Does God Care What We Think of Him?


Many years ago in college I watched, from a distance, a very sad relationship unfold. A popular guy began to date a rather unpopular girl. From a worldly perspective she was out of his league. Honestly, I expected her to grow increasingly infatuated while expecting him to grow increasingly bored. That’s the kind of guy he was. But instead the opposite happened. The longer they were together the sadder she became and the happier he was. I eventually learned the reason. This “high class” womanizer was constantly criticizing her clothing, weight, hair, etc., in an effort to get her to become the type of woman he wanted her to be. As she changed who she was he became happier, but her self-respect began to die. It was one of the saddest things I’d ever seen.
If we are honest with ourselves, this darkness—to conform others to our liking—is resident within each of us. Often impatience is just another way of saying, “why can’t you just think and act the same way I do.” We’d clone ourselves if we could!
But this human proclivity sinks to disparaging lows when it comes to forming convictions about who God is. Every person, including myself, has to routinely fight off the urge to conform God to our liking. I have caught myself thinking that God was way too merciful to King Ahab, way too hard on Israel, way too severe when He created hell and way too sacrificial when He subjected Himself to the horrors of the cross. And then Psalm 50:21 chides me, “You thought that I was just like you.” In other words, “your theology is more reflective of your feelings than My written Word.”
Unfortunately, it appears to me that many a “religious” person, when they find themselves tempted to smooth off some of God’s “rough edges,” does not even bother to fan the breaks. Anything goes, especially if it makes God more man-centered and domesticated. But what does God think of this?
The oldest book in the Bible, Job, should be a jolting reminder that God cares about what people think of him. After Job’s children were killed, wife despaired, possessions demolished and personal health collapsed his friends journeyed from afar to sit and weep with him in the ashes. Yet when they spoke, they presented a view of God that they had created rather than letting God be God. Eliphaz interrogated Job, “Remember now, whoever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright destroyed? According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it. (Job 4:7-8) In other words, Eliaphaz thought God only gives troubles to the wicked; if you are obedient and love God He will rain down prosperity. The Apostle Paul told the churches that it is through much tribulation that the believer will enter heaven (Acts 14:22). In fact it seems the godliest men and women in the Bible suffered the most. This is how God refines us. But it did not jive with Eliphaz’ sensibilities. That was just too unfair—from a human perspective. But Job’s friends tirelessly sputtered on, lashing Job with their tongues, claiming he must be guilty of some dark, hidden sin to warrant such “misfortune.”
Finally, not a moment too soon, God shows up and declares to Job’s friends what he thinks of their user-friendly, cookie-cutter god who smashes bad people and makes the godly fat, rich and happy. God says, “Now therefore,…offer up a burnt offering for yourselves, and My servant Job will pray for you. For I will accept him so that I may not deal with you according to your folly, because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.” In other words, God said, “Repent and have Job pray for you so I don’t snuff out your lives on account of your jaded theology.” Apparently, it matters to God what we think of Him.
The windows God has gifted us through which we can understand Him properly are called His attributes. For the next 11 months we are going to devote these articles to a different attribute of God. As we let God define himself through His written Word it is my prayer that together we will move toward more accurate view of our great God. That we will identify where we have been like Job’s friends and conformed God to our liking.