“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4
A common understanding of God’s kindness toward us is to assume that it means we are in God’s favor. To put it another way:
Things are going well for me = God is blessing me and therefore must approve of my life
Many times I’ve heard people say something to this effect. Even though any number of them were dealing with unrepentant sins of various kinds, each assumed that life was going too well to be outside of God’s favor. After all, if God didn’t approve of their choices and lifestyle, surely he would have done something to make that known. And this isn’t a new idea. This kind of thinking permeates us all by nature, and is even found demonstrated throughout Scripture. Job dealt with it when his friends insisted that he must be out of God’s favor because of something he had done, even though he hadn’t. And Jesus corrected those who said that God caused a man born blind because of either his own sin or that of his parents. It was neither. In both cases the assumption was, “well, if you had been living right, this wouldn’t have happened to you.” It could be put this way:
Things are going bad for me = God is making life hard for me and therefore must disapprove of my life
It is true that God will sometimes get our attention by bringing some type of calamity into our lives. The problem is when we automatically assume that a hardship is because of sin. Nowhere does Scripture state that this is necessarily the case. There can be any number of reasons for difficulties, and sometimes the reason simply isn’t revealed to us.
But what of the kindness of God? Is it true that having things go our way means we are in His favor? According to Scripture, the answer is “no.” In fact, in many cases the opposite is true. When God graces us with good gifts – houses, clothing, jobs, successes, etc. – the purpose is to recognize that these things are from God, undeserved, and given with the intention of leading us to Him. We can put it this way:
Things are going well for me = God is good to me, and patient with me, in order to lead me to repentance
But we must also discuss where this all leads. There will be a reckoning for sin. Just after Paul writes of the purpose for God’s kindness, he states this:
“But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” Romans 2:5
A couple of sobering truths to note: (1) the reason we tend to ignore the purposes behind our good fortunes is because our hearts are “hard and impenitent.” (2) there will be a day of wrath for our sins. The more we ignore God’s kindness now, the more future wrath we “store up.”
We cannot presume upon God’s kindness toward us. He is patient with us “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (1 Peter 3:9b). May God grant our eyes opened, and our ears attentive to his word, that we might all direct our hearts toward his means of escaping judgment, namely, Jesus Christ. The most well-known Bible verse in the world clearly defines God’s love, what we must do, and the consequences of either decision.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only unique Son, that everyone who believes in him would not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16