In the Gospel of John, two disciples of John the Baptist leave the desert prophet to follow Jesus. Jesus turns around and asks them “What do you want?”
I’ve been told on a number of occasions to put myself into the shoes of the two disciples in this story and to consider the question “what do you want?” How would I respond if Jesus walked into my living room and after chatting a bit he looked me square in the eye and asked “so what do you want?”
I have a really hard time with this concept. What do I want? I’m pretty sure the saying goes “THY will be done.” I mean that’s the Lord’s prayer, that’s Jesus in Gethsemane, even Job submits to the Lord and his will. What does it matter what I want right?
How many times have I heard it said “[Jesus] must increase and I must decrease.” or how about “Holy Spirit take over!” Ever heard someone say “Jesus is driving, I’m just along for the ride”?
The idea that the Lord would let me sit in the driver’s seat is not foreign to me, but it freaks me out a little bit and puts me on edge. I mean from here it is not a far step to prosperity gospel/theology and that makes me REALLY uncomfortable. Jesus did not promise us prosperity, in face he would seem to go way out of his way to promise us the opposite. But there is a dangerous and precipitous drop off to either side of where I’m trying to stand.
On the one hand is an over emphasis on performance. The statement “thy will be done” is far too easily transformed into “I will see thy will be done.” Now as a performance oriented person this is actually very attractive to me. I want the Lord to tell me what to do, what is expected of me, and what the goals are so that at the end of the day I can say “here is where I stand.” Now I might choose to ignore some boundaries or to disagree with a set of goals, but I do so knowingly and I accept responsibility for where I end up (like that C- I got in an OT class because I told the teacher his topic for a final paper was a waste of space). But I know exactly where I stand.
On the other side, the prosperity gospel side, we see “Lord have mercy on this sinner” turn into “Lord give me mercy…and blessing…and that new car.” This is attractive for obvious reasons, I mean who wouldn’t want a new car just by praying “Lord I really NEEEED a new car.” This assumes Grace is not only present, but that it is so overflowing and abundant that God then becomes an easily bullied parent who is so eager to have his children love him that he cannot say “no” to them.
At the end of the day, both sides are representative of the same selfish control. On one I am controlling my own actions and how God sees me, on the other side I am controlling God. Let’s not be pharisaical about this and say one is worse than the other, both are equally bad.
The point is that there is a balance between saying “Lord how may I serve your will” and “Lord, I will not let go until you bless me.” Because sometimes we need blessing. Sometimes we just need a reminder that God does love us and we need to see that in some kind of tangible way.
So what does that mean for me? What would I say if Jesus showed up and said “what do you want?” I still don’t know, but at least I know now that it’s a question I need to seriously answer.