As Christians, there are so many statements that are said among us that are quite cliché and make no sense when they are thought through. Whether we just repeat them out of habit, genuinely believe them, or repeat them because someone said it to one of us a time or two: we all run across them in our day to day lives. The large majority of them are meant to facilitate feelings of comfort, confidence, and hope. On these merits, it may make these cliché statements seem noble and worthy of merit, but the truth is that they do more harm than good. Today I am beginning a blog series on cliché statements we need to get out of our churches, homes, and society. My intent is to examine the statements and allow consideration for the lack of foundation they actually have.
The phrase I want to look at for the next few posts is: “It’s part of God’s plan”.
We have all had a difficult situation in our lives. The loss of adequate income, the loss of a job, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a best friend, an automobile accident, a shooting, or having a disease are just a few examples of the plethora of ways curveballs are thrown at the lives of human beings.
The typical response is: “It’s part of God’s plan”. But is it?
These situations are absolutely horrific. They come against the continuation of life and perpetuate cycles of oppression, death, and darkness. If we can agree on at least these sentiments, we can see where it becomes difficult to reconcile an all loving, life giving God with any of these situations. And yet, we do.
Let’s consider a typical situation. Consider for a moment that you have a job that has drastically reduced hours to the point you can no longer put food on the table for your family or that you have just been laid off. There are a laundry list of reasons this typically happens in any sector of the workforce, but the bottom line is usually profits (unless you legitimately were a bad employee). The vast majority of companies and their CEOs are not in business to provide for the least in our society from their overly excessive wealth, they are in the business of making and maintaining profits that perpetuate lavish lifestyles.
When we read the Scriptures, there are many rebukes of the wealthy and the cycles of possession accumulation excessive wealth promotes. As Jesus, Himself said, “Woe to the rich, for they have already received their reward”. Let’s consider that for a moment. On the one hand is the Kingdom and on the other is worldly excessive wealth. One cannot have both. Why? Because excessive wealth perpetuates oppression and ignorance to the plight of the poor. Jesus contrasts this with “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of God”. They are vulnerable, oppressed, and used as pawns in the corporate game. Yet, they are blessed more than the rich because they don’t have the opulence that blinds them to the plights of society. They live them every day. They have become the marginalized, the outcasts, the “lazy”, the “underperformers”, the “weak” and the “moochers” of society. And yet, they are the blessed ones.
Since corporate greed perpetuates oppression, marginalization, homelessness, and pain, God has no reason to use it. Deep down, we know that God does not use perpetuated evil to bring about good. There is nowhere in the Bible where God uses evil in any way to perpetuate His work and purpose for the world. You will not find it.
What you may find is the old argument from Joseph. The “what you intended to use for evil, God used for good” statement. It seems to be correct on the surface and even right in certain situations. However, in this situation (and most), it is flat out wrong. There is a sincere difference between God assisting the oppressed and those who have been outcast by the world and God actually using the system that causes it.
We also miss out on something even more telling about God. God does come to the aid of the oppressed, but they are oppressed before His aid. In Scripture, God only really comes against evil in its many forms as he helps the victims of that evil. So what we have is God coming against an evil (in this case: Corporate Greed) in His aid to the oppressed.
In reality, we must ask ourselves this: Does it make since to say that God uses cycles of corporate greed to bless anyone? The very essence of corporate greed dictates that there is nothing good or redeemable in it. Therefore, God can never use it.
The problem is that we live in a country that perpetuates this false narrative. We refuse to hold those living in opulent wealth among beggars accountable. We refuse to stand up for the rights of people who earnestly work to be able to provide for their families or themselves. We refuse to hold the exhaustively wealthy accountable for the lives they ruin in the pursuit of maintaining lavish lifestyles.
Instead we say “It’s part of God’s plan”. It isn’t and it never has been. Nowhere in scripture does God ever commend the opulent and use their vicious cycles to help anyone. It’s simply not there.
We somehow put the blame on the oppressed. We say things like “well, if you worked harder”, “try harder”, or “you’re lazy” in an effort to cover for the truth of the matter. In a way, we’ve been trained by the wealthy to put the blame on the one scraping for bread instead of the one with a mansion, a fleet of vehicles, and their own island. It is time that we reverse the false narrative that the oppressed are oppressed by their own doing.
So what, right? So I’ve said a bunch of stuff and you think I’m still wrong. That’s fine, but consider one last thing.
Consider the rising rates of those in poverty and those who are homeless. If God used the corporate systems that perpetuate these rates, it would follow that the rates would be greatly reduced or nonexistent. And yet, we find the opposite is true. We find that even many of the workers who work 40 hours a week at one or two jobs cannot afford rent at a place large enough for their family (or rent in general depending on where someone lives). Then we have the audacity to belittle the poor when they ask for a legitimate living wage. That’s yet another way we perpetuate the cycle.
Further, I recognize that decisions some have made contribute to the cycle as well. However, is that an excuse not to care for them as well? That’s the question at hand here. If your answer is “yes”, you are once again helping the cycle flourish.
Seems to me that if God was anywhere in this system using it, it would stop at some point instead of ballooning. We are failing at helping the oppressed and the marginalized and we know it. The old saying “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” just isn’t getting it done, is it? It just doesn’t seem to be the proper solution. We have replaced God with the mythical “American Dream”. We somehow still buy into this myth that we can get to a place where providing basic necessities for ourselves and our families isn’t border lining on the impossible by our own work and merit. How on earth can that be with all of the systems that work against the preservation of life?
That “Dream” keeps the cycles alive. Then we marry it to “It’s part of God’s plan” in an effort to blanket the situation at hand in an attempt at an unholy marriage between God and the “American Dream”. We can do so much better.
God does indeed have a plan. That plan requires difficult and painful work on our behalf in the pursuit of the Kingdom coming to fruition in our world. It is time we take on the exhaustingly wealthy, help the oppressed in our communities, and remind the wealthy when they dissent or spit out vitriol that “It’s a part of God’s plan”.