Steve Johnson was having a very bad, horrible, terrible day. The 24-year-old wide receiver had the opportunity to give the Buffalo Bills one of their sweetest victories: an unexpected win against the Steelers in overtime.

But he dropped the ball, in the end zone of all places.

My husband, whose passion for sports knows no boundaries, could be heard screaming in Trenton, New Jersey. We live in Oregon. I know one of these days I'm going to be kneeling over his body as paramedics arrive to treat him for an ESPN-induced stroke. You know that fellow in Wisconsin who shot his TV because he didn't like Bristol Palin's dancing? If we had guns in the house, I'm pretty sure my husband would have shot somebody on ESPN by now.

Johnson said he will never get over dropping that pass. No matter how long he lives, no matter how many winning touchdown passes he caught before this one, or how many he'll catch after this one, his obit is going to mention that dadgum dropped ball.

In his frustration, Johnson sent out a tweet not long after the losing game:

I praise you 24/7!!!!!!"and this how you do me!!!!! you expect me to learn from this??? how???!!! ill never forget this!! ever!!! thx tho … "

Johnson sent that message to God.

God has an iPhone?

God tweets?

The dangerous thing about Twitter is that it's too often used a recording tool for stream-of-conscious thinking. If God had intended for us to vocalize our every conscious thought, wouldn't he have given us bubbles over our heads the comic strip folks do? That way we could just go around reading each other's bubble. We wouldn't need an iPhone.

Bloggers and columnists and talking heads across the country are on a full-blown rant, chastising Johnson for blaming God for his dropping the winning touchdown. One commentator noted that God has "unfollowed" Johnson. CNN ran a spoof about Johnson by highlighting that appalling moment when Kathy Griffin raised her Emmy heavenward and yelled, "Suck it Jesus, this is award is my god now."

That takes some kind of arrogance to blame God when we fail, or in Kathy's case wins. But win or lose, wrongheaded thinking is behind it all. It's the result of exalting ourselves above God. We treat God as if he's the Genie in the Bottle we found. He owes us.

Griffin's remarks are so offensive a God-fearing person ought to think twice before standing within a football field of that woman. That girl is going to get her comeuppance one day. People laugh at Griffin because they assume it takes one ballsy woman to call God out like that. Frankly, such arrogance isn't courageous at all. It's just gussied-up idolatry.

While Johnson wasn't as crass toward God as Griffin was, the deception that compelled him to blame God is the flip-side of the same coin. It's an arrogance ingrained in Americans, nurtured by a corrupt theology, and taught by Sunday school teachers, camp leaders, Bible school professors, misguided preachers, and self-serving politicians.

That theology says that as long as we work hard, live rightly, and remember to thank God for the wins, we will keep winning. So sure are we that this theology works, we've built a nation upon it. And many have built a mega-fortune on dispensing a message that says God's sole intent is to reward us.

You ought to wake up every morning expecting the favor of God on your life, they tell us. Work hard and you'll reap the fruits of your labor. God wants to bless you. We have to open our hearts (and usually pocketbooks) to receive all the abundance God has for us. The blessings of the Lord brings wealth. Lazy hands make a man poor but diligent hands bring about wealth. It is noble to seek after wealth. Only a foolish man remains poor.

It's a wonderful theology for the haves who are encouraged to believe that everything they have is the result of their own hard work and effort. It makes it easier for such people to look down on those without and to say, "Well, they don't work as hard as me. I deserve all the good and goods that I get."

When we catch the ball and win the game and are lauded like kings, it's easy enough to raise the trophy high and tell the world, "God has blessed me. Thank you God. I owe it all to you."

But for the have-nots, such a theology is a coal heap of condemnation. When we fumble the ball and fanatics the world over mock our failure, this kind of theology leaves us feeling both guilty and angry. That's why Johnson said, "I will never get over this. Ever."

He can't forgive himself because Johnson's theology, shared by so many of us, teaches him that failure is a result of two things—some sin on his behalf, and/or the withdrawal of God's favor on his life.

This theology of the Genie in the Bottle God works great as long as everything is going our way, but in that moment when we lose our home, our job, our spouse, our kid, or the winning touchdown, we often find that the God we once worshipped is nothing more than an image crafted from smoke.

Is it any wonder that we rail against such a God?

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide? (Zondervan, 2010), and blogs at Patheos, from which this post was adapted. She can be reached at or via Twitter @karenzach.