One of the most common expressions Christians use today, but not entirely Biblical or fruitful – here’s my problem with “Jesus, take the wheel”.
I wrote a while ago about My Problem with Christian Conferences. It certainly generated a whole lot of buzz. Usually when I write about sex or relationships, everyone wants to jump in on it (to the point where it’s all some people think I write about), and this post actually stirred a similar level of interest. Today I thought I’d tackle another honest concern I have facing the Christian faith today, which is the overuse and perhaps even incorrect theology and understanding of a very common expression: “Jesus, take the wheel”.
You’ve heard this expression, haven’t you? Being in a lot of church circles, I certainly do. Quite a bit. Grammy winning Lecrae wrote a song with this title, about asking God to take the wheel, and for himself to take the background. Pretty cool thought. A lot of people actually preach from this idea. I’ve certainly heard a number of sermons about it from multiple denominations and teachers.
So, what’s the problem? It sounds good. It’s used a lot. There are aspects of it that certainly hold true. However, I don’t see how this view holds up biblically, and I think it actually produces a lifestyle that leaves people living far below their potential. Here’s my problem with “Jesus, take the wheel”.
Where does it come from?
Obviously, with so many people holding this view, it has to come from somewhere, right? The phrasing probably could be traced back to Eugene Peterson’s transliteration of a Scripture encouraging the believer that they should take up their cross, and follow Jesus. His phrasing of this portion becomes, “You’re not in the driver’s seat: I am. Follow Me and I’ll show you how”. It’s an interesting spin on the passage, likening the sacrifice of “followship” to the abdication of the driver’s seat in life. Whether or not it conveys the full idea of what was being said, well… it’s someone’s interpretation, definitely.
Moreover, there are other passages that convey this kind of notion. “Be still and know that I am God”, for instance. “It’s not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit”. There is certainly a charge of the believer to submit fully to the sovereignty of the Deity. In fact, the Christian faith completely acknowledges the inability of mankind to live the life we were meant to without God.
An incomplete view
My problem arises when these sort of verses are the only level of understanding that believers attain to, and in many cases, are an incomplete picture of how the Christian should really live their life.
A big example of this is in the discussion in many Old and New Testament texts about faith and works, with faith being dead if not proven by works. The unfortunate common application of “Jesus, take the wheel” often results in people merely being all faith and no followthrough. There is also instruction given to people about the use of spiritual gifts – 1 Corinthians 13 is a famous passage which is actually directly about using these gifts with love, highlighting the human will is not lost when doing God’s work. This shows us that the desire of God is actually that the actions of people should work with the sovereignty of God.
The charge is co-operation and action, not apathy and mind control
I think another obvious example of this is the parable of the talents. One servant is given five talents by his master, another two, and another one. Then, the Master leaves the servants to do well with what they’ve been entrusted with.
“Jesus, take the wheel” is probably an attitude more akin to the servant who was given one talent, then was reprimanded ultimately for being lazy.
Sadly when I see people use this line extensively, I often also see a life that screams of uncertainty, inconsistency, and more telling, a lack of the fruitfulness they claim they have. Defeated, destitute and directionless, with not much to show for the faith they keep telling others is so great.
We’re also told in Scripture we have been (past tense) been blessed with every spiritual blessing, and we are given all we need pertaining to life and godliness.
It’s not spiritual possession. It’s not abdication. It’s not being taken on a tour. You don’t lose control of all your bodily and mental functions. It’s unity of the wills, where God does His part, and we must do ours.
A damaging enabler
Many people believe they’re waiting on God, when I think in most cases God is probably waiting on you. Waiting for you to use the gifting, talent and direction you already have!
Sadly when I hear this sentence said, I often see a life that has abdicated responsibility, but still desires the fruit and reward of doing what you’re called to do… just without wanting to do anything.
Imagine if I wanted a wife, but wouldn’t meet any women or ask anyone out. Imagine if I wanted a job, but didn’t have a resume or present myself well during an interview. Imagine if I wanted to be an athlete, but didn’t get ready for the Games. You would rightly tell me I shouldn’t expect what I’m unwilling to pay for, to work towards, to take chances with.
And yet abdicating your role in your purpose and desires yields the same result.
And so many people feel lost for what to do. Waiting for Jesus taking the wheel to answer the question. You already have been told a lot of what to do! Unsure if you should encourage someone or pray for someone? You’ve already been told that you should every chance you can get. Don’t know if you should work hard even if you’re in a job you don’t really like? You’ve already been told that you should. Looking for who you really are? You’ve already been told who you really are. Unsure how to deal with that major conflict in your life? You’ve already been told how you should manage conflict in your life. It’s all in that book you ignore whilst claiming you’re waiting for God to do everything for you.
My point is this – “Jesus, take the wheel” does not mean I don’t do my part. In fact, I think the Christian life is more like you still driving the car, but with a complete openness to the passenger you’ve invited in. And there’ll definitely be things you can’t overcome yourself, nor do I recommend acting out completely on your own.
But stop living your life blaming God for the way things are turning out. Stop being content with how far below your true potential you’re living. It might be time to acknowledge that it’s your turn to do what you already know you should do.
So why don’t you take the wheel, and listen for the voice of the Spirit to guide you as you go? I’m sure God is waiting for that to happen. Just don’t live your life going nowhere, the car completely stopped and pulled over, waiting for something that’s actually up to you.
What are your thoughts on “Jesus, take the wheel”? Do you have the same concerns, or do you actually think the balance is actually further back the other way?