Decisions, Decisions

George Caleb Bingham, The County Election (1851-52), 35 7/16 x 48 3/4 in., Saint Louis Art Museum

On Tuesday all good citizens will go to the polls to choose new leaders and decide important issues in our communities. Does God care about how we vote? Intuitively, I want to say yes, but how do I decide between a candidate who stands for protecting the unborn and someone who wants to help those already born and living in poverty? One wants to reduce taxes and cut spending (except defense), the other wants to raise taxes and increase spending for education, health care, and unemployment benefits to help those most hurt by the recession. Both have priorities I applaud and abhor. Is it our job to discern which is God’s choice? Or does God give us a brain and a free will to choose what we want? Could there be multiple right choices? All of these questions boil down to one vexing problem: How do we know the will of God?

Fortunately we don’t need to figure out the will of God for most choices, because most choices have no moral or spiritual implications: Which brand of toothpaste do I buy? Do I stop at Wendy’s or McDonald’s for lunch? Do I take my break now or try to get more work done first? Other things are so important God has already given us clear guidance. It’s always right to love God and our neighbor and to live justly. It’s never right to covet, commit adultery, or steal. It’s only those infrequent but important questions for which we have no specific direction from above that cause us stress and send us searching for answers: Do I take the new job in another city or keep the one I have? Whom should I marry? Or, in the case of our oldest daughter Natalie’s current dilemma, Which college should I attend? But even these problems are not as complicated as they seem. When it’s a choice between two or more good options, I believe God lets us exercise our free will and pick the one we like best. If Natalie decides to go to the University of Pennsylvania or the University of Maryland instead of Baylor, I won’t love her any less. God won’t either.

I recently came across a book with a funny title: Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc. I haven’t read it, but I find the title ironic because the author, who is a Christian, seems to disapprove of some methods for determining the divine will that were perfectly acceptable in biblical times. In the Bible, Gideon used a fleece and God’s people often resorted to casting lots. For example, after praying, the disciples cast lots to choose a replacement for the Apostle Judas after he committed suicide (Acts 1:23-26). In the Old Testament, the high priest practiced a form of divination using the Urim and Thummim. Interpreting dreams was another popular method in ancient times among both pagans and Hebrews. Casting lots and interpreting dreams are not methods I personally use, but I think they illustrate the difficulty people face in trying to determine God’s will.

Given the biblical precedents and the hard choices I’ll face on Tuesday, maybe I should try a new method of voting: pray . . . then flip a coin.



Filed under devotionals, issues, personal

7 responses to “Decisions, Decisions

  1. Glenn Bratcher

    Travis, you did it again!!! Very thought-provoking blog! I think I will try your last-sentence-new method, which could not cause any less anguish of my attempt to choose the right future leader or representative. I suppose I need to ask: WWJD, or perhaps I should think about how I’d explain my choices to God, if required, as I left the polling booth! One thing I am sure of…I do plan to ask for His guidance! …and perhaps take a quarter along in case I reach a stalemate! (Thanks for the suggestion!)

  2. The prima facie answers to voting issues do not always result in the best long term answers. Consider what led to the fall of the Soviet Union. It was bankrupcy. We can not afford to have the greatest democracy in history go bankrupt.

  3. Eric Lansing

    Very thought provoking, Prof Moger! Let me add a note in defense of Kevin DeYoung, the author of “Just Do Something”: DeYoung does not disapprove of dreams, visions, fleeces, open doors, casting lots, writing in the sky, etc. The subtitle to his book is rather suggesting that we need to know how to make decisions without these methods, because most of us don’t have dreams on a regular basis, see writing in the sky every weekend, or have revelatory dreams upon command. DeYoung is suggesting that God’s will is discernible without these–that if we delight ourselves in the Lord above all things, then He will shape and direct our desires. In other words, DeYoung is advocating a “sanctified commonsense,” by which Christians can make decisions without overspiritualizing them. Incidentally, I’d highly commend the book to you. I think you would agree with a lot of it.

    • Hi, Eric.

      Great to hear from you! Thanks for the information on the book. Good thing I put in the disclaimer “seems to disapprove” in my post. It sounds like the subtitle of his book is more bombastic than the book itself. However, by juxtaposing sources of divine guidance approved in scripture with “writing in the sky” and “liver shivers” (whatever that means) the author SEEMS (again, my disclaimer) to trivialize the former. In fact, I’ve read quite a bit of Christian literature on finding God’s will and most of it is quite rational (pray, seek godly counsel, look for opportunities, etc.). Never once have I personally seen a modern-day pastor approve of, say, casting lots. Maybe that’s a good thing. In the past you and I have had some interesting conversations about other things in the Bible that often get ignored. One of these days, if I get up the nerve, I’ll have to post on those things too.

      Travis Moger

  4. Leslie Hatton

    Rescue those being led away to death;
    hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
    12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
    Does not he who guards your life know it?
    Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done? (Proverbs 24:11, 12)

    Choose life. It should take precedence over everything else, for where there is life, there is hope.
    Blessings, Leslie Hatton

    • Hi, Leslie!

      Great passage. Thank you for the quote! Life begins at conception but it doesn’t end at birth. I “choose life,” but that means more to me than being anti-abortion. It also means being anti-poverty, anti-discrimination, and anti-war. So “choose life” doesn’t go with single-issue politics as far as I’m concerned.

      With hope,
      Travis Moger

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