The Battle With God (Chapter 11: Our Battle With a Jealous God)

From my new book, The Battle With God (Available at in paperbook and ebook editions):

In fifth grade, I was caught cheating on a spelling test. My teacher, Mr. Freeman, picked me up by the ear. “Go to the board and write 20,” he said. For the next month, I spent all recesses and lunches copying twenty dictionary pages.
Mr. Freeman did not like any student to cheat on him. He did not want someone making a mockery of his system. He did not want someone making a mockery of the teacher/student relationship, or hard work, or integrity. When I made a mockery of his system and our relationship, the punishment was swift and severe. I understood these things and never questioned why I spent the next several weeks copying dictionary pages. His rules were clear and my disregard for them was equally clear. Mr. Freeman jealously guarded the integrity of his classroom.
In the years I taught junior high and high school, I had many opportunities to catch people cheating on my system. Two incidents stick out. Once, I caught a senior in high school cheating. He became belligerent and told me the only way he would graduate is if I let him cheat. I told him not to yell at me and that he would not be allowed to cheat. He cursed at me. For a moment, I thought he would hit me. Instead, he walked past me and slammed the door as he left. The second incident was a student who copied their “insights” about a Bible passage right out of a study Bible. When I asked the student what his paper was about, he didn’t know. That night, his father called me and spent 45 minutes telling me what a horrible person I was for giving his son a zero.
My experiences illustrate a colossal shift in culture’s attitude towards cheating. Today people think they are exceptional, and therefore, do not need to obey the rules like everyone else. When they are caught disobeying the rules, they get angry at the system rather than angry at themselves. Cheating is so common we almost consider it acceptable behavior.
What is true of our attitude toward societal systems is often true of our relationship with God. When we cheat on God and His system, we tend to blame Him instead of ourselves. We wonder why God is so uptight. In the words of atheist Richard Dawkins, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it…” Dawkins is not impressed with God’s jealousy and adds that God becomes enraged “whenever His chosen people flirted with a rival god.”

God doesn’t need our faithfulness does He? Does it really matter if some things in our lives don’t come under His system? We don’t have to exclude all other worship, do we? He demands too much from us. He can’t expect us to be faithful all of the time. Nobody’s perfect. And besides, isn’t He going to forgive us anyway?
Some think God should relax His desire to receive honor and credit. They think He is petty because He demands we recognize His greatness. They think it is strange for God to find satisfaction when we praise Him. Even Christians find it awkward that God demands praise and jealously guards that praise. After all, doesn’t Scripture say love is not jealous and does not seek its own? They struggle with how God’s jealousy and His love can co-exist.


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