Imagine God is in his heaven. He is not a bearded old man in robes. He is a vaguely humanoid blur, like a stick figure drawn in charcoal and then smudged around the edges.
God created the world and mankind, but now he doesn't know what to do with them. In short: God is bored.
To relieve the tedium of watching mankind toing-and-froing down on Earth, God decides to raise the stakes. He doesn't actually want to destroy the world because a) he made an informal agreement with Noah after the flood and b) he is actually quite fond of mankind.
What he does to pass the time is play a game. The kind of game we all play when we're bored; we walk home without stepping on the cracks of the pavement, or we urge one raindrop to beat the other in a race down a window pane.
Every day when God wakes up and gets out of his celestial bed, he plays a game. Because he is not a natural risk-taker, he makes little bets with himself that he is pretty darn sure he will win.
Here is an example of a week of God's bets. They are jotted down in a small Rymans notepad by his bedside.
- Monday (which he maintains is the first day of the week): If no-one on Earth says the word 'cattle', I will destroy the world.
- Tuesday: If no-one in Europe claps their hands today, I shall sink Europe into the sea.
- Wednesday: If anyone in America uses the phrase 'Serbo-Croat Lilliput Crayfish' I will give that individual apocalyptic powers.
- Thursday: If under 1000 Twix bars are sold in England, I will destroy England.
- Friday: If no-one in Africa gets drunk today, I will destroy Africa AND alcohol.
- Saturday: If Middlesbrough beats Charlton by more than 25 goals, I will disappear and leave mankind to its own devices.
- Sunday (the last day of the week): If anyone in London reads every word printed in every single page of the Sunday papers (including adverts) I will abolish language.
As you see, they are all bets that are unlikely to disrupt the status quo of the world, as they are all unlikely to happen. But they keep God occupied. Some scholars have said that as time passes God will get increasingly bored and start playing riskier games - and so terrible events are far more likely to happen.
Which is why, as you pass your time on Earth, it is always worth keeping your fingers crossed.