of Job a lot over the last few months, and I see a similar dynamic at work there. (I also blogged on this a while back.)

In the opening chapters of the book, God is holding what appears to be a heavenly board meeting of divine beings with him at the head. In attendance is a figure referred to as ha-satan, which is literally translated “The Accuser” or “The Adversary.”

Don’t let “satan” fool you. Maintain the lower case /s/. This isn’t the banished fallen angel, king of the underworld with red tights and pitchfork made famous by medieval theology. He is a divine being, clearly within his right to approach and address the divine council, who challenges God’s high view of his servant Job.

The Accuser’s accusation amounts to this: “Sure, Job is your faithful servant. But that’s because you’ve been like a helicopter parent making sure he is blessed with goods and family. Take it all away and then we’ll see how faithful he really is.”

Or, in the Accuser’s own words (Job 1:9-11):

Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.

In other words, Job is accused of faith in God because of what he gets out of it. (By the way, C.-L. Seow’s brilliant commentary on Job hits a home run in fleshing this out!)

So I’m just wondering what it would look like to translate that idea to contemporary ideas about faith, namely why we believe?  A get-out-of-hell-free card? To ensure a blessed life for years to come? To take away the unpredictability of life knowing that God is “in control?”

Do we believe in God “for nothing?”

Are we in it because of the “hedge” we want to have around us and our families? Do we stay in it for the promise of some reward?

What would faith look like if we took off the table any sort of guaranteed rewards–or at least tried to live that way?

Just living in the present of God’s presence–and that’s good enough.

What answer would we give to the Accuser’s question posed to us: “Do fear God for nothing? What reward is keeping me in the game?”

I hope that makes some sense. I’m trying my best here.

Chime in if you get what I’m saying and have thought about it some.

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.