I’m very much enjoying reading Chris Wright’s The Mission of God at the moment. It is quite heavy going at times, but it’s a very thorough look at the way missional themes run right the way through the Bible.
I’ve just finished the chapter on God’s people, much of which is focused on how God called Abraham in Genesis 12, and how this echoes through the rest of Scripture:
The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:1-3
Wright explains that right from the time when God called Abraham – the start of the Israelite nation – his purpose in choosing Abraham was that people of all nations be blessed through him. God blessed Abraham in order that Abraham be a blessing to others.
It struck me how the general principle of receiving in order to pass on resonates through the Bible and throughout creation. For example:
- In plant and animal reproduction, characteristics are passed on from one generation to the next through their DNA
- The Isrealites were commanded to give certain parts of what they have received from God back to him
- God’s people were given the law, and told to teach it from one generation to the next
- Jesus was sent by the Father, and in turn sent out the disciples
- Jesus spent time investing in his followers, and told them to go and do the same
We can often make the mistake of on the one hand thinking that receiving is an end in itself. We rejoice that God has blessed us. We look for blessing, as if our being blessed was the ultimate goal.
On the other hand, we see that there is a need to give, but our giving comes out of a pragmatic view of need, rather than a natural passing on of what we have received.
Our temptation is either to think that God could give whatever he wanted to whoever he wanted, so we ask for blessing for ourselves, and don’t see the need to give to others. Or we think that God is limited in how much he can give, so we have to help him by giving – our money, time, training – as a matter of necessity.
It would be quite easy for God to do everything himself – making disciples, providing for the priests, creating new plants and animals from scratch – but he chooses to work by investing in particular parts of his creation, in particular ways, with the intention that they pass on that blessing to all those around them.
Our pragmatic, individualistic approach to life can often mean that we miss the nature of how God works. We assume that God does things the easiest and most efficient way – that’s the way we like to work, so we assume God does the same. We would take a tree and clone it a billion times to fill the earth. We’d create a multi-billion dollar company to finance world mission. We’d design a super discipleship programme in a single universal language to teach everyone what they need to know about God. Our natural desire is to create efficient programmes to achieve our goals with the minimal effort.
God could meet every need directly, satisfying every desire without the involvement of anyone. But instead he chooses to work in very local, particular ways, giving with the intention that the gift be passed on. God wants to bless all nations equally, but it seems that he often does it by blessing particular individuals, communities and nations in very particular ways so that they can pass on that blessing to others.
- Where do you see around you the pattern of receiving in order to give, being sent in order to send, living in order to give life, in the way God works?
- Why do you think God uses the particular and the local (Abraham, Israel, Jesus, the disciples, the Church) in order to pass on a message that is global and universal?
- Given that we see God working in this way, what should this mean for the way we work?