I've been forced in recent days to reflect on the false theology that undergirds the act of taking up the better offer when we have made a prior commitment.
I was always brought up to follow through on commitments. If I can recollect correctly from childhood, an oft-quoted verse in our house was Psalm 15.4 - my parents, when we were tempted to let other people down, having made a prior commitment, applied this verse about oaths to the 'don't take the better offer' route:
Who swears to his own hurt and does not change (ESV)
I can recall being shocked at a good Christian friend who accepted a job on a Friday. The following Monday she accepted another - what troubled me was that it didn't seem to cost her a thought. Sadly that lady later turned away from Christ!
I know the great temptation, inward struggle and agonized, mental debate that often accompanies an alluring, better offer. Satan can paint the picture of the better offer in such exciting, bright, colors. As we see the world and all its store before us, we can start to feel the thrill and joys that would accompany our wrong choice.
Personally, I am so thankful that when, on occasions, I would have succumbed to weakness, and leapt at 'the better offer', God provided firm Christian counsel to help me make good on commitments which I otherwise would not have kept. May the Lord lead us not into temptation but deliver us from such evils - be sure to take the escape.
I also know the great blessing, of choosing the difficult option, and spurning the better offer - even though I thought it would turn out for the worse, it actually, in the long-run, almost always worked out for the better (usually in ways that could not have been foreseen at the time). I have often rebuked myself, looking back, to the marvelous purpose God had in store, of which I had been ignorant or unaware.
I guest the old fashioned Ulster expression for this theology of following through on prior commitments to others is "Your word is your bond".
This memorable (but sadly now discarded) axiom actually, when you think about it, says quite a lot about the character of a person and what they actually believe.
Here, then, are a few initial thoughts about the false theology of 'the Better Offer.'
1. 'Taking up the better offer' is a refusal to bear the Christian Cross of self-denial - it says that Calvary is not a way of life for us but only Christ.
2. 'Taking up the better offer' indicates a doubt in the sovereignty of God - in His ordering the circumstances, chronology and sequences in our lives - it actually really says, by giving us the worst offer first, God did not know how to do what's best.
3. 'Taking up the better offer', for the same reasons above, casts aspersions on the wisdom of God and the goodness of God.
4. 'Taking up the better offer' calls into question the Omnipotence of God, or His ability to turn what we think is a worse offer into what is actually for our eternal (and often temporal) best.
5. 'Taking up the better offer' lets people down, causes them to distrust us, casts a slur on our character, demeans the reputation of believers before the world, and may cause offense and hurt to those who have placed their trust in us. It can spoil a relationship, ruin a friendship, hamper communication and lead to resentment.
Accepting one preference over another cast aspersions on the former offer or person who made that offer - it in insulting, selfish, unloving.
There is much more, of course, that could be said. All this does need to be qualified:
1. There are situations beyond our control, where unforeseen providences bring upon us more pressing obligations: it would be quite wrong to keep a trivial commitment while failing to do what was morally binding - no-one is suggesting that because we agreed to play golf that we should not turn up at the funeral of a friend or relative.
2. It is always wise, nevertheless, to avoid all possible misunderstanding, by adding the caveat 'God willing' or D.V.. We do, of course, need to be careful not to misuse this 'Christian get-out clause' - D.V. is not meant to create a sense of uncertainly, in our friends, colleagues, brothers or family, about the kind of commitments we make or how reliable we are - we should be worried if everything we commit to can change at a whim.
3. Where there is a clash of commitments most of the exceptions are fairly commonsense - there are some difficult cases which require careful application of principles, uppermost of which is love and lowermost of which is self.
4. It's probably a reasonable rule of thumb to be suspicious of your choice when the chief consideration is self.
...I'm sure you can think of other clear exceptions with examples to be added to this list. Some food for thought! I wonder how many pages a book on 'the errors of the better offer' might run to?
What is my conclusion - we can try to dress it up, call it what we like, but, no matter how good our theology may be...
'Taking up the better offer' is an act of practical, selfish, unloving ATHEISM!
Perhaps, then like me, you at least need to give thanks for some close escapes - it is humbling to admit to ourselves and confess to Christ, that without the grace of God, there is not one of us who could be counted on. Peter, you'll remember, denied the Lord with oaths, having previously made a commitment not to forsake Christ (Mark 14.31). Only by being guarded will we be reliable when it counts - by practice of this grace credible desires and acts are formed into character!
Or maybe, sadly, you have developed the sinful habit, either through carelessness, ignorance or selfishness, of habitually changing your tune when the occasions requires it. If that is the case, humbly, gently, may I call you to repent and renounce this way of life. There is pardon and help to be more resolute!
Where, in our weakness, can we get the grace, help and strength, to make the better choice (which in this case is the first)? By what can we be enabled to put the self to death and to carry the cross of prior commitment? The temptations of Christ, as recorded in Matthew 4.8-11, give the lead:
1. First we see the temptation to take the better offer was both alluring and great in 4:8-9
Again the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him "All these I will give you if you fall down and worship me."
Did the Mediator choose the cross, to which He had given a prior commitment to the Father, to accomplish the work of redemption and thus to secure my salvation in love? What amazing motive we have to refuse 'the better offer'! And what a massive resource of grace, help & faith, to be prayed down, when sorely tempted to renege.
2. Second we see the twofold method by which such temptation is resisted in 4.10
Then Jesus said "Be gone, Satan! For it is written 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only shall you serve.'
Firstly, Scripture was a God-given means of grace, applied in the power of the Spirit, to resist the temptation of accepting 'the better offer'? Secondly, this firm belief was accompanied by a swift, decisive, repost: the Saviour does not delay, but makes immediate rebuttal of the satanic suggestion! What the situation demanded was no less than firm resistance, in the power of the Spirit, to this diabolical liar (the 'best offer' made to Jesus would have been a road to spiritual disaster - what eternal praise we should show to Christ for sticking to His first, best, holy, choice: the way we do that is by making His example, here, a fixed principle of our own conduct)!
Is you character important, is your reputation valuable, is your witness precious, is the Gospel to be honored, is the Name of Christ worthy? Then please, please, please, stay true to your word, follow through on commitments, and take up the offer that you originally accepted. Those committed to this course are sure to know divine blessing and help in sticking to their choice which they made for Jesus' sake.
This article originally appeared on Gentle Reformation http://gentlereformation.com/. Used by permission.