Is God Stingy?
Why does God give laws in the Bible? We too easily craft the wrong reason, namely that God is a cosmic killjoy, stingy and making life as restrictive as possible. Eve was the first person to imagine this. Do you know the first command God gave to people? If you think it was, “Don’t eat from the fruit in the garden,” you make the same mistake as Eve. Genesis 2:16, the first command of the Bible*, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden.’” The first command was one of wide generosity! Eve, of course, focused on the second command not to eat of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. Then, because she thought of God as restrictive and stingy, she twisted that command to say that she could not even touch that fruit. The serpent planted doubts, asking, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” This reinforced the notion that God was stingy, restricting his creation from flourishing and fulfillment.
The Bible is filled with people who misunderstand God’s nature. Consider the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. The prodigal believes his father (who represents God) as stingy and restrictive. So, he asks his father for his inheritance and flies fast and far from his father. However, the older brother makes the same mistake. He too thinks that the father is stingy and restrictive. “You never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends,” he says. So, whether one is a rebel against God or a legalist who takes pride in rules, the same error holds—both think of God as stingy and restrictive, not expansive in generosity and kindness.
You might ask, “Well, if God is generous, why did He make laws?” This fine question is best answered in another article, but the quick answer is when God says, “Don’t,” He is really saying, “Don’t hurt yourself.”
Don’t make the error about God being stingy. The God who made the world and everything in it is generous and kind, and He wants people to know Him. He has given you two “books” by which you can know His character. One is the world He has made; the other is the book He has written, the Bible. I invite you to “read” both.
*Some will argue that Genesis 1:26--"be fruitful and multiply" is the first command, and they would have an excellent case. The more specific point that I am making is the issue of the word, "commanded," in 2:16, which is the first time an official command is issued, using the word, "command."
This article first appeared in the Pantagraph on April 1, 2017.