The other day the friend of a friend posted on Facebook. His wife is in remission from illness and he expressed gratitude for “prayer, pills, and positivity” – a nicely balanced message I thought. Amidst predominantly supportive responses, two comments got my goat: “Don’t forget to give the doctors and drugs some credit!!” and “Why not give credit to the God we pray to?” Both of these suggestions were redundant: “pills” covered the first quibble, “prayer” the second.
We are used to the dismissive thoughts of atheists concerning a quality in life beyond the immediate material. It is more surprising that religious people think God has a fragile ego. Quite possibly these two ideas are connected.
Whether you believe in a big being with powers to create the Universe in 6 days (and to fake a fossil record to gull evolutionary scientists into believing that the Earth is 5 billion years old) or in something a little more nuanced, it is perverse to worry that God will be upset at not being given credit. Isn’t the act of creation satisfying enough? Does God really need applause?
Imagine. Your child does you proud in some aspect of their life – performs well in sport or music or exams, or, of more value, is a good person. As their parent, you know the attention, love, time, and money you have given. Isn’t knowing this enough? Isn’t it enough that they are happy or fulfilled? Do you get upset when they don’t give you credit for your contribution to their life? (Well, perhaps you do. I’m thinking now of the song, “No charge,” a smug song of a fragile ego if ever I heard one.)
God has no need of our thanks or praise. Nor appeasement. Nor credit. As the song says, “the cost of real love is no charge.” And ‘no charge’ includes no emotional blackmail, no jealousy, no competition for love, no fragile ego needing to be propped up with frequent stroking.
We are fragile. We need propping up. We need strokes. And nothing wrong with this. We are fleeting and fragile creatures craving care and kindness. Gratitude is remembrance that we are loved and can trust. Giving credit frees us from the burden of relentless self-invention.
We give God credit for our sake, not God’s. We give God credit, not by our words, nor even by prayer, but by kindness, and the care we take of what we have been given (which is not less than everything).