When man and God switched places

Elie Wiesel tells a story (a made-up story, but an insightful story nevertheless), about a man who came before God on his heavenly throne.

The man said, “Which do you think is harder, to be man or to be God?” “Being God is much harder,” God answered. “I have a whole universe to worry about, planets and galaxies. All you have to worry about is your family and your job.”

“True enough,” said man. “But You have infinite time and infinite power. The hard part is not doing the job, but doing it within the limits of human strength and the human life span.”

God answered, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s much harder to be God.” Man replied, “I don’t know how You can say that so confidently when You’ve never been human and I’ve never been God. What do You say we change places for just one second, so You can know the feeling of being man and I can know what it feels like to be God. Just for one second, that’s all, and then we’ll change back.”

God didn’t want to, but man kept begging and pleading, and finally He relented. They changed places. Man became God and God became human.

And the story goes on to say that, once man sat on the divine throne, he refused to give God back His place, and ever since then man has ruled the world and God has been in exile.”*

As we ponder the meaning of this story we need to remember that it’s told from a Jewish perspective. As Christians we do in fact believe that God came to us in human form. His name is Jesus.

But the point of the story remains. It tells us something profound about what can happen to our attitudes if we’re not careful. There are times when we think, make priorities, talk, and live as if we were on the throne instead of God, and as if God was off in a corner somewhere, ready to be summoned like a court jester whenever we needed a bit of a pick-me-up. 

In Exodus 20:3 God says: “You shall have no other gods before me.” This includes the person we see in the mirror.

God’s throne only has room for one occupant—and it’s not you or me.

Is there a part of your life where you’re acting as if you’re in charge instead of God? If so, yield.

There’s an old expression that “Father knows best.” In human terms, sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t. But in heavenly terms, he always does.

The people who live like God is actually on his own throne, are the ones who stress less about having to know, be, and do everything.

Trust. Yield. Grow. Bless. And be at peace.


–*Harold Kushner, Who Needs God? (Fireside: New York, 1989), 63-64.

–Bible quotes are from the NIV.

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