Last week Brother James used the prodigal son as his theme. He noted that the young man made some bad choices, and those came with consequences. This came on the heels of me seeing a Tik Tok in which a young woman made the bold claim that God is pro-choice. She said that God supports and applauds us for making decisions as he has designed us to make them. Why else would God have put the tree of good and evil in the garden?
Let’s take a step back here. God indeed has given us the ability to chose. Speaking theologically, God being omnibenevolent (all kind and all loving) would not subject us to slavery, even the slavery of His will. Thus we were made “free moral agents” or beings with the ability to act according to our own will. That does not mean, however, that He likes it when we disobey him. No matter “pro-choice” issue you want to discuss, there is a moral right or wrong to it. And we can (and often do) make the wrong choices.
Let’s examine Adam in the garden. In Genesis 2: 16-17, God clearly said: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” In Chapter 3, Eve and then Adam do eat from the tree. If all choices are applauded by God, then why once they received the knowledge of good and evil did they feel ashamed? In fact, they having eaten tried to hide themselves from God, and then even lie about it and try to pass the blame on: Adam blaming God and Eve, and Eve blaming the serpent.
A chapter later we see Cain and Abel making offerings to God. Abel’s was acceptable (I won’t deviate to a theological discussion on it here), and Cain’s fell short. Because of this Cain becomes angry. Here again we see a divine intervention and warning. No not divine control, as Cain is a free moral agent. God tells him to be careful, and to not let sin take control of him. The end result is that Cain gives into the sinful urges and kills his brother. This resulted in punishment. Why punish him if his choice to be angry and kill was just as valid as accepting that his brother had done better?
In Numbers 22 we find the prophet Balaam, being called by the king of Moab to come and curse the Children of Israel. Balaam inquires of God about what he should do, and God says, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed (verse 12).” Balaam then tells the king’s messengers that he won’t do it. The king then sends even more impressive messengers offering him riches it he will do the king’s bidding. Balaam, rather that accepting that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, goes back to God to ask Him again if he can go with them. God responds that Balaam needs to do what God has told him. Balaam then heads to Moab. It is only by the wits of his donkey that he is spared from punishment by an angel. The reason for the potential punishment, Balaam is told is that “your path is a reckless one before me.”
David, the man after God’s own heart was not exempt. In 2 Samuel 11, we find the king falling in lust for another man’s wife, a bad choice. He then acts on the lust and sleeps with her, and she becomes pregnant (bad choice number 2, and a big consequence). Bad choices number one and two lead to a cover up (bad choice three), which involves murder (“free moral choice” four). In the following chapter the prophet Nathan comes to David and lays out a story of rich and powerful man who has wronged and robbed a poor man. On hearing the tale: “David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity (2 Sam 12: 5-6).” Why should David be so upset with the free choice made by the rich man? Surely all choices should be celebrated. The real kicker is when Nathan tells the king, “You are the man.”
With apologises to Frank Sinatra – he got it wrong. It isn’t about doing it your way. The biblical accounts we have looked at make that clear. But nevertheless we continue to do it our way and fail. Fortunately, that isn’t where it ends. If it were we would be paying eternal consequences for our actions.
We are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23f). And the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Yet, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). The consequences of our bad choices has been paid by another’s choice to be punished in our stead.
When I next speak I hope to follow up on this message with the theme “Doing it Thy way.”
Sermon for 22 Jan 23