Thursday, April 14, 2011

Does God Work 'Quid Pro Quo'?

Jessica asked: Do you think God gives us blessings as a direct result of our obedience? If so, will He take those blessings away if I am disobedient?

You ask an important question . . . one that is fraught with peril because it is easy for us to develop a distorted view of God if we come up with the wrong answer.

Yes, many Scriptures tell us God blesses those who are obedient and disciplines those who are not. However, it has been my experience that His blessings are not often according to my expectations. In other words, just because God didn’t answer my prayers does not necessarily mean God is angry with me or I did something wrong. And just because something bad has happened to me does not necessarily mean God is angry with me or I did something wrong. 

I have learned that to associate what we consider ‘blessings of God” according to a quid pro quo formula (e.g. God will do this, if I do that) can be very toxic to our faith.

Besides, life (and Scripture) suggests God sometimes answers prayers and blesses people even when they are not obedient. For example, "God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45).

Why does He do that? Because God is good. Because He is not willing that any should perish, but desires that all will come to repentance. And because His acts of goodness are intended to draw people to repentance (see 2 Peter 3:9 and Romans 2:4).

As for me, though, I try to obey God – not because He will bless me if I obey, or whip me if I do not -- but because I love Him and I don't want to hurt Him. I am trying to learn that the bottom line – for  me, anyway -- must be, “God is love” and that He does nothing for me (or to me) that is not good for me.

Perhaps one day also I will be able to internalize the attitude of St. Therese of Lisieux (I think I have quoted her before):

"Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our father's love — difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul's miseries, her burdens, her needs — everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness — Everything is a grace because everything is God's gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events — to the heart that loves, all is well."

But let me reiterate, because it is so important to ‘get this’ -- Quid pro quo by God is I think a common, but dangerous belief because such thinking commonly leads to a distorted picture of God.  Focus on "God is love" (1 John 4:8). It will change the way you think about prayer, about holiness, about sin, repentance, your relationship with Him and His relationship with you. 



  1. Rich you are correct in saying that God is good and wishes to draw all near to Him. You are right to want to please Him thru obedience not cowering fear!

    Sometimes we receive evil when we do good not because of God but because He gave all of us free will.

    There in lies the paradox - a good God who lets bad things happen to His loved ones. We of faith know that in the end, He will wipe away all our tears and set things in their proper order.


  2. This makes no sense. It goes against the entire concept of a just world hypothesis. And there are old testament passages where God explicitly promises reward for worhsipping Him, such as Psalm 37:4 (NIV) "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

  3. Hello, Anonymous. I rarely read comments to this blog because I hid it from my list in blogger . . . I did so because very very few people ever responded or asked me questions. So I decided the blog was not useful. I would have deleted it from my blog list, but decided against it. But as for your comment, I confess I do not understand what you are suggesting. Are you saying that bad things happen only to bad people and good only to good people?