Finite vs Infinite

Written by: Amy Hemseri-Sabala
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I see the blue sky. I hear the wind blowing. I smell the fresh cut grass. I touch the soft picnic blanket. I taste the ripe, juicy apple. We experience our world through what we can see, hear, smell, touch and taste. We organize information and define our understanding through using these finite five senses, yet, we worship an infinite God – a Creator God that exists outside of time and space. How can we understand God through this finite lens? Through our limited knowledge, sometimes we put God in the realm of the finite things we understand. God is all-knowing (omniscient), all-powerful (omnipotent), and ever present (omnipresent). Yes, God created our senses to provide meaning to the world we live in, but he also offers us a perspective to see beyond our five senses. Two Biblical stories offer us a new perspective, a Godly perspective, that transcends the world as we understand it.

In 2 Kings 4, there is a widow who is about to lose her two sons to pay off her dead husband’s creditors. Elisha asks the widow what she has at home and she replies, “only a little oil”. Elisha instructs her to gather as many jars as she can and pour oil into each jar.  She does so and fills all the jars she gathered until they are full to overflowing. Once the last jar has been filled, the original oil dries out. In the widow’s finite thinking, there was only a little oil left. In God’s infinite mercy, there was more than enough, so that the widow was able to sell the oil, pay the creditors and keep her sons safe.

In Mark 6, Jesus is preaching in the remote countryside to more than 5,000 people. As the time grows late, the disciples ask Jesus to disband the crowd so that they can leave and find food for dinner. Jesus tells his disciples to give the people something to eat and asks them what they have on hand to do so. There is only five loaves of bread and two fishes to be had, but Jesus instructs the disciples to arrange the crowd into groups for a meal anyway and then prays over it. Everyone in the crowd ate, were satisfied and there were 12 baskets of food left over. In our humanity, we see five measly loaves and two small fish, but Jesus sees a banquet.

God beckons us to trust him in all things. Sometimes he responds miraculously, as in these two biblical examples, and other times he responds in the ordinary circumstances of life, whether we realize it at the time or not.  We think in terms of addition; one loaf + one loaf = two loaves; there is just enough oil for one day. God accomplishes his plans in ways we can’t imagine: two loaves feeds 5,000 people and a little bit of oil fills all of the jars. We don’t understand how this works, but God has a perspective much larger than just our five senses.

To understand this mystery requires faith. We all have faith in something, so why not put our faith in God? Most of us place our faith in our bank accounts, or our education, or our jobs, or our families, or a myriad of other things. We don’t necessarily think of it as faith, but the source of our security and our confidence is exactly where we find our faith.

Tithing is one example of where our faith and our concrete senses meet. It’s so easy to see our resources as finite, particularly money. We seem bound by a limited perception, focusing solely on the information provided by our five senses. There isn’t enough money, the debt or bills are too high, there’s too little coming in. I won’t argue for one minute that those observations aren’t absolutely true, as we see the world. However, God’s perspective is much more abundant than we could ever envision.

We may not understand God’s ways, but I do know that he provides. When we make a conscious decision to give the first 10% of our income for Kingdom purposes, we learn to trust that God will provide for us, even on 90% of our income. God multiplies our tithes and offerings, and does infinitely more together than what we could ever do on our own.

God so loved us that he entered into our finite world in the person of Jesus Christ. We see God’s infiniteness and the finiteness of this world come together in the life of Christ. Jesus lived every day in utter dependence upon God and models for us a way to transcend our five senses by keeping our eyes focused on the Creator. The link between the two Biblical stories I shared above is the extraordinary faith of ordinary people.

Is it possible for us to suspend the faith that we put into the finite information derived from our five senses, and open ourselves up to the infiniteness of God’s possibilities?  We all have faith in something, so why not put our faith in God? 

Check out an earlier post by Amy about Trusting God with Our Time