A Domestic God

Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 …

The Greeks and the Romans are both well known for their pantheon of gods. Both of those societies had public temples where worship occurred, but they also had private – or household – gods. The Romans, along with believing in their gods, also believed in spirits called lares which protected the home. There was often a latarium (household shrine) which had pictures of the lares imbibing in drinks or dancing. If the household was wealthy, elegant statues were in the shrine. If a meal was in a different room than the shrine, those statues could be brought to the table to enjoy the family gathering and provide blessings on all present. Offerings to the lares, and to other household gods, were made at regular intervals to help ensure the continued protection of the home.[i]

This has been a pattern seen across the ages. Not necessarily having household gods but having gods at one’s disposal to help ensure an outcome that is desired. Want a good crop come harvest time? Offer the right sacrifice to a fertility god and its assured. Feel like you need better luck and more success in life? A simple sacrifice to the god of fortune might just be the ticket. For those going off to war … if there is a big business meeting … your team needs a little extra help … the right sacrifice will keep whatever god happy and enlist their help.

This type of getting one’s god to do what one would like to see done was even applied to Jesus. Two people were healed in the 12th chapter of Matthew: one was a man that had a withered hand (v.10), and the other a demon possessed man that was blind and mute (v.22). Then, even after these two men were healed (not to mention at least three others healed before these by Matthew’s account), some of the scribes and Pharisees come to Jesus and had the impudence to demand a sign. Some miracle so they could believe.

They would have started small, fix this – cure that, but then the demands would have increased. They would have continued to ask for, or demand, even more spectacular feats, and likely to benefit themselves, in their efforts to control and domesticate the Son of God. On one hand, how nice would that be? Having a source that could, at one’s whim, fix anything and everything.

Yet, that is not the program at all, is it? Of all the lessons that can be learned from the example of Job one is surely this – God is still God even when the bad and unpredictable is happening. This is the same lesson that Paul learned when the answer to his prayers about that “thorn in the flesh” was “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Even Jesus, God’s own Son, asked for the pain and humiliation of the cross to pass from Him, but even before an answer came Jesus made the resolution – “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Christians are not in the position to domesticate God; in fact, if there is any taming to be done it will be done by the Master, not the servant. Our God is not to be kept on a shelf and acknowledged in times of need so that He can be soothed into giving out stuff. God is not at your side simply to make the days go by without difficulty or the nights to pass in blissful uninterrupted sleep.

Assuredly God is to be recognized during the pleasant and tranquil times, but God is also to be recognized during the storms and the chaos. The creature is in no position to tell the Creator, “If you will do this, I will do that.” When one tries to domesticate God then God becomes thing-a-fied, and the creature takes control.

[i] Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), 180.

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