In the classic scene from The Wizard of Oz, the green curtain is pulled back to Toto to reveal that it wasn’t actually a “great and mighty Oz, but something far less powerful and potent. Sometimes there’s a green curtain that needs to be pulled back to reveal our god. (link to blog here)
In his book, Free of Charge, Miroslav Volf describes the little man who is sometimes behind the green curtain of our theology. It’s either the Great Negotiator, or Santa Claus.
The Great Negotiator is the God we try to bargain with.
“I’ll do this [insert your favorite “favor” you offer God here] for you, God,
if you’ll do that [insert whatever it is you need from God at the moment here] for me.”
The main problem is that we have nothing to offer God that he needs. So it’s not really a negotiation. “God, I’ll give you something you already have and you’ll give me something I need.” Besides, if God doesn’t uphold his end of the deal, there’s no way to enforce it.
The Santa Claus God is the one who gives indiscriminately to everyone with no expectation or strings attached. The main problem with this is that God seems to have expectations. “Do this, or don’t do that.”
As Volf points out, “God generously gives, so God is not a negotiator of absolute dimensions. God demands, so God not an infinite Santa Claus… [A] Santa Claus God gives simply so we can have and enjoy things; the true God gives so we can become joyful givers and not just self-absorbed receivers. God the giver has made us to be givers and obliges us therefore to give.”
We’re tempted to follow the Great Negotiator, or Santa Claus. But a better choice is the picture that emerges from the pages of the Bible. God is the Creator who creates and gives good gifts, and also the Redeemer who steps in when we fail to meet the demands of living as image bearers of our generous God.
Who’s behind your green curtain?