Christian faith asks questions, seeks understanding, both because God is always greater than our ideas of God, and because the public world that faith inhabits confronts it with challenges and contradictions that cannot be ignored. It is my hope to offer some information and insights in response to questions about God, the Bible and faith, that will add to the conversation without offering set, absolute answers. Please feel free to communicate any additional questions or your own experiences, comments, responses and insights as they relate to the questions taken up here.
Why do some people seem to have all without God?
There are many different facets to approaching an answer to this question, and there is likely insufficient space here to adequately present them. But, that does not mean we should just “pass” on the question. The question seems to be rooted in the presumption that the questioner believes that with God, they do not have the all that some others are perceived as having. Our first consideration likely needs to break apart our definition of the “all” that some have. Is that money? Fame? Success (personal or professional)? Happiness (which is different from joy)? A carefree, pain-free, suffering-free life? Healthy relationships? What if some people only have one of those things? Do the others naturally follow?
It is a commonly held belief that success in one or several aspects of one’s life has a direct correlation to one’s righteousness before God. In addition to several Old Testament examples (Abraham, Job), consider the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Those who were successful were given more with which to work. But there is no mention in the story that God had anything at all to do with their success. And, we are left with the unsuccessful one being deprived of what was given and cast out. As a counter to that, we have the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21).
Our next perspective to contemplate is our certainty of the other being without God. Is it possible we rush to judgment that some people have all without God? Are we certain both designations are accurate: 1) that they have all, and 2) that they are without God? It presumes to have intimate knowledge of another’s heart and standing with the Almighty. Even if it is true that one who has all does not have a relationship with God, God does not withhold. “…for [God] cause the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45, NET)
Finally, St. Paul reminds us, by his own example, that being “top of the food chain” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be if Christ is anywhere in the equation. “Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.” (Philippians 3:7, NRSV) We are faced with the dilemma of worrying whether we are successful or faithful. Are the two things, success and faithfulness, mutually exclusive and opposed to one another? Can we have both or is that too great a paradox? “For life is more than food, the body more than clothing.” (Luke 12:23) “Christ came that we would have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10), but it seems to hinge on just what indicators we use to measure that life and its abundance or lack. Ultimately, for Paul, and hopefully for us, having Christ is having it all even if, and especially when, we find ourselves not having the all that the world tries so desperately to convince us that we should.