Some preacher somewhere said that we have more faith in a vending machine than we do in God.
That was a long time ago, yet I still believe it to be true.
Yesterday I was meeting with my good friend, Mark. Mark leads the worship team for Lighthouse Ministries and we often chat to match worship to whatever I am preaching about. Yesterday we talked about making worship more inclusive and for some reason I mentioned the vending machine idea. Mark added to this thought and said that often we treat God like a vending machine.
How we do these things is simple and sad. I don’t often use vending machines anymore but when I was a student and studied late into the night at one of the study halls, there was a vending machine. It served up coffee.
To be honest, vending machine coffee is not as good as one might think but around eleven at night with hours to go, it was the only choice we had. I think coffee was only a quarter. I would put the coin in and select the coffee as I wanted it. One cream and one sugar. Every time it came out with one cream and one sugar. And every time it tasted just like vending machine coffee. I had complete faith in that machine. It never failed me except that one time when the cup dropped and fell over and the coffee missed its mark.
Did that one error cause me to doubt the machine? Did I feel betrayed or not important to the machine? Nope, I simply gave it another quarter and expected that the next cup would be the same as all the others.
I remember one time a friend put a quarter into the machine and it was not accepted. The quarter dropped into the reject slot. She picked it up and put it right back in. After a few tries with the same result, she gave up and someone gave her a different quarter. And that amazing vending machine gave her coffee just the way she liked it!
Although the machine was not perfect, it was consistent. We all had faith that it would give us what we wanted. All we had to do was put in the right coin, press the right buttons and we’d get horrible coffee. When it didn’t accept our money or when the cup didn’t drop upright, we didn’t think anything more than it was a one-time thing. A glitch in our universe so to speak.
Suppose every time we pray to God, we had the same belief that God would answer our prayers. And when our cup only ran over because it tipped over, we wouldn’t feel rejected, or angry, or that God didn’t hear us. We would show God at least as much faith as that vending machine.
One of the problems is that instead of believing that God’s answer is always in our best interest, we search for a new coin. If I just put the right prayer into the God vending machine, He will hear it and do what I want. Or perhaps I am not pushing the right buttons. Maybe if I said or did this better God would give me what I want. Perhaps the God vending machine is sold out of what I want and I need to go to the next one.
Many times, we are tempted to treat God this way. God, I want life with one cream and one sugar and you gave me life with two creams and one sugar. I guess God doesn’t listen to my prayers. I guess I’m just not that important to him. We feel hurt and rejected because God is not our personal vending machine.
One thing I discovered in my walk with God is that he does not work for me. He is not some vending machine that gives me horrible coffee in exchange for a token or money. Faith in God ought not to be based on routines in which we get what we want. That’s vending machine faith.
Faith in God ought to be based on whom He is. God is love and God is spirit. Love does not always give permission to do what we want, yet it always builds up and encourages. Let’s be encouraged in this. God is way better than any vending machine the devil can come up with.
Andy Becker is a retired counselor and author of The Travelers, a fictionalized account of spiritual warfare (available on Amazon). He and his wife, Stella, lead Lighthouse Ministries which offers love, hope, and encouragement to one of Canada’s poorest and roughest neighborhoods, North Central Regina. His book, The Travelers, is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca