The mantra of no choice
“I didn’t have a choice,” Bill adamantly exclaimed to his wife Tina. I haven’t had solid work for a year, and you know our savings are just about gone.” Tina meekly responded by saying “I just don’t think agreeing to support the company’s policies that we believe are not Biblical is something we should be doing.” “How do you suppose to put food on the table?” Bill responded a bit more aggressively.” “Maybe we don’t, not yet,” Tina offered meekly.
Our hearts go out to Bill, but did he really not have a choice in the matter? Or was it more a matter of he didn’t like the options he was presented with? Neither option was appealing; either agree to compromise his beliefs, or not feed his family. Those are poor options at best, but options all the same. While this is a fictional story, there are many real-life accounts of people facing very real and poor options.
Poor choices are choices
Just after World War II, in France, many women had their heads shaved as a means to shame them for fraternizing with the enemy. Their other option to fraternizing was to die of starvation or possibly be killed outright.
In the Bible, Daniel had to choose between praying to Nebuchadnezzar’s statute or be fed to the lions (Daniel 6:1-16). His three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego likewise had to choose between worshipping Nebuchadnezzar’s statute of gold, or be burned alive (Daniel 3:1-6).
In recent news, a woman has filed a lawsuit saying that her company-sponsored “self-improvement” seminar required all attendees to strip to their underwear and open up to the group about their vulnerabilities. She claimed this was a requirement for promotion.
While these examples span over 2,600 years, they all contain a similar motif. The available options were poor, even life-threatening. Each individual could easily and honestly repeat Bill’s mantra of not having an option. However, unless you are bound and gagged, options are inevitably on the table. No matter how poor. Why is that?
God’s gift of choice
Having options is a gift from God. We call it free will or the gift of choice. God did not make us automatons that follow a prescribed action. He did not make us as animals that act primarily on instinct. He gave us a brain and, with that brain, free will. The gift was given at the beginning of time in the garden of Eden. God gave Adam and Eve the option of walking with God and never dying, or eating from the fruit of the tree of good and evil and eventually dying (Genesis 3:3).
Pharaoh was given the option of releasing the Jewish slaves or reaping the harvest of ten plagues culminating in the death of every first-born in Egypt (Exodus 8:1-2, 9:1-4, 11:4-5). Adam & Eve and Pharaoh did not choose what God would have intended, but they were not barred from making those choices. Thus, free will to choose for themselves.
We typically think of free will being the ability to choose to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the only way to heaven (John 14:6). While that is true, that is just one of the millions of choices we will make in our lifetime. The ability to make each one of those choices is the gift of free will from God.
Responsibilities of Choice
With this gift of choice comes three responsibilities. First, we are to make wise choices. Fortunately, God is gracious and provides us the resources to make wise choices through wisdom chronicled in the Bible (James 1:5), the wisdom of friends (Proverbs 11:14, 15:22), and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8, Colossians 1:9). Second, we must recognize all the options before us. Third, we have to own up to the choice we make, even when the options are poor. They are still options that need to be chosen by us.
To say “we didn’t have a choice” is to ignore the options before us as well as ignore God’s gift of choice. God does not seem to be in the business of accepting returns on His gifts. The option to choose is ours, whether we accept it or not.
Another aspect to the responsibility of choice is that sometimes it becomes burdensome to have to choose. This is particularly true when we have to choose between two poor options. To say we didn’t have a choice, when the reality is we didn’t like the options, or the right option is painful or costly, is not taking responsibility for our actions. Ask Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego about having to choose between bad options (https://personalexcellence.co/blog/you-always-have-a-choice/) (Daniel 6:1-16) (Daniel 3:1-6).
Prepare to choose
Fortunately, not all options to select from are bad. It does seem, however, that the most life-changing options are. Will you steal for food? Would you violate your morality stance for your career? Should you serve your country’s military, recognizing you will be asked to kill? Can you be silent if speaking up will ostracize you? These are all very tough options, but decisions that many will have had to make.
Choices sometimes come upon us very quickly. Work on recognizing options. Remember, we always have a choice. And foremost, thank God for the opportunity to choose, even if we don’t like the options.
Losing your friends, community, job, or even your life may someday be an option. Know what you stand for to make the hard choices. Consider the hill you are willing to die on, so to speak.
One day, we as Christians may have to choose between bearing the mark of the beast or living (Revelation 13:16-17). It will be a choice, and our eternal lives will exemplify which choice we made. All these other choices and options are just a practice run. Don’t turn your back on God’s gift of choice, and practice choosing well.