God wants the best for you!
If you’ve spent much time in and around evangelical churches, chances are you’ve heard this phrase or some derivative of it on quite a few occasions. Maybe you’re going through a tough time with your health or finances, or perhaps you’re struggling to feel optimistic about the future. Whatever the specifics of the situation, when you feel trapped in a corner and everything looks bleak, isn’t it nice and encouraging to be told that God wants the best for you?
While this innocuous-sounding expression is undoubtedly well intentioned and may indeed sound reassuring, if we stop and think for just a moment, it’s easy to see that it masks some quite problematic ideas.
First off, the idea of “best” only really works inside a system of exchange.
If I’m going to be the best in my class, it follows that no one else but me can occupy that top spot. Similarly, in order for me to have an above average income, someone else (or rather a lot of someone elses) has to earn less than the average. Seen from this perspective, the very idea of “best” only makes sense within a hierarchical system. And in any hierarchical system there are inevitably winners and losers, the powerful and the powerless.
It follows from this that we can’t all have “the best”, whatever that might be and in whichever area of life it might apply. Simply put, if we all had “the best”, by definition it would no longer be “the best”; it would simply be the norm or the average.
That being the case, does God perhaps want some people to have the best but not others? Well, Romans 2:11 tells us that God has no favourites. Hmmm.