How Jesus Frustrates the Scientist in Us All

How would you weigh your own head?

That’s one of the many bizarre questions interviewers at Google have asked potential job candidates over the years. Drawing a blank? That’s what the questioner wants: to see how you respond when the answer isn't obvious.

Seattle Municipal Archives (CC)

But while weighing your own head might sound difficult, it is doable. (In fact William Poundstone wrote a book answering alleged Google interview questions in his work, Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?). Your head, after all, is composed of matter and therefore has mass. But what if you were trying to measure something less, well, measurable?

In 1 Chronicles, King David decided to do just that.

David wanted to measure his might. He wanted to record his fortitude and his power. (At this point his head would have been too big to measure.) So he commissioned an unsanctioned census of Israel and Judah. He wanted to know just how powerful he had become so he had his right hand man Joab count all of the fighting men throughout his kingdom. This act, while seemingly benign to us, was a big deal. Counting the people without God’s direction was kind of like Scrooge McDuck counting his money every morning. It was an act of pride.

The scripture says “Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel” (1 Chron. 21:1), and even Joab was disgusted at the proposition. (You get a different wording in 2 Samuel 24 that doesn't mention satan.)

What was really going on here? David counted his men, because he wanted to revel in himself. But what did he forget? God had provided all of that wealth and power. God was the source, and could just as easily take it away. David was trying to measure the immeasurable. He thought the number of men at his command reflected his power, forgetting that God was his source of success.

Had he been thinking this way in his younger years, he would have never taken on Goliath. None of the measurables: height, weight, years fighting experience were in his favor. Yet David relied on the immeasurable God.

Fast forward through David’s lineage to Jesus, who claimed to be the messiah. At this claim, the teachers of the law asked when the kingdom would come. Jesus told them that the kingdom isn’t coming in a way that can be observed (Lk. 17:20).

What did Jesus mean? Just like the scientists and pragmatists inside each of us, the Pharisees wanted to be able to measure the kingdom and measure God. We want to say, Chuck Norris can break 30 flaming bricks with his elbow? God can do 100. The problem of course is that God is infinite—something our finite minds can’t grasp. Not only could God break any number of flaming bricks, He also created the matter of which those bricks are composed. And He created Chuck Norris too.

The teachers of the law were wanting to know how many soldiers would show up, at what date, and how long the war would last before ushering in peace from Rome. If Jesus couldn’t answer those questions, how could he possibly be the messiah? Instead Jesus told them essentially, “You’re thinking too small. You can’t limit the kingdom to matter, to flesh and blood, or to time.” The true kingdom, in contrast, is eternal, and it is comprised of the immeasurable: love, timelessness, joy.

You Can't Measure the Good Stuff

Call me David. Call me a Pharisee, because I do the same thing.

I want to measure how many books I’ve sold, how many pageviews I have on my latest blog post, often forgetting that what really matters is changed lives. What really matters is that you get just a bit nearer to God, so that in turn you can affect other people’s lives for the kingdom. So that you can ward off sin. So that you can increase in joy and knowledge of the Lord.

When I wrote my first book, Do No Work, I had no idea what to expect regarding its success. I tried so hard to remain grounded, but it was too easy to imagine One million copies sold! stamped on the front cover in a matter of weeks. Shortly before releasing the book to the world (and holding my breath) I remember saying to my friend Jay, “If it even helps just one person get nearer to God, I consider it a success.”

Honestly? I forget those words a lot. I get frustrated and sad and upset and struggle with whether or not I should continue writing. I love it, but it is taxing. I’m gifted at it, but it isn’t lucrative. And then I remember those words I said to Jay. I can say with full confidence that I’ve helped at least one person. My next goal? One more.

What I want you to know is that God is beyond measure. He is infinite, and our minds can’t contain Him. Stop trying to limit God to your notions of pounds, dollars, feet per second, inches, or whatever inadequate measurements we use to define things. You’ll just get frustrated.

After Jesus told the Pharisees the kingdom isn’t coming in ways that can be observed, he told them the kingdom was already in their midst (Lk. 17:21). Jesus sent his Spirit to dwell in the hearts of those who believe in him. That Spirit can’t be measured by an EKG, an MRI, or a CT scan.

That’s what frustrates the scientists in us. We want to be able to put God in a beaker. We want to weigh Him, and to record Him. But despite our finitude, God is infinite and immeasurable. And so is His love for you.

If you need more reminders of this distinction (as I often do), you might want to read my free article: This Simple Mindset Shift Will Revolutionize Your Church Experience (and Your Life). It will help you approach each day expecting God to show up and move in your life. Interested? Just tell me where to send it:

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find a tape measure. I need to measure my head.

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