Every day, we make decisions. This week I have had to make several regarding my time, people, and even what I should eat. I do not think we pay attention to what we are saying yes to. Moment by moment, we are deciding what we will do and how we will do it. When my daughter was a little girl, I remember telling her when we were going into a store that she needed to get her mind ‘right’ before we entered. That was a cue to her to know that I was not going to buy her any and everything she saw. I wanted her to decide in her thinking so that she would not act up or embarrass us. I noticed that when I gave her that preface to our activity, her behavior changed, and we never had any problems. Yet, the times that she was not giving boundaries and a warning, the decision was different. Her father did not enact this when they would go shopping and each time, she would beg, and he would comply with her wishes. I remember telling him that her requests over time would become more demanding and require more money if he kept it up. I would joke that she might end up as a teen driving a better car and having her own home at 16 at the rate he was going! I must say he stopped shortly before it turned into outrageous requests but I am reminded that God has given us boundaries daily and yet, because of free will, we make decisions every second that have an impact on our lives. Our decisions can impact us far beyond our lifetimes. We make choices and these choices either glorify our wants or what God wants for our lives.
In 1 Samuel 8, the people of Israel were led by the prophet Samuel who gave instructions to them from God. Samuel’s commitment to God was not necessarily instilled in his sons who had become judges over the people. His sons were corrupt. For many of us as Christians, it is so easy to spend a lot of time doing good work that benefits others, but our households may suffer because of a lack of attention we have given to it. The people were frustrated with Samuel’s sons and asked for a King to rule over them. Samuel prayed and God told him that He would give them a King who would enslave them, take away their rights and children and even when they wanted relief, God would not answer.
This scenario isn’t too far removed from our current context. In our world, we have noticeable examples of choices that have not included God. We have selected leaders, spouses, jobs, material goods, etc. that did not line up with God’s Word or Will for our lives and as a result, there are consequences that we must suffer not because God is bad. It is because of our decisions that were based on a short-term need and not rooted in thinking about long-term consequences. What is most alarming about this passage is that the decision to exclude God involves the loss in our personal and professional lives. The exclusion of God not only creates direct suffering for us but for our children and what we have valued. What appears as a win ultimately creates significant loss beyond what we can imagine. Years ago, I traveled to India and I was appalled by the level of poverty I witnessed. I remember asking our guide how God could allow this to happen and at that time, my faith was shaken by what I saw. She calmly said to me, “God didn’t do this. This is a result of the decisions of man.”
What we are witnessing today isn’t due to a lack of a God who doesn’t not care or love us. It is based on decisions, sometimes not even our own but others who are careless and thinking only about how it impacts them and not the collective. Decisions that have been made when we select rulers or things to rule us that become our gods have even eternal implications. When we place our confidence in things that are created instead of in the ultimate Creator, we have made a decision. And each time we do that, we find ourselves taken to war in our minds, spirits, bodies, communities, and world. We need to be more mindful in the choices we make and what becomes our god. Otherwise, we might find ourselves seeking relief from the choice.