Choices are a part of our everyday lives. Some choices matter more than others! Choosing one of 175 salad dressings will not change your relationship with God. Choosing to put your faith in Jesus for your salvation is a decision that WILL change your eternity. We make hundreds of decisions every day as we navigate an ever increasingly complex life of choices.
In the Old Testament, Joshua stood before the people of God and challenged them to make a choice:
… choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
Choices, choices, choices! 99 channels … and nothing to watch. A closet full of clothes … and nothing to wear. We are surrounded by abundance that paralyzes and robs us of satisfaction. More choices do not equal a better life, or one filled with joy and contentment. It is just the opposite. It is a paradox where less is more and more is actually less. Increasing the number of choices we have for everything from cars to candy has not made us a more free people.
Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, said that the official “dogma” of all western industrial societies is …
“If we are interested in maximizing the welfare of our citizens, the way to do that is to maximize individual freedom. The reason for this is both that freedom is, in and of itself, good, valuable, worthwhile, essential to being human, and because if people have freedom, then each of us can act on our own to do the things that will maximize our welfare, and no one has to decide on our behalf. The way to maximize freedom to maximize choice. The more choices people have, the more freedom they have and the more freedom they have the more welfare they have.”
He goes on to say what we all know and experience … this kind of thinking is harmful, and it is just not true! At some point, choices become counterproductive and even worse, destructive to our lives.
Too many choices produce paralysis rather than liberation. And even when you overcome the paralysis of analysis, you end up less satisfied with the result of the choice than if you had less choices to begin with. With more choices, it is easy to imagine that you could have made a choice that would have been better. This imagined alternative induces you to regret … or at least doubt and second guess the decision you made … which subtracts from any level of satisfaction you would have derived from that decision even if it was a good decision.
Schwartz says that too many choices make us miserable for these reasons:
- Regret and anticipated regret. The odds are you will regret your choice.
- Opportunity cost. I choose to do one thing, but that means there are other opportunities I am missing out on.
- Escalation of expectations. With so many choices, we expect to find one that is perfect for us.
- Self-blame. If our choice is wrong, we are to blame. We made the wrong choice!
Barry Schwartz in his book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less writes … Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard … choose less and feel better.
So, what is that answer?
When I look at scripture, three things come to mind when considering our choices …
First, it starts with our thinking … fear, greed, jealousy, envy, strife, gluttony, and all sins of the flesh … have no place in our choices.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
You might be thinking … I wish I could see it like God sees it; I wish I could have the wisdom to make choices and then let them go. Jesus, the brother of James, writes …
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:
Second, it flows from our heart; Jeremiah tells us that the heart is …
… deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:9–10
The biggest question is who is sitting on the throne of your heart? Is your heart trusting in God’s provision, love, grace? Is your heart filled with the Spirit and you have a desire to keep in step with the Spirit? Then I would say you can trust God with what your heart is telling you.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
Lastly, our choices are about getting into action. Even not choosing is a choice, and choices have consequences, so to quote Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, “Choose wisely”. That may seem like an ominous statement to make about choices like what movie to watch, or what to have for dinner tonight … and I totally agree. But realizing that choices have consequences is merely to say:
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8
This Week: Take some time to think about the choices you are making or must make and put to test these three steps … and remembering that the best choice ever made was when God choice to love you and die … for you! That choice has changed my life!