Is God beautiful or useful?

Albert Ngu

You should never go to God because he’s useful. Go because he’s beautiful. And yet there’s nothing more useful than finding God beautiful. —Tim Keller

I have found this confusing and in fact struggled to find God beautiful? How? First, I can’t see God, second, Jesus was marred beyond recognition and he was not beautiful per se. The notion of beautiful is always tied to the physical look. That’s how we understand it. Of course, we can say, what he has done is beautiful, in that context everyone understands.

I would phrase that very famous teaching of Tim Keller this way:

You should never go to God because he’s useful. Go because he’s beautiful in character. And yet there’s nothing more useful than finding God beautiful in character. — (Revised by me)

This way, every body understands gets it. I bet even Christians and pastors will struggle at the face value of this quote. God is not beautiful in his look. He is majestic, glorious, but no one can see his beauty in physical form, but we all know God is beautiful in his grace, patience, mercy, compassion, righteousness, insight, wisdom, power, suffering and so forth. That will make it so much clearer.

Why do I write this? Because this is a major theology that many and countless Christians fall into of seeking as useful and not beautiful as a person in character in his being. Keller is right, too many of us seek God to find him useful, and that’s not acceptable, in fact, God will be upset and grieved with that!

Some preachers have out it this way: God’s not your vending machine. Lol. Of course not! But don’t we call upon God to find a parking spot in our prayer? So I don’t think it’s merely asking petty prayer requests that make us like seeking because he is useful. I would say whats most important is a pious heart towards God, and no matter how you ask God, he knows you reverence him and love him, they will all be acceptable. God is very relational. Exodus 6: 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. He wants us to have a sense of belonging. Not a usefulness. He wants us to have a fierce loyalty and love, not making him a gateway to heaven.

I would use the word, we seek God because He is our help. Now that hits home. Psalms is full of the Lord is my help. From where does my help come from?

Psalm 121 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

Psalm is full of verses like this. God wants to be our help. He is the Almighty God who created us and loved, and I would argue that to show that He is our God, our Father, He will have to express that love and concern. And of course he will want to help us his children. Tell me, which father would not help his children when they cry for help? So to philosophize somehow God is just beautiful and neglecting the fact that He is our help, will not be helpful in our journey with God. There is a big difference between “useful” and “help”. It sounds likes this: “He’s been a great help”, and “He’s useful”. Useful has a connotation of using someone, even manipulating someone.

So I would use say come to God not because he is useful but come to God because He is our help. Because He is beautiful in his being, and loving, just, righteous, compassion, and graceful. I love him.

Psalm 96: Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

Psalm 145

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love.

The Lord is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made.

Amen.

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