“To choose or not to choose” – That is the choice. How many decisions does a person make each day consciously and unconsciously? Wake or snooze? Oatmeal or cereal? Hat or no hat? Bus or car? Cranky or smiley? Pay bills or wait? Aaarrghgh! So many decisions are processed. In the grand scheme of things, most decisions are relatively simple; however, there are big hairy decisions that are always lurking. From the beginning it has been this way. How long did Adam and Eve go before they ate the fruit? What went through their minds before the decision was made? Did they ever talk about it before it happened?
Consider these four questions regarding choice making: First, what is the purpose of choices? Second, how does satisfaction relate to choices? Third, what is the relationship between control and choices? Finally, how should a person prepare for choices?
What is the Purpose of Choices?
Many people wonder why they were created. Two key scriptures sum up man’s purpose well. Ecclesiastes 11:13 establishes man is to revere God and keep His commandments. Ephesians 2:10 establishes man was created to do good works. These two verses work together to give man direction in his life. Still, this does not clarify the purpose of choice. When an individual does not have choice, they are slaves. They might as well be robots. However, God did not want this for man. God loves man dearly (John 3:16). God gave men choices so they might ultimately glorify Him. This is the first purpose of choice. Many would argue God has failed miserably when the vast amount of evil in the world is seen. Consider though, the blessing of the freedom God has given man to choose evil. In choosing evil, man demonstrates the superiority of walking in Godliness (I Peter 2:15). A person loving God chooses to be His bond servant. That is, they voluntarily choose to obey His will knowing it will result in far greater benefit than sinfulness (Isaiah 55:6-9). The concept is like understanding how white something truly is when it has a dark spot on it.
In addition to the freedom of choice ultimately glorifying God, it also enables man to mature. Without choices how would man develop knowledge? Certainly, man can make choices which are holy and pure and grow in Christ. However, if man chooses to do unwise things, he will gain knowledge there as well. If a child puts his hand in the fire, he will be burned. Wisely, he learns not to repeat his action. Sadly, many an adult chooses to engage poor decision after poor decision expecting a different result. To meet the objective of a life of doing well in God’s eyes, God has given the Bible (2 Timothy 2:16-17, Ephesians 4:14-16). This enables man to mature properly. God encourages man to awake to this growth (I Corinthians 15:34). However, the choice is not forced upon man. Glorification of God’s wisdom and the maturity of man is what God desires from man’s choices.
How Does Satisfaction Relate to Choices?
Not many years ago, families had phones which did not travel with them. The phones were attached to the wall. People were grateful to have the phones there. Again, not long ago, many families were able to receive one maybe two channels on their television sets. The pictures were sometimes fuzzy and the stations would stop broadcasting around midnight. Again, there was gratefulness. Today, phones can go practically anywhere and there is no sharing of a phone signal with multiple families. Televisions are an inch thick and get 1000 channels. They broadcast 24 hours a day. It would make sense if satisfaction were at 100% with the modern devices. Yet, this is not the case. Increased choices have not resulted in increased satisfaction.
Choices abound today! From breakfast cereal to laptop, dress material to hair color, and fast food to automobile, there is a never ending variety of decisions to be made. Yet, so many decisions have resulted in increased agony. How many couples drive an hour stressed about what restaurant they should stop at to eat? I know men who have stood shell shocked in the pasta aisle not being sure what noodle they should buy. Children watch television and see the next best toy they should own. They can’t be happy until they get it. Stop and think about how happy they were playing with Tupperware lids in the kitchen before they discovered they had choices? Making a decision is much less stressful when there are few choices. The more variables, size, scent, color, texture, attachments, accessories, etc. the more time consuming and fretful the decision becomes (Ecclesiastes 12:7-8).
How many choices do individuals make with good stewardship in mind? There are millions of practically new and unused items sold at garage sales and given to thrift stores each year because the “must have” turned out to be the “don’t need”. There are two consequences to all decisions: dissatisfaction and contentment. Certainly, all choices have a cost. To choose one item, you give up another. The man who chooses to go worship Sunday morning may miss a round of golf, a football game, or a chance to sleep in. When he chooses tacos for dinner, he misses out on pizza. Perhaps this is why buffets are so popular. So every possible choice can be made. Yet, at the end of the meal, bloated and woogie, dissatisfaction is often experienced. The challenge before man is to find contentment. When the proper choices are made, contentment can reign (I Timothy 6:6). Always prepared, God has given man a path to choose which will lead to contentment in all things. Is there food and clothing? Let there be contentment (I Timothy 6:8). Whatever a man’s position is in life, if he is with God, let him be content (Philippians 4:11). God will not fail those whose eyes are on Him and not the possessions of the world (Hebrews 13:5).
What is the Relationship between Control and Choices?
How many people are backseat drivers? There is a desire for control! What about arm chair quarterbacks? The individual believes if they were in control for a moment things would have turned out differently. Every young person looks forward to the day they will have more control. Senior folks often do not look forward to the time when they must relinquish control. There are three distinct phases to consider when examining control and choices. These phases are 1) obtaining control, 2) maintaining control, and 3) handing over control.
Obtaining control starts with youth. Toddlers will let you know this. “My toys, my game, my rules” has been an oft repeated refrain. Each individual believes they can make better decisions than someone else. However, oftentimes the desire is simply for the freedom to try something on one’s own regardless of consequence. Who wants to follow the recipe? Bah! Let’s throw in more garlic! Control is often associated with power. If you have power, it is assumed you will get reward and pleasure above those without power or be able to clearly display your decision making prowess. Thus, there is frequent struggle to gain control in many areas of life. Even in marriages there are battles over “who wears the pants in the family.” Every individual is given control over certain aspects of their life by God. He has given people complete control over their decisions regarding salvation (Philippians 2:12). Yes, God has established His Will in regard to the scope of control for man, but he does not stop man from choosing his own way (Ephesians 6:1, I Corinthians 11:3).
Maintaining control over choices is something with which many struggle. Once they have obtained the freedom to make choices, the fear is it will be taken away. Someone may sneak the television remote away at a time of distraction. Mom or dad may take the keys to the car. The boss may transfer an individual to another position. The government may force its citizens to buy health insurance. These are all classic concerns that come with maintaining control of choices. The biggest factor in maintaining control over choices is the individual’s own behaviors. Violating family rules results in removal of privileges. Politicians ignoring the voters get voted out or impeached. Trying crystal meth causes one to become a slave to a substance and give up control (2 Timothy 4:5). When man submits to false teachings, he cannot maintain control (Galatians 2:2-5). A Christian must maintain self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Therefore, Christians must be careful by whom and what they are influenced because the pull of the world will bring about the loss of freedom (Galatians 5:1).
To have control, the Christian must hand over control. This is the paradox of control. It is like the Chinese finger trap. You must give up the struggle to find release. Many a senior reaches a point where they can no longer care for themselves and their possessions properly. Yet, a great many refuse to give up control to those who could help. Consequently, their surroundings fall into disrepair, their health fails, and they find themselves in a state of enslavement to weakness built on the decision to not release control. If the same seniors released a little control to those who could aid them, a larger portion of personal control would be retained and for much longer. The man of faith controls which master he serves (Joshua 24:15). He can choose to serve God or his own lusts in the form of sin (Romans 6:16-18). Being a slave of righteousness results in having more control and for eternity, but such control cannot be gained until the choice to hand over control is first made(Romans 2:6-8).
How should a person prepare for choices?
Can a man prepare for the choices ahead of him? Certainly he can. Successful diet choices are much easier when healthy food is stocked and available. The Red Cross is successful in providing blood to others because it chooses to gather donations before disaster occurs. The ant prepares for the hard winter, by making the choice to work when the weather is better (Proverbs 6:6-8). Is a man worried about how he will care for himself when he is old? He can prepare by putting aside a savings. He can prepare by living simply. He can prepare by surrounding himself with those who will aid him when the time comes.
Educating oneself to make proper decisions is important. If a person needs a vehicle, he should research the type of vehicles which will meet his needs. Choosing a college, but have a budget? Research inexpensive colleges! Searching for a woman or man to marry? Research! Educate yourself. Ask questions, talk to people, and consider where you need to look to find the mate for whom you are looking. Concerned about eternity? Educate yourself on what choices need to be made. “Seek and ye shall find!” (Matthew 7:7) The Bible has the answers you need for life and Godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Why would an individual not prepare for the choices ahead of him? (Luke 14:28)
When choices present themselves, prioritize them. The Christian has a mandate to put God first in his life (Matthew 4:10, Matthew 6:33, Matthew 22:37). If a man has the choice to pay his cable bill or pay his rent, he would wisely choose the thing of greater value… YES! THE RENT! Likewise, in prioritizing life choices, God comes before self. Self dies to serve the Lord (Galatians 2:20). A list of prioritization enables one to order their life. It makes the path clearer and sets chaotic stress aside. God is not a God of confusion, nor should a man’s life be one of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33). The passage of I Corinthians 14 discusses the assembly of worship before God. It declares things should be done “properly and in orderly manner”. If this is the proper mode of function for the Lord’s body, why should the life of man be directed in any other way?
Summation of Choice
Making choices is something every coherent individual must engage in. Choices await man from the simple to the grand. Knowing the purpose of choices enables the making of choices which lead to satisfaction. Control over choices is a desired state, but the proper balance must be met, knowing when to maintain control of choices and when to hand control over. If the individual educates and prioritizes his choices according to the principle of “God first”, he will find himself far better prepared to handle choices when they come. The first and wisest choice a person can make is to humble himself before God and clothe himself in Christ (Galatians 3:26-29).
Psalms 25:12 – What man is he that feareth Jehovah? Him shall he instruct in the way that he shall choose.