Efficient humans and an Inefficient God

Efficiency is most certainly a key spirit to this technological civilization of ours. From coffee machines to satellites to operation systems – a product or technology that doesn’t improve ‘efficiency’ is hardly worth its name they say.

There are good things about efficiency to be sure – and I for one, have a hard time when things are not run efficiently – like this culture, for example, which delights in the smooth inefficient movement of life – which I’m able to laud half heartedly while remaining frustrated within my narrow minded striving for expedience.

More to the point, I wonder if we can fail to hear the Word of God to us in this restless striving. For perhaps the Word of God often comes to the efficiency-minded world in the form of ‘inefficiency’.

There is hardly a more stark contrast between the ‘inefficient God’ of the gospels and the ‘efficient humans’ of the world. Compared to such a world, the Word of God seems archaic and feeble in its slowness.

But being love, God is prepared to operate in history ‘inefficiently’.[1] God’s love works its way through us and this world inefficiently and by doing so proves its genuineness withoutthe ‘quick fix’ and ‘expedient salvation’.

Remember God’s leading his people through the wilderness for 40 years to let them ‘hunger’ so that they many know that ‘man does not live by bread alone’? Surely there could have been an easier way to get that tidbit across right – that hardly seems worth the time, especially since they missed the point entirely.

And the subsequent mentioning of that passage when Satan tempts Jesus into expedience and relevance to feed the people and take control of the world there and then. Why didn’t God short circuit history and liberate Godself and all of us from the coming troubles and inconveniences of hunger and pain?

And why do we continually insist on God fixing us and our issues right now, or else? Are we lost in our expediency or worse yet, do we project our efficient image onto God to be the God we want him to be in our lives?

It seems God refuses to cut himself off from human history – but instead loses himself in the midst of his people at every turn. It seems that the only one who doesn’t have a problem being human through the slow path of life is God. Surely, it is not by his omnipotence that he helps us then, but by his becoming human and his joining of us who are on the way(as Hebrews 2 tells us so decisively).

Surely then, it is in our slow recognition of the slowness of God’s action that our hearts become slowly attuned to the Spirit’s thorough work around us and through us.

And surely, it is only on the long journey under-girded by the daily bread that we are able to see that man does not live by bread alone but by every (inefficient) word that comes from the mouth of God.


[1] Koyama, Kosuke. Quote and main thought from his book, Water Buffalo Theology, pg 46.

Published by Ryan Hayes

Ryan Hayes is a development practitioner, teacher and co-author of his first book of poems, Paralipomenon. Being born in Nairobi, Kenya and living most of his life in Africa, he has a wealth of experience and understanding into the cultural and linguistic factors of South-East Africa. Ryan is happily married to Justine with whom they have begotten three beautiful girls – Amelie, Lily and Rylee. He is a lifelong learner and devoted student of Jesus, mysticism, quantum physics and the human psyche.

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