Confusing People with God
by Sterling M. Durgy, Ph.D.

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While it may seem unlikely, people often confuse other people with God. Of course, when this happens, most people don't think of it that way; which is why this may seem so unlikely to some. Nevertheless, there are two ways we commonly confuse the two.

We confuse people with God whenever we assume that other people have the same abilities as God. Perhaps this happens because we look at the world from the perspective of our own minds, needs, and lives. It is easy for us to have expectations of others we would never expect of ourselves — expectations appropriate only to God — because we aren’t experiencing life as they do.

Here are some examples of how we confuse people with God:

Take a little time to think about it, and it becomes apparent that we all confuse people with God in this manner at some time or another, and generally more often than we would want to think.

It seems the first thing to do to overcome this tendency is to follow the "Golden Rule": Jesus said, "In everything, . . . treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets." By "Law and the Prophets," Jesus meant that this is a principal teaching of the books we have in the Old Testament. Jesus also agreed that one of the two main teachings of the Old Testament is found in Leviticus 19:18: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" — one of the Scriptures from which the Golden Rule flows.

A second remedy is to remember that other people are busy living their own lives. Even in the best of conditions with people who know us well, other people cannot remember everything we tell them and cannot read our minds. Paul wrote: "who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?" (1 Corinthians 2:11). Only God knows what is in our minds, for God "sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7, cf. Hebrews 4:11, 12). Therefore, we need to be very patient and understanding of others, just as we hope they will be with us. We also need to make the effort to communicate clearly and plainly with others, which is an essential part of building a good relationship. Mutual respect and clear communication are essential to all good relationships.

There is yet another way we tend to confuse people with God: when we assume that God is just like and acts just like human beings. It is true that human beings were created in the image of God, and so are like God in many ways. For example, human beings are not only capable of reasoning, they are able to make moral judgments. Human beings are also able to love and to have compassion for others. People are thus able to demonstrate some of God's characteristics in a manner that is like God. However, because of the presence of sin in human lives, no human being can ever be as good or as pure as God. Jesus said, "No one is good but God alone" (Mark 10:18, cf. James 1:17). Jesus is the only person to have lived as a human being and never sinned (John 8:46, Hebrews 2:18). Further, as the Creator of the universe — including human beings — God is beyond human beings in every way, so that, for example, we are only able to comprehend some of His wisdom and power.

Much of the Old Testament is instruction through word and deed of the realities of the greatness of the one, true God.

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways," declares the Lord.
"For as the heavens are higher than earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9, 10).

Here are some ways we tend to confuse God with people:

Scripture shows God expressing joy, sorrow, anger, and disappointment. However, unlike human beings, God is never overwhelmed by emotion; His reasoning and judgments never fail. God is also never biased (Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9).

Both Testaments show that God is working out His plan in the world regardless of circumstances, and as Creator, "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God" (Romans 8:28, cf. Jude 24, 25, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24).

The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ show that God’s ability and power are surpreme; God is able to keep His promises and ultimately to deliver His people to eternal blessings (Ephesians 2:4-9).

God is able to work through His people to touch their lives and the lives of those around them. God's work through some people may seem great, but through others may seem seem humble and small; but in every case His work is an eternal work of eternal value.

Because we are human and live in a world with other human beings, but we do not generally see, hear, or feel God, it is easy to view God as if He is just like the people we know; but that is surely wrong. The right perspective for Christians is shown in Revelation 4 and 5, where God is worshipped as both Creator and Savior by the multitudes surrounding God's throne in heaven. Keeping this in mind helps when we are tempted to see God as less than He is and when we are tempted to be inpatient while He is working out His plan.

Finally, we need to be honest with ourselves: whenever we have expectations of others that are appropriate only to God, or view God as no different from human beings, we need to recognize this and to ask God to help us do better. In doing so, we will both treat other people with the kind of grace God has shown us and trust in God who is our Creator and Deliverer through Jesus Christ our Lord.


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Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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This page was last updated June 14, 2014.