The Lord is My Shepherd I shall not want
This quote from Psalm 23 is perhaps the most famous line in the entire bible. Certainly the first one I learnt by heart. Looking back, maybe my skeptic mind was being developed even as a five year old learning this. The line just didn't make any sense. Why would the Lord not be wanted? Isn't the whole point that we need to trust him to get what we want? It was years later that it was explained to me that 'want' in that context means I shall not lack for for anything that I need. Of course, that only made slightly more sense since bible believing Christians lack the things that they need all the time. Anyway, we all know that finding a sentence in the bible that does not contradict something else in the book or in the observed world is about as easy as getting a camel through the eye of a needle. So, no need for worry here.
What I have been recognising recently is that apart from Christians being full of wants, God himself is found wanting right through the bible. From what I hear from the sermons on the radio and television we are finding him more wanting every day. God might not have succumbed to the temptations in the wilderness but I heard during holy week about many things God wants . He wants us to worship him. He wants us to accept him as our Lord and Saviour. He wants us to have sex only in certain ways with certain people. He wants us to go to heaven and not hell. He wants that we keep his commandments. He wants us to have faith. Yes, there are so many things that God wants us to do. And that in large part is why Christians observe and practice the rituals the way they do. It's done like that because God wants it like that.
However, this whole 'want' thing leaves me just as confused today as I was learning that Psalm 23 at age five. How can God want anything? It can't be want as in having a lack of something because he is a God, a god can't lack for anything, can he? Of course when we say 'want' in the usual context it means desire. But still this poses more problems. How can God have desires? To many in the faith this would seem a strange question. We all have desires, things we want to achieve and things we do our utmost to make become reality. Why would God be any different? Well, that's just the point, God is different.Those omni properties change everything. An all powerful God or even a supremely powerful one must be able to get what he wants especially when it relates to his creation. If God wants it surely he can get it. How could any lowly human being like us possibly resist him? If we are not following him it must be that it's his will to have it that way.
On the other side of the coin, I often get told what God doesn't want. God doesn't want anybody to go to hell, I hear. That would seem to be an easy problem to fix. Eliminate hell and nobody will go there, simple. If you don't want a child to get shot when playing in the shed at your home where you keep your weapons, you remove all the guns you have from inside . Seems like a no brainer, but a no brainer that seems to have eluded God's grasp so far. Right about this point, the believer yells " Free will ! Free will!" Well, if that's the reason some of must go then it would have to be that God doesn't REALLY want the hell prevention.
We all know that if we REALLY want something no way that something like preserving free will ever stands in the way. We want less fatal accidents on the road we put in stipulations for sear belt wearing, that physically restrains people's bodies. Doesn't mean people must drive like robots though. We might have speed limits as well as seat belts but we have freedom still to go where we like , take any road we want once we follow the basic rules. Somehow in the curious faith world, God the maker of heaven and earth can't find an ideal balance between freedom and protecting us from mortal danger. There seemingly is no system of reward and punishment that he can come up with that does not require the use of a torture chamber. But that's simply impossible, how can God can't? There is no way out, if God has the power to do anything, and hell exists he must be in favour of it.
So the bottom line is this, if God is all powerful he cannot possible want anything more than what he has. The world as it is today must be exactly how he wants it to be now. So anytime a believer says, " God wants you to......." it doesn't matter what comes next its 'game over.' If God wants something for any more than a split second without getting it ,that means he is not God. It just doesn't add up that a God needs our help in order to achieve. Humans need help to get where they want to be, God the Almighty does not. The fact is that we so much want or God to be like us that we make him want, to be like us. Our wants become his. And we humans want so much, that our God is found at the end of our Holy Books just as wanting as we are.
Once we start on this wanting cycle we can't help ourselves. Not just God but the entire religion becomes about wants. We want to go to heaven, we want there to be an ultimate cosmic justice, we want there to be an external meaning of life, we want to live forever, we want there to be a guardian angel protecting us, we even want there to be a devil in hell so we can feel euphoria that we triumphed over him, but of course most of all we want there to be a God.