“If there was one last crust of bread in this town, it would be mine.” That’s a quote from a rather pretentious member of the clergy, stating how God would take care of him should the world come unhinged tomorrow. “Everyone else may starve, but God has promised me that I will always have enough.”
The spiritual mathematics of such self-confidence says: “I am godly, so I will always have what I want and will never go without.” The corollary for such a statement is also true: “If you are ungodly, then you will not always have what you need, and you will suffer.”
To hear advocates of this position explain, those who please God always land on top of the heap. Their cupboards are always full, their gas tanks never empty, their table always running over, and their checks never bounce.
But countless numbers of good and godly people have suffered, have gone without, have been tortured, have been chained in prison, and have died by stoning, firing squad, holocaust, and worse. They suffered, not because they possessed an inferior faith, a faith not big or strong enough to get them out of trouble, but because of their unwavering belief.
The writer of the book of Hebrews concludes that those who suffer this way are “too good for this world and earn a good reputation because of their faith.” Their stomachs didn’t growl be-cause their faith was defective. On the contrary, they suffered because of their virtue. These heroes of faith weren’t standing behind a pulpit, in the midst of chaotic times, bragging about how the last bread truck in town was going to make a special delivery to their home. No, they led a life of faith, a life lived “in scorn of the consequences,” to quote the late Clarence Jordan, taking integrity as its own reward.
After leaving the man who had called dibs on the last loaf of Wonder Bread in town, I was left to wonder myself. What happens to this kind of faith when the promised bread truck doesn’t arrive? What is the outcome when the pantry is found to be empty? When the last check bounces? When life produces more suffering than satisfaction?
I imagine a chink in this armor of belief makes for one incredible crisis of faith. And it should, because faith that leads to arrogance isn’t faith at all.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.