When God says “choose!” He means “live!” The options He presents are of eternal consequence. A right decision here demands the engagement of all our mind and will.
Published on: 08-01-2019
The century-old legend of car manufacturer Henry Ford tells a stark story of Model-T color options: “You can have any color as long as it’s black.” History clarifies that this wasn’t always true. For 12 of the 19 years that Model T’s were rolling off the assembly line, they were all black. But sometimes, at the beginning, from 1908 to 1913, and again at the end of its run, in 1926-1927, the Model T was available in green, bright red, dark blue, brown, maroon, gray, as well as black. And color preferences were always for the same reason: money making. Black dried the fastest; so Ford went with black. Then when competition, offering various colors, bit into his market share, he diversified his colors too.
Ancient sage Socrates had no market influences to influence his choices. According to the character Plato calls Crito, Socrates’ choice was between exile and poison, between death at home and life in exile.
You and Me and Choices
Our choices are more often between preferred sports, less-preferred politicians, native baseball teams and distant vacation destinations, preferences of limited consequence for eternity, and yet preferences that we have been known to fight for and even die about.¹
Satan is completely aware of the importance of choosing. He still chafes at his own stupid choice for misery over eternal light. He remembers Moses’ goodbye appeal that set before Israel the options of life and prosperity or death and adversity (Deut. 30:15). He was there for Joshua’s goodbye, when he told Israel they could choose as they wished, but he and his house would serve God (Joshua 24:15). He knows of God’s call to a girl named Ellen to bear messages to His last-day people, and of her statement that “the will is the governing power in the nature ofman.”² Satan knows all that humans know about the importance of choosing.
Because he knows that we believe in the power of choice, he peddles choices, multiple and variegated, important-looking, crucial-sounding choices, as well as gaudy, glamorous ones. He floods us with them and so perplexes us: we no longer know if we should move the agenda quickly, running roughshod over issues that actually deserve more time; or take all the time each question merits, stretching our sessions into a sacrifice of intemperance where eventual resolution is awkwardly synonymous with outlasting objections and objectors.
Choices and the Temporal
How do we know that we have chosen rightly? Which of the infinite millions of decisions we make all day is optional—a choice between options all good: which dress to buy, or wear, or share; which tie to give away or throw away; which godly man to date; Uber or Lyft? Which of those myriad little ones has made our world or neighborhood so much better without our realizing it? How much of our time- and thought-investment in deliberations was well advised? How much amounted to a “worship in ignorance” (Acts 17:23, KJV), because we related to them at a level of status that common sense would hardly ascribe?
Life overflows with privileges of choosing the right hue or hymn or human. Discretion, it seems, comes parceled out, some here, some there, in rather lower quantities. Its scarcity shows in our adoration. Because there is so much more passion than discretion, we have been known to deify simply things: colors, animals, political positions, economic theories. Our spiritual passion yields holy structures where law is lower or higher than grace; or scales where works are weightier than faith, and committee memberships depend on superior financial strength or greater baptismal quantities. The batter of nonsense we so desperately fight over exposes the lightness of our living when compared to options of eternal weight.
And all the while the enemy of our salvation rejoices to have us continuously preoccupied, either with transient little matters or subjects on which simple obedience, not rigorous dispute, is our only legitimate option, and all based on our elevated estimate of the importance of our will. At times he succeeds in engaging us in “continual worry [that] is wearing out the life forces,” oblivious to the tenderly calling voice of Jesus inviting us “to lay aside this yoke of bondage” and “accept His yoke.”³ His yoke, of course, “is easy”; His burden “is light” (Matt. 11:30).
Choices and Forever
Jesus offers the simplest of proposals to solve our problem of decision-making. Instead of striving to accumulate things to worry over He instructs us in single-minded focus. Again and again He insists on simplification: on seeking the kingdom of God first, and nothing second (Matt. 6:33). He advises that “one thing is needed” (Luke 10:42): that we can get along quite triumphantly while focused on one thing: “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead” (Phil. 3:13, NASB).⁴ He urges that “those who accept the one principle of making the service and honor of God supreme will find perplexities vanish, and a plain path before their feet.”⁵ Life has more complications than we all together will ever fathom or unravel.
Yet life is not always as complicated as we make it out to be. Some of our all-night deliberations, it seems, might have lasted five minutes instead, if all concerned were willing to lay aside every consideration that did not make God’s service and honor supreme. Who knows?
“Money or life!” I thank providence for the poverty and grace that have protected me from robber attack. But I’ve been told that these are the options they’ve been known to put before their victims. Jesus never tires of confronting us with equally stark options: money or life; mammon or eternity. Him alone as everything (John 14:6) or the alternative of impotence (John 15:5). It is not possible to focus too much on Him. Knowing Him is knowing life eternal (John 17:3). Our options are money or everlasting life. How much of eternity hangs on that choice?
¹ See “Town Asks, ‘Why?’ After a Little-League Killing,”www.nytimes.com/1993/05/23/us/town-asks-why-after-a-little-league-killing.html
² Ellen G. White, Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene (Battle Creek, Mich.: Good Health Publishing, 1890), p. 147.
³ Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898, 1940), p. 330.