A friend brought up the character Jacob from the Bible in conversation with me last week and it got me thinking about how this Biblical character provides the perfect object lesson for the religious mindset.
First, we read that Jacob was blessed and chosen from birth to subvert his firstborn brother and obtain God’s favor. His own mother receives a prophetic sign that “the elder shall serve the younger.” But, in spite of this sign, Jacob and his mother conspire to “steal the blessing” from Esau, which they do, leading Jacob to flee the wrath of his older brother.
As he runs for his life, Jacob has a vision of God’s angels ascending and descending a heavenly ladder and hears God’s voice speaking many blessings over him from Heaven. Yet, somehow, in spite of all of this, Jacob still seems to believe that he needs to strive for God’s favor and blessing.
God even says, “I will be with you wherever you go,” and yet what Jacob takes away is the idea that “God was in THIS PLACE and I did not realize it,” and builds a stone altar to God as a remembrance.
Check it: God says, “No matter where you go, I’ll be with you” and what Jacob hears is, “God was in this specific place and when you leave it you’re on your own.”
Next we see Jacob being blessed in everything he puts his hands to; especially in raising sheep and enlarging the flocks – and therefore the wealth – of his employer. He also becomes blessed with not one, but two wives, and he amasses so much wealth of his own that his father-in-law gets jealous. So, Jacob decided it’s time to return home.
Along the way, the Angel of the Lord visits Jacob and they wrestle all night long. You know this part of the story, I’m sure. Jacob refuses to release the Angel “until you bless me.”
Now…wait a minute. This is where it really starts to get ridiculous.
Jacob, the one prophesied to rule over his own brother, whom God speaks to in a vision and says, “I’ll never leave you,” whom God blesses with incredible wealth in his later years, and who is visited by the Angel of God is STILL fighting to receive a blessing that he’s had all along.
That, my friends, is the spirit of religion. Because religion keeps us running on the hamster wheel to earn or deserve or receive the blessing of God’s love and favor and forgiveness and mercy: things God has already told us we can never lose!
The Old Covenant scriptures declare that “God’s love endures forever!” and that “God’s mercies are new every morning,” and yet we beg God for mercy and we jump through religious hoops for God’s love.
Jesus offers every single person he meets total and absolute forgiveness – without ever once waiting for anyone to confess their sins or even ask for forgiveness! Jesus just forgives.
The Apostle Paul boldly announces that “nothing in all creation can ever separate us from the love God – not even death!” and yet we continually labor under the assumption that God’s love and favor are merited out to the righteous, the faithful and the holy. Or we accept the notion that God’s love and favor and mercy are somehow null and void after we die.
Why? Because religious leaders and religious doctrines drill these lies into our heads Sunday after Sunday, week after week, year after year.
No one seems to notice that – like Jacob – we’re running around trying to deserve God’s love, forgiveness, mercy and grace while all the while God’s love and mercy and forgiveness are freely given to everyone, everywhere, all the time.
God says, “I’ll never leave you or forsake you” and “The Father and Christ will make their home in you” and what we hear is: “God might one day invite us into His Presence if we’re good Christians, or pray the prayer, etc.”
God says, “Nothing will ever separate you from my love,” and what we hear is, “God’s love is conditional and dependent upon your confession of sin.”
God says, “Your sins are forgiven! I’ve cast them as far as the east is from the west and I remember them no more!” and what we hear is, “God will never let you forget all those sinful things you’ve done and you’d better get on your knees and beg for God’s forgiveness or you’re toast!”
Simply put, religion keeps us striving for blessings we already have.
Take a lesson from Jacob and wake up.
God is with you, always.
God’s love is unending.
God’s mercy is eternal.
God’s forgiveness is freely given to everyone.
It’s your choice: Religion or Freedom.
I choose freedom.
NEW ONLINE COURSE
SOLA DEUS – starts September, 11th, 2023.
If God is the One in whom we all live and move and have our being, then perhaps we are the ones in whom God lives and moves and has being too. If so, where does God end and where do we begin? Author Keith Giles asks us to reconsider our common assumptions about God and ourselves in ways we’ve never imagined before.
Keith Giles is the best-selling author of the Jesus Un series. He has appeared on CNN, USA Today, BuzzFeed, and John Fugelsang’s “Tell Me Everything.” He hosts the Second Cup with Keith podcast, and co-hosts the Apostates Anonymous podcast, and the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast.
Find out more about his online courses HERE>