At one point or another, we have all tried bargaining with God over something. Maybe it was about giving up something sinful we really liked, or maybe it involved trusting God with a particular area of our life we wanted to be blessed in like finding a spouse, improving our finances or whatever, but why do we feel like it is somehow possible to bargain with God in prayer about anything, especially when it involves obeying something he commanded us to do?
Conditional Obedience Is The Sign Of A Rebellious Heart
It is kind of amusing, but one has to question what goes through our minds when we think bargaining with the creator of the universe is a good idea
The main reason why we consider this even a remote possibility, is we just do not focus on who God really is, and as an example of how we should have a healthy respect for God by not losing perspective, look at Isaiah’s response when he saw a vision of God:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty”
Now, Isaiah lived righteously, walked intimately with God, and saw a lot of visions, but when he actually saw God on his throne, he was completely afraid
Using this as an example, if we stop and consider who God really is, does Isaiah’s reaction lead us to think it is possible, or sane, to try and bargain with God?
However, many Christians try to make all sorts of bargains with God, which usually involves them offering to act a certain way, but only if he gives them something they want first
Here are a couple of common examples:
“God, I will do whatever you want if you just send me a spouse”
“God, I will start helping others if you just give me that new job so I can make more money”
“God, I will start tithing again if you help me get out if this financial mess”
So wait, let me get this straight, God did not promise to bless every Christian with a spouse or wealth because they put their faith in Jesus, but yet somehow, for many, their level of obedience hinges on whether they get what we want from him first?
Bratty kid alert!
To put this in perspective, that is the equivalent of a bratty kid telling their parents they will only stop coloring on the walls if they are given cookies first, even though they fully understand that their behavior is wrong in the first place–not exactly a respectful attitude!
No parent wants to manage a child like that, which is something we lose perspective on when we approach God with prayer requests in such a self-centered way
Even though many Christians would not directly make the types of conditional bargains listed above, they often still have the same attitude, as they expect to receive blessings from God in exchange for “being good”, and get impatient when they feel he is not giving them what they want, when they want it, as a reward for their good behavior
To illustrate this, let us look at the three examples from above in a slightly different way:
“God, I have been good, how come you have not sent me a spouse yet?”
“God, how am I supposed to help others if you do not give me a better job?”
“God, I have been tithing but where are my financial blessings?”
In these examples, rather than a bratty kid saying they will only be good if they get cookies, these responses show the heart of a child who obeys their parents but expects a reward for doing so, as if it were a pain to be obedient, rather than a joy
If it is a burden to obey God’s righteous commands, and we need or expect some kind of reward as motivation, we should evaluate the sincerity of our desire to follow after God
I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly
If you love me, you will obey what I command
1 John 5:3
This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome
Also, it is interesting to note how Jesus himself did not consider his own will above God’s, as he acknowledged he was not God’s equal in any regard–we should adopt the same attitude he had when it comes to honoring God’s will in our lives, rather than being disobedient or obeying only if we think a reward is involved
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped
When We Willfully Disobey God, We Are Openly Criticizing His Wisdom And Loving Personality
This may seem like a challenging concept at first, but, as noted in the verses above, we express our love for God in the way we follow his righteous commands, as they are a reflection of how much we enjoy molding ourselves after his loving, righteous character
Rather than look at following God’s commands as a burden that hinders our lives, we should focus on the fact that God’s wisdom and love are perfect, just as the mercy we have received from him is beyond comprehension
Unless we think God is going to give us bad advice, we should be overjoyed to follow his commands rather than rebelling against them, as obeying God means we are growing spiritually mature, living according to his standards of holiness and righteousness, and developing a sincere, intimate relationship with him–if this is not our primary focus in life, what is?
If you love me, you will obey what I command
2 John 1:6
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love
1 Peter 1:15-16
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy”
Despite how grateful we are for receiving God’s amazing kindness, many Christians lose sight of how his commands are meant to bring us to a place of maturity so that we can live righteously, and love others just as he loves us
God did not call us to obey because he likes to control us or make our lives “boring”, he wants us to learn how to live righteously, and love one another according to the same standard he loves us with
1 Peter 1:22
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart
1 John 4:19
We love because he first loved us
What many Christians do not understand, is that when they disobey, or try to make bargains with God before surrendering an area of their lives, they are openly telling God how much they prefer following their own stubborn, sinful ways rather than seeking to know his heart by understanding what pleases him
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord
By contrast, can you imagine standing in front of God and saying something like this:
“God, thank you so much for dying for my sins, and for showing me endless forgiveness because you love me so much, but I really like doing things my own way, so I will only obey if you give me something as a reward”
That kind of statement is incredibly unwise, shows a tremendous amount of disrespect, and nobody in their right mind would ever say something like that while standing in God’s presence
However, many Christians openly make these statements in their lives by offering God their conditional obedience, or living rebelliously, but then wonder why their relationship with God is not as fulfilling as they want it to be, and get upset because they do not receive things they ask for–go figure!
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear
1 Peter 3:12
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil
(Note that Peter is talking to Christians!)
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures
During All Stages Of Christianity, We Should Not Assume We Know Better Than God About Anything
It is no secret a lot of things can cause people to disobey God, even long-time Christians
It could be that unhealed wounds have put us in a place where it is difficult to trust God (for more on being able to trust God read here: http://www.godandstuff.com/?p=7369), or maybe we just do not want to give something up because we enjoy it, but regardless of whatever the reasons are, the Bible does not tell us to only follow God’s commands when we trust them or they make sense to us, we are told to obey his truth in all circumstances because he is God
When we disobey God’s commands, it is not like we are ignoring just anyone’s guidance, we are disobeying the creator of the universe who is love itself, which is something we rarely pay attention to when deciding whether to act wisely or not
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man
Regardless of whether we want to give something up or not, we should have a mind to obey God’s commands all the time since we are supposed to anyway, holding out for a reward instead of obeying for the sake of getting to know God is terrible, as it only shows how little we delight in his ways, and reflects how we have not yet had a true change of heart as the result of our relationship with him
Christians Who Seek An Earthly Reward For Their Obedience Misunderstand Their True Reward: An Intimate Relationship With God And Eternal Life
What our conditional obedience tragically exposes, is how our minds are not set on God, or our place in eternity, but rather on earthly things that have no value anyway
What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things
Also, in terms of what types of rewards we should be seeking for good behavior, did you know God referred himself as our great reward?
I am your shield, your very great reward
That is amazing!
God tells us outright that having a relationship with him is our reward, which is far more valuable than anything earthly we could ever receive!
As an exercise, look at the areas where you are not obedient or areas you are not trusting God with, then ask yourself what it would take to give those things up permanently
If a deeper relationship with God is not a sufficient reward for letting go, ask God for the wisdom and strength to come to a place of maturity where it is, and make sincere efforts to honor his will above yours, without concern for any earthly reward in the process, as the only way we can consistently expect receiving what we ask for is when we live a life of obedience that pleases God
1 John 3:21-22
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him
The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous
We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will