A friend made me think about the royal commission and the responses of many Church institutions to threats. She highlighted the knee-jerk reaction of the institutions to defend themselves and their financial resources and asked me if what they were lacking was an understanding of God’s providence. I think the responses have been lacking a lot of major aspects of Christian ethics, but one of them is a profound belief that we need to protect the resources for our ministries because God won’t.
Why would we not pay out generous compensation to someone wronged by our institution? Are we afraid that we might go broke and then cannot do gospel ministry? Do we really believe that God will let us get into a state where we cannot do ministry as a result of us being generous?
What about our personal lives? Do we really think that God will let us starve not he streets if we use our time and money in service of him?
I just read Genesis 15, and was struck by the detailed 400 year timetable that he gives for the future. That is a scale of power that is difficult to comprehend. God is saying that he is not the perfect chess player who can respond to any situation. No, he is the one who will direct the actions of nations and individual people, far into the future, precisely how he wants them, to achieve his preordained plan. There is nothing – nothing – that any human could do to derail his plan. When we read about the Ishmaelites – who happen to be nearby, and happen to be traveling in the direction of Egypt in order to take Joseph into slavery – we realise that God had been controlling their entire lives up to this point to bring them there, and he had planned their lives, including their ancestry from Ishmael himself, hundreds of years beforehand, if not from the beginning of time.
That is the framework of providence that he calls us to live within.