Sickness and disease are most often acquired as a social condition, rather than by isolated infection. Much like sin, contagions are typically transferred from those around us; and, in spite of our cautions, are most often passed on to those we love. In this manner, diseases have wiped out entire groups of people. Such physiological distortions can also be seen in disabilities that are more common in certain groups than in others.
One of those distortions is the Gideon Complex. There are certain social groups in which this disorder is more commonly recognized, but it is a threat that can infect anyone who is exposed, and thus should be something that we all strive to identify, avoid, and remedy.
The Gideon Complex is a distorted basis of belief that requires human observation in order to accept something. The idea is that only dramatic manifestations—miracles, signs, and wonders—justify belief. Such a person must see-to-believe.
This was what the Bible reveals that the Israelite Army General, Gideon, needed in order to accept the victory promised by God. He requested that God cause the morning dew to saturate the fleece while keeping the surrounding ground bone-dry. Then he asked for the reverse to be displayed, with the ground wet with dew, but the fleece completely dry. Then he believed.
The Gideon Complex is what could be considered a childhood illness. It is an immature approach to belief, and one that is criticized by God for those who ought to be more mature in their faith.
Miracles, signs and wonders provided by God are intended to be an aid to belief and a confirmation of what he declares, but not the basis for faith. It is a tool through which God draws our attention, like a burning bush that is not being consumed by fire and so arouses our curiosity to draw near for closer inspection. Such manifestations are designed to turn our focus toward God, but they are not to be the reason for our faith.
The basis for faith, both for Christians and those who trod the earth in ancient times, ought to be established upon the word of God. It is what God declares that we are to believe. The Lord expects that we take him at his word, without demanding “proof” that we can control, measure, or determine if it is sufficiently amazing and worthy of our belief.
“For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy”. (Rev 19:10)
We are informed from heaven itself that it is the words testified through and by Jesus (which is all of Scripture for us today) that forms the basis of truth and knowledge for all that God professes. There is no other reliable source of revelation or knowledge. All that is true and right must fit and be expressed in submission to the word of God. This is why Jesus declared that his words were both “spirit and life”.
Those who hold to the words taught by Jesus are the only ones recognized as true disciples of Christ, and thus they are the only ones who will be granted the right of knowing the truth that sets us free (Jn 8:31-32). This significance is the likely reason John introduces Jesus in his Gospel as “the Word that was with God and was God”. For a Christian, this model is why we are taught: “I believe, therefore I speak”. Taking God at his declared word is intended to produce the continued declaration of that spoken truth.
Faith accepts what God speaks, and in turn professes it on through our actions and words. Believers must accept God by taking him at his revealed word–demanding miracles, evidence, proof, and things we can measure or control are all pursuits of idolatry.
The apostle Thomas suffered from the Gideon Complex.
“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” (Jn 20:25)
He demanded proof that he could control, a manifestation of scientific observation, as the basis for his faith. By the grace of God, Jesus provided it for him, but the Lord had more to say about this:
“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (v. 29)
This blessing of God will be given only to those who take God at his word, without insisting on dramatic proof. This Gideon Complex was so common in Jesus’ day, that he states that it was a social disease that infected the entire nation of Jews:
“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders you will never believe.” (Jn 4:48)
“Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles”. (1 Cor 1:22-23)
The sin of disbelief infects both social groups of Jews and Gentiles, but in different strains. To a Jew, belief needs supernatural displays. To Greeks—or in context, those who think they are educated and smart—they require a foundation that they can control through their own smarts and reasoning ability. In both cases, belief is formed on a foundation of human observation and control, and in nether case is it formed on what is preached—that pure declaration of the word of God.
As a group, the Jews—most likely meaning the entire racial group of Israelites—had come to define belief in their own minds as something that required a miracle to justify. They didn’t even comprehend that belief was something that could be formed simply by accepting what God says. This is why, when Jesus declared that believing God was the work that he expects of people, they automatically replied with “what miracle will you perform, so we can believe”. They had lost all comprehension of accepting what God declares, and had come to the distorted view that belief should only happen through dramatic manifestations that they could witness.
It is true that God often provides signs to help people in their belief, or to focus the attention where he wants it, but it was never intended to become the basis for such belief. This is the point made in Hebrews chapter 11 that celebrates the amazing faith of the patriarchs, who died “without having received what was promised”. They believed what God promised and did not insist on receiving either proof or the actual fulfillment in this life. They didn’t depend upon manifestations, but took God at his word.
This disease was so pervasive among the Jews, that when the Gentile Roman soldier said that Jesus didn’t need to show up and perform a miraculous act that he could see, but just needed to speak the words and his servant would be healed, the Lord declared his amazement by saying, “I have not found such faith in all of Israel”. That kind of belief that takes God at his word, simply didn’t exist in the Jews. The Gideon Complex had distorted the entire basis of faith in that group of people. Nevertheless, by God’s great mercy, he was still leading a few Jews through that disability and into a living faith that casts off any dependence upon what can be humanly measured, controlled, or evaluated.
The early church struggled often with the distortions of Judaism that tried to turn Christians back toward keeping various aspects of the Old Covenant Law along with their profession of faith in Christ. But these Jews were still infected with the Gideon Complex, and by pushing their traditions rather than the word of God, they infected entire churches, like those believers in Corinth who were “demanding proof that Christ is speaking” through the Apostle Paul. It didn’t matter that Paul had actually done many miracles in their presence, they demanded manifestations that they could evaluate–things that God will never allow to satisfy our belief, because that can only ever come through taking God at his word and evaluating what is preached according to how it fits within the revealed word of Scripture.
In our day, Penticostal Christians, among others, appear to suffer from this same social affliction. They insist on manifestations of the Holy Spirit, before they will believe that they or anyone else is born again. As a group they demand proof that they can witness. The idea that God would baptize someone with the Spirit, but not provide something miraculous, is unacceptable, just like the Jews. Socially, they struggle with the Gideon Complex.
Catholics depend on this same disorder when identifying “saints” to elevate posthumously. Such pious people need to have proved their sainthood status by performing at least two miracles during their life. Transformation of character by the Spirit, which is the biblical evidence of the internal presence of God, is not considered sufficient, because it cannot be humanly measured, identified, or controlled.
The Sadducee (Jewish) belief that great wealth is proof of God’s blessing on a person, continues today in those Christians who believe God is pleased with them because they have large and successful ministries, material prosperity, or long and healthy lives on this earth. Many tithe 10% because they believe it will ensure great returns on their investment, but they don’t realize that they are infected with the Gideon Complex.
Individuals also are just as susceptible and should take warning. Any believer can base their faith upon what they can see, or on getting blessings they can enjoy, or on receiving proof of what they ask for in prayer. God does provide confirmation and encouragement that we can witness, at times, but that should never become the basis for our faith. In fact, we are called upon to endure to the end, without receiving now.
Such immaturity is understandable in a young one, but as we grow spiritually, it is no longer cute—it becomes an infection that sickens genuine faith. As such, even when we are granted the ability to see dramatic proof, it will not assure our faith, because it is grounded on our observation rather than on accepting what God has declared.
“Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.”
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Lu 16:31)
The greatest miracle of all is Immanuel–the manifestation of God with us. Jesus came to reveal the Father by demonstrating the most extraordinary miracle ever–the eternal Son of God entering our world through a virgin woman and showing us perfectly and completely all that could be known about God through our human experience. Witnessing the greatest miracle ever still cannot cause faith:
“But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.” (Jn 6:36)
God will not allow miracles to replace Jesus’ words as the basis for our faith. Not even the amazing proof of the dead rising–like Lazarus and like Jesus himself–will be accepted in the place of taking God at his word. What is preached by God, regardless of whom through which it is shared to us, is the only justifiable basis for faith.
“There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”
Faith is intended to be placed in Jesus upon the basis of what God has revealed through Scripture. It is a matter of trusting that those words, as he declares, can never disappear or change. Faith that endures to salvation is that which is grounded upon accepting what God has promised in Christ, without demanding any personal proof, other than the recorded confirmations that Scripture declares and remains trustworthy.
“Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers” (1 Cor 14:22)
Manifestations of God, like tongues, are not designed to be the basis of faith for believers; rather, they are given to confront unbelievers. Those who switch this around and try to teach that such dramatic activity is proof of being born in the Spirit, are distorting the word of God, not believing it.
For believers, God provides something different:
“…prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.” (v.22)
It is the prophesying of the word of God—here meaning preaching what God wants professed (not dramatic prediction of some future event)—which provides the basis for Christian faith. This is why the writer states: “I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.”
Perhaps those five intelligent words, upon which we ought to base our faith and believe with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength are:
“Know The Lord Jesus Christ”.