Seems like a pretty silly question, doesn’t it? How could you possibly find a box big enough to put God into? But in a very real sense most of us attempt it from time to time; if not most of the time.
Uses for a Box
There are a couple of ways that we use boxes that are applicable to this discussion of boxing God. The first of these is to put limits around something. We do it with our children, imposing limits on what they can do. Hopefully, as they grow and mature, we allow the box to get bigger and bigger until they finally bust out of it. With our children, the box is defined by the limits we impose on them, and what we think they are capable of. As they grow and mature the box should expand to accommodate that growth.
A second use I have for boxes is to provide organization for my stuff. Instead of a box it might be a bag or a drawer, or other storage medium. But the idea is that I store something in my box, take it out when I need it, and put it back when I am finished with it. My toolbox is an example. If I need to replace an electrical outlet, I pull the appropriate tools out of the toolbox, use them to change the outlet, and then restore them to their proper place.
Do We Put God in a Box?
But what about with God? When I was a child I had a very simple set of beliefs concerning God; he lived in heaven and was watching over me; if I was good and believed in Jesus I would go to heaven when I died; in heaven I would get a harp, wings and a halo and would float around on a cloud and look down on the people who were still here. That concept defined some limits in my understanding of God. It was the box I had him in.
And, as a child, God had some specific times he would be used. The blessing for a meal and bedtime prayers were times to pull him out for a few minutes. If I needed help passing a test at school I would call for his assistance. And I would pick him up on the way to church, carefully returning him when I got back home.
As I have grown and matured my understanding of who God is also changed; the box has gotten bigger. I understand that the limits I imposed on God as a child were way too restrictive. God has no limits. And God’s involvement in my life should not be restricted to specific times and places. Rather, he should be a part of all that I do. But, how well does that mental understanding carry over into my actual life?
The Problem With A Box
Many, if not most, or us still have God in a box. We may mentally acknowledge that God is too big to fit in any box we construct, no matter how large. And yet, in a very practical way, we still keep God in a box. When we divide our lives and time between secular and sacred, we have God in a box. When we only turn to God in time of need, we have him in a box. Or when we think of God only at specific times, we have God in a box.
To be honest, it is probably not possible for us as finite humans to think of God without any limits. He is too big and we are too small. But it is important that our concept of God does not limit his ability to work in us. Or that it limit our willingness to submit to him in all things. Otherwise when the circumstances of life test our faith, we may be challenged to give up on that faith. When your child is sick or dies, your family is torn apart, your job is lost, or any of a hundred other potential problems come your way; is God big enough to see you through them?
God’s Not Like Us
God is not like us in any real appreciable way. We are stuck in time and have a very limited view of eternity. God is not, and his viewpoint is much larger. I am most concerned for my immediate future, while God takes a much larger view; one that extends beyond the life of the universe we inhabit. I am limited in my ability to control the world around me. God is not. I have a finite understanding of why the world is the way it is. God does not; he understands it completely.
If the New Testament is to be believed, God is more concerned with my future than he is my present condition. I need to expand my horizons and consider a God who has a long term purpose. A purpose that he is working out in the lives of those who live by faith in him. And a purpose that he is quite capable of carrying out. My challenge is to turn to him, not just sometimes, but continually. As Paul said, “Set your hearts and minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-2). And “what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
Do you dare to let God out of the box you have him in? You may find that it is a life-changing event.
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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This article was first published on September 14, 2011