Thunker’s Weblog


Eenie, Meenie, Miney…

Robert Wheadon-126x150

Decisions, decisions…

Every day we get to make choices.  In fact, we make an average of 35,000 decisions a day.  From whether to get out of bed or not to the choice of what to have for lunch, choices are part of our daily lives.

Choices play a tremendous role in the lives of religious people.  We have a binary relationship with choice, assigning it either a good or bad based on the Ten Commandments.  Many of us then lead our lives held up against the divine checklist and measuring our goodness, self-worth and social standing by our compliance or non-compliance.

I believe in Heavenly Father’s plan for us, choice has always been one of the biggest parts of His plan.  And choice has been with us since our very beginnings.  The story of Adam and Eve totally revolves around choice.  Eat the fruit or not eat the fruit: that is the question.

We are all familiar with the ancient prophet-general Joshua’s statement on choice.  The Israelites were clearing Canaan to inhabit that land.  The people in Canaan were pagan, worshiping a host of deities.  Joshua puts a choice before Israel in Joshua 24:15:

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

The choice put before the Israelites was not a new one.  After Moses led Israel out of Egypt, the Lord gave a similar choice to Israel.  In Exodus 20:3, the Lord states:

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Coming out of Egypt with its polytheistic culture of Ra and Osiris and the host of other deities, Israel was very familiar with the practice of worshiping multiple gods and in having the Creation revolve around stories of these gods.  Polytheism was the cultural and religious norm, not the worship of a single deity.  All of the ancient civilizations were polytheistic.  The world of the Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, and Egyptians all revolved around polytheism.  And Israel lived among, traded, bartered and fought with all of these peoples.

Monotheism was a bit odd for the time and a sharp delineation between the Israelites and all of their geographical neighbors.  And the theme of God pleading, commanding and reminding Israel to remember Him flows through the scriptural record of Israel’s choices.  In the Old Testament, Israel’s greatest failing is their choice to forget God and worship something or someone else besides God.

If we move forward to the New Testament era, the principle of choice permeates the teachings of the Savior, as well.  What is really interesting here is that the context of choice changes.  While the Old Testament focuses on choosing between idols of stone and wood and the living God, the teachings of Jesus take choice to a deeper level of understanding and application.

For example, in Luke 10 we read of Jesus asking the lawyer what the law says about gaining eternal life.  Instead of listing out the commandments in Exodus 10, the lawyer encapsulates the intent behind the commandments.  He says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. (Luke 10:27)

And Jesus’ response corroborates the lawyer’s answer.  “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” (Luke 10:28)  There is no surprise in the Savior’s response, as if the lawyer’s response was a new theology or anything.  The lawyer’s response was one already accepted in that time.  And with the lawyer’s response comes a new component in what should motivate our choices: love.

Instead of making choices based on fear that heaven will send bolts of lightning down on us if we err, the teaching is that we are not to be distracted away from God through our love for Him.  We see this in Matthew 6:24: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

This verse is really a reiteration of Exodus 20, where Israel is told, “You shall have no other gods before me.”  The cultural context has changed from polytheism to individual desire.  But the desires, whether worshiping an idol or taking our focus away from God and putting them on the mammon of materiality, are identical.  And it is here we learn about an aspect of sin and one way in which God views sin.

N.T, Wright, an Anglican biblical scholar at the University of Edinburgh, states it this way. “That’s how sin happens.  It isn’t just that there is a bunch of rules and we ponder, ‘Shall I keep them or not?’  In actuality, [we’ve] been secretly in love with one or more…idols.  [We’ve] been worshiping the creature rather than the creator.” (Lenten Devotional, 2017)

Sin is indeed the failure to do what God has asked us to do.  Yet before the act, before the misstep, before the deed, there is the choice and what desire drives that choice.  And that is what God is after.  He is not after a group of people stuck in a lock-stepped march back to heaven.  He wants our hearts to bend towards Him as he reaches for us.  He does not want us to get distracted with our idols of this age.  Whether it be politics, career, relationships or school, He wants our actions to be driven by choices that are driven by love and desire for Him.

And how do we develop this love for Him and not for the things of our world?  You’ll have to come back next time to read my thoughts on that.

Be kind, make good memories, and come back soon.

 

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