We continue to talk about words people use to describe God. Today I turn to some “negative” words
Trickster/Joker – I was a little surprised to see trickster/joker on the list. I don’t know if I have ever heard God described in this way. I take it to imply somebody seeing God as a deceiver who uses illusion to deceive us and make fun of us. Have you ever heard God described in this way?
Santa Claus – This too caused me to wonder why it was on the negative list. Normally, we think of Santa Claus as a generous giver. I would imagine it is on the negative list because of a distorted image of God as making a list, checking it twice, finding out whose naughty and nice, implying God is all about judging us as a scorekeeper. If we are good we get grace, if not we get coal. God is indeed our judge as the one who determines what is right and wrong (cf. stern judge). But God does not judge in harshness. God is not the angry one or a harsh ruler. God is merciful and offers us forgiveness.
Domineering One – Does God hold all the power? Yes. Is God all knowing? Yes. Does God have the right to demand that we follow him? Yes. But God does not demand our obedience. God gives us free will and allows us to make our own choices. Are there consequences when we do not follow God’s ways? Yes. It is the same with a parent and child. If a child does something wrong, there are consequences. With a good parent (and God is the ultimate good parent), the consequences are not about what suits the parent’s need but what is good for the child.
Hard-to-Please – Does God ask a lot of us? According to the Bible and the Tradition of the Catholic Church there is much expected of us. Can we do it all on our own? No, if we could Jesus would not have had to die for our sins. What is expected of us? Jesus sums it up in two commandments in Matthew 22:34-40
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
What Jesus asks of us is to love. Yet that is no small task. It is not easy. So it might seem that God is hard-to-please but Jesus does not expect us to be perfect. He does expect us to do our best and he will take care of the rest.
P.S. Check out Images of God for the rest of this series on words people use to describe God.