God the Barber

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The following parable explains the suffering in the world by comparing God to a barber.

A man went to a barbershop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed.

As the barber began to work,
they began to have a good conversation.
They talked about so many things and various subjects.
When they eventually touched on the subject of God,

the barber said: “I don’t believe that God exists.”

“Why do you say that?” asked the customer.

“Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God doesn’t exist.

Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people?
Would there be abandoned children?

If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain.
I can’t imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things.”
The customer thought for a moment, but didn’t respond because he didn’t want to start an argument.
The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop.

Just after he left the barbershop, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard.
He looked dirty and unkempt. The customer turned back and entered the barber shop again and he said to the barber:

“You know what? Barbers do not exist.”
“How can you say that?” asked the surprised barber.

“I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!”
“No!” the customer exclaimed. “Barbers don’t exist because
if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside.”

“Ah, but barbers DO exist! That’s what happens when people do not come to me.”
“Exactly!” affirmed the customer. “That’s the point! God, too, DOES exist!
That’s what happens when people do not go to Him and don’t look to Him for help.

That’s why there’s so much pain and suffering in the world.”

This is kind of cute. I like parables. But let’s look more closely. In this view, God exists but not everybody goes to him – that’s why there is suffering in the world. First of all, this means that all the people who do believe in God, and pray to him, should be free from suffering, sickness, bad luck and all the rest. Is this, in any circumstance, ever true? No. Religious people have problems just like the rest of us. Why isn’t God helping them? Second,  God puts the responsibility of our salvation on our own shoulders. He’s sitting up there with all the things necessary to ease our suffering, but he’s going to wait for us to ask him for help? Why? What kind of person waits to give help he knows is needed. Someone very proud, or very selfish. By any moral standards, we can recognize the superiority of giving help before it’s asked for. There are a million reasons we might not ask for help. We don’t believe in God. We don’t believe we have the right to improve our lot in the world. We’re not sure if he can do anything for us. Just because we are unwilling or unable to ask for help should not deprive us from the help we need: often the people who can’t ask are precisely those who need it the most.

Finally – the barber is a merchant. He is selling a service. Is this how we see God? Peddling salvation on a street corner in exchange for our obedience?