One afternoon while perusing Facebook statuses of friends, I came across a status message of a friend who was excited about a new job. I knew that she had been looking for a job for some time. She had completed her advanced education in the field of education and while one would assume that would help guarantee her employment; in this economy it means very little. Months had gone by and she had to pick up small part time jobs to bring in money during the interim between graduation and securing a job. I watched her motivation wane until one day I told her that although I didn’t know much about her industry she would need to make sure that she dedicated as much time to finding a job that normal people with jobs spend at their job. That meant a minimum 40-hour commitment. Once she reached that point I like to call, “this has to work” there was an immediate change in her behavior and she started to put in the time necessary to find her job. Eventually, she accepted an offer to be a teacher. I scrolled through the comments attached to her Facebook status and I saw one that stood out to me…

“See what God can do?!”

I thought to myself, “Really? It couldn’t be the Masters degree that she spent two years trying to earn, could it? It couldn’t be the hard work that she put into applying and interviewing for jobs, could it?” I felt her personal achievement had been reduced to very little. I discussed this with some friends and I began to tell them about my difficulty understanding why some people blame or credit God for everything. In my friend’s case, I think God gave her the knowledge to go out and earn her education, but he didn’t do her schoolwork for her, the onus was on her for that. God created opportunities in a tough economy, but he didn’t apply to a single job or sit next to her and answer the questions in her interviews; the onus was on her for that. To be honest, this happened about a year ago, and I sat on this topic for a long time because I wasn’t sure exactly how I wanted to approach this sensitive topic. I mean, honestly, what exactly has God done for you lately?

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At times, giving all the credit to God can be problematic and this isn’t regulated to only Christians. They can very well be applied to anyone who believes in any form of religion. I thought about three dangers.

1. Difficulties balancing humility and pride

It’s my opinion that sometimes in an attempt to always be as humble as possible and never show any pride, you notice that some believers belittle themselves to the point of being powerless. I don’t think that humility is about being powerless and I don’t think taking credit for your hard work makes you prideful. If you are able to appreciate your accomplishments and acknowledge that you didn’t do it all on your own, you can maintain the necessary balance of humility and pride. However, when you reduce yourself to the size of a pea in the spirit of humility, it becomes a problem.

2. Creating a scapegoat

There have been times when I’ve heard believers use the phrase, “It wasn’t in God’s plan” to describe when a certain situation didn’t work out the way they hoped it would. They sometimes use “God’s plan” to explain disappointment, but sometimes they know very well they fell back on that excuse when their level of effort was inadequate. One common example that comes to mind for me is when I have a family member or friend who refuses the help of doctors and then says, “It’s in God’s hands.” That’s a perfect example of when we blur the line of what God does for us. God places doctors and medical equipment around us, but if we’re expecting him to perform the miracle with his own hands, we’re creating a scapegoat.

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3. Struggles with understanding God’s place in our life

We have always struggled to see where God fits into our lives. Is he our sole provider of happiness? Are we totally dependent on Him for our existence and everything that happens in our lives? I’m not sure, everyone has to come to that conclusion for themselves. I believe that many of us believe in God because at the very foundation of the faith there is hope that things will get better by maintaining a great relationship with Him. Whether that is eternal life or a better job or even a few extra dollars for the light bill, we believe that God provides the way that happens. Because we struggle with understanding where he fits, we sometimes tend to credit him for everything good that happens in our lives. Personally, I’ve always relied on God for motivation and inspiration, but I didn’t forget that he gave me free will. He might have made me a genius, but if I wanted to squander away that talent, it doesn’t make it God’s plan. God doesn’t give me hope that things will get better. He gives me a way to make things better.

I understand that some of what I said here today might rub some believers the wrong way, that’s fair. I’d like to put this out there; my beliefs and my relationship with God is a very personal relationship. Althoug, I may have thought that my friend worked very hard for her job, if she wanted to give all the credit to God, that’s fine. She has her own personal relationship with God. I’m not judging with my thoughts but just merely trying to understand. Is everything that happens in your life on account of the Good Lord? Is it wrong for us to take credit for anything? I’m not sure. I guess that’s just where I’m at right now.

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– Dr. J