Podcast Episode 3: Genie God
Welcome to Season One Episode Three of the Critiques and Caffeine Podcast! I’m Zach Haas and I run the same blog over at zachhaas.com. In this first season, we are going to be looking at some of the pet peeves I have with Christianity. Thank you for joining me today as we look at how too many people see God almost like a genie.
Take a moment and think about a genie. I think the obvious one we think about is the big blue guy from Aladdin. Maybe, if you are a bit older, you might think of I Dream of Jeannie. I remember seeing episodes of it when I was a kid. The thing about Genies, whether it’s Robin Williams, Will Smith, or Barbara Eden is that they all do the same thing. They are magical and they grant wishes.
Genie: “Poof, what do you need?”
I think specifically of that scene in Aladdin where Genie is talking to him about what he would wish for. He is sick of the old’ poof three wishes as he demonstrates “poof, what do you need, poof what do you need, poof what do you need?” Most of his masters, it would seem, used him for his three wishes and then sent him on his way.
At this moment in the movie, we take pity on Genie. We are saddened to learn that he is actually a slave to the lamp and that all he wants after all these years is some freedom. He has lost hope that this will ever happen and accepts that he will likely never be more than just a wish maker.
Many Christians, probably inadvertently, treat God the same way.
The strange thing is that many Christians treat God in the same way. Sure, we might not ever admit that this is what we are doing but when we really stop to think about it are we actually treating God any differently? Think of the last few times that you have spoken to God. Was it almost some kind of magical wish? Maybe you were praying for healing, or safety, or resources. Afterward, we hope that God grants our wish, or rather, answers our prayer favorably and we go on with our lives until the next time we need something.
By doing this, we have essentially turned God into our own personal Genie. Maybe not quite to this extreme. After all, most Christians still attend worship service and might even say grace before a meal. We aren’t asking God for some kind of wish when we do these things. Right? Or… are we? Is the reason we are doing things “for” God so that it increases our chances that he will respond in the way we want to our prayers? Are we using fasts fo this reason? Is this why we practice other spiritual disciplines?
This is not how God works.
This is not how he wants our relationship to be with him. If it is, you can bet that he is probably frustrated with us. He’s not going to show up and say poof what do you need, he’s just going to ignore our prayers, or rather, answer no.
This isn’t to say that God doesn’t want what is best for us or that he doesn’t want to answer our prayers. He does. We are supposed to come to him with our concerns and our needs. But it is so much more than that. God wants more from us and for us than to be our wish granting machine. Even when our wishes or prayers aren’t selfish in nature, God wants more than that from us. He wants, a relationship.
Ultimately, in Aladdin, this is what makes Al a different kind of master. He cannot separate the relationship that he has with Genie. Sure, he almost messes up when things get out of hand and he hurts that relationship, but it is ultimately the friendship with him that causes Aladdin to treat him differently. Our relationship with God needs to develop into something more than just the benevolent master that we hope to make requests to.
The full character of God is more than prayer requests.
When all we do is ask God for help when we need something, we are missing out on the full life that he has designed for us. To some extent, we are once again making him a convenient God. Maybe, just maybe, this is why we keep having to ask God for things. It’s the only way that we ever seem to come to him at all. And he wants us to come to him.
First and foremost, we are supposed to be worshiping God. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our soul and with all our mind. This means that before we come to God with our requests and our needs, we need to come to him with a heart of worship. Again, not so that he will listen to our prayers more, but so that we are developing a relationship with him.
Could you imagine how you would feel if all your spouse ever did was make requests from you?
If you are a wife, what if the only thing your husband ever asked was if you could make him dinner, if you could do his laundry, if you could take care of the kids, if you could clean the house. You wouldn’t feel like you had a relationship. You’d feel like a slave, or a genie.
If you are a husband, could you imagine if you wife only ever asked you to do things? To mow the lawn, to do the dishes, to take out the trash, to fix that project you were supposed to take care of months ago. Again, you’d feel like you were nothing more than a machine to make your wife happy. There is more to relationships than making requests.
When is the last time you did something to build your relationship with God with no ulterior motives?
When the sole purpose was to work on your soul. Has it been a week? A month, or a year? Every day we should be living our lives out of worship and devotion for him. We are to do all things as if we are doing them for the Lord. I believe this does include fun things in life as well. We can enjoy our lives and that in and of itself can be worship to God. By doing so, we are enjoying and appreciating his creation of us. But did you remember to thank him for that?
All too often, we only remember God in times of need. We keep him tucked away under our hat and consult him only when something that is beyond our control comes up. Here’s the problem. In reality, everything is beyond our control. God controls or allows everything. When things are good, he wants us to recognize that all good things come from him. He wants to see if we are still trusting him and recognizing his goodness even when it doesn’t seem like we need him.
God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.
This is how we develop a relationship with God. We remember him when times are good. At all times, and at all places he is still God. He desires a relationship with us at all times. This is the idea behind praying without ceasing. Our entire lives should be a worshipful prayer giving glory and honor to God.
This is easier said than done of course, but this is what God wants, and most if not all of us can work on this area in some ways. Perhaps most of us aren’t really treating God like a Genie. We are not demanding him to intervene in our lives. We recognize and honor the idea that God’s will is good and sometimes that goodness does not align with what we think should happen. But nevertheless, when we wait for something to happen and then come to God, we are being reactive and this isn’t what we are supposed to do.
God wants us to be intentional and proactive in our love for him. This means making time for him, it means keeping him as a top priority, it means telling him things about our lives that are not requests. When is the last time you spent time telling God your plans for life? Your dreams and your desires? When is the last time you sat back and listened to what God had to say about these things? Is he encouraging you to continue in your pursuit? Or is he telling you maybe it is time to reassess something. After all, his plans for us have got to be better than the plans we come up with.
To treat God like a genie is to severely demote him.
Phenomenal cosmic powers or not it is a demotion. God is so much more than just a provider. He is so much more than a wish granter. He could take care of every need we have without even having to snap his fingers. Everything in creation was made by him. Surely, whatever concerns we are bringing to him he already knows about and are a matter of nothing for him. God is a spiritual relationship. Treat him as such and your life will go better and you will find your true needs are met.
Thanks for tuning in to the Critiques and Caffeine Podcast! I look forward to sharing more pet peeves with you next time. God bless.