Every day we are confronted with decisions and choices. We are presented with choices we must make regarding our future, careers, family and family life. Throughout the course of our lives there are decisions we are required to make about our finances, relationships and actions we must take. Decision-making is a major part of our lives and our daily activities. There is not a day that goes by that we will not have some decision or choice to make.
As we ponder the choices that are before us, do we stop to consider the factors that influence our decisions? Do we take time to research the best of the information that is available? Do we rely on what we have heard or seen others do in similar situations? Or, are the choices we make simply based on how we feel at that moment in time? What standards do we employ to help us identify the lines and boundaries that we should not cross? Do we even have any lines drawn in the sand and/or boundaries marking behaviors, activities or actions that are off limits for us? Perhaps, we are fairly liberal and relaxed in our approach to life and making choices and have decided anything goes as long as no one gets hurt.
Whether we are aware of it or not, one of the things that influences the choices and decisions we make are the voices we hear and listen to. Before we discount this statement, let us consider that every time we pause to think about something at the very least we hear our own voice as we hash out ideas and approaches to things we are considering. As we process information we receive or actions we are contemplating it activates the voices in our head. If the truth were told, our voice in many instances is not the only voice we hear. Depending on the situation, we some times hear the voice of our parents telling us do not do this and do not do that. At other times we replay conversations we have had with close friends and we hear their voice. Or, may be we remember the counsel of an aunt, uncle, supervisor or some other person who has spoken to us. The point is, we all hear voices.
Eve, in the Garden of Eden, heard a voice. I would suspect that it was an unfamiliar voice and not one she had previously heard. The voice that Eve heard came from a serpent. Apparently, the unfamiliar voice mesmerized Eve as she engaged it in a full-blown conversation. The fact that Eve held a conversation with the serpent reveals how compelling some voices can be in spite of the appearance of the vessel from which they emanate. Some times it is not who is speaking that draws our attention but rather what is said.
The voice Eve heard initiated the conversation with a question, “Did God really say?” This is one of the things that voices do, they cause us to question, ponder and reflect. Strange unfamiliar voices have a way of giving us reason to pause and rethink what we believe, stand for, have been taught, long held principles, standards, and even the truth. Unfamiliar voices have a way of making us reconsider things we know to be true. Four simple words from a strange unfamiliar creature cause a woman of God to question and re-examine her entire theology – everything she knew and believed about God.
What do we know about the people and the voices we listen to? Who has our ear? What do we know about the people we allow to pour their thoughts, opinions, ideologies and views into us? Do they know God? Do they have a relationship with Jesus Christ or do they cause us to question the reality of Christ and the validity of God’s word?
I would suggest that believers probably should not make it a practice to take advice and counsel from unbelievers. The words of the very first Psalm offer a caution about whom we should listen to and where we should seek advice. “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD.” There is no good that can come from listening to or engaging voices that encourage us to mock God by doubting the truth of God’s word.
For believers, the word of God is our standard bearer. The word of God establishes the boundaries and lines between the acceptable and the unacceptable. God has given us His word so that we would have access and knowledge of His principles and standards for Holy living. The fact that God has given us information about what God desires and expects from us and how to do it negates the need for debate and discussion. If God has explicitly stated the course we are to follow, what else is there to say? As we will see shortly, problems occur when we substitute or completely remove God’s word as the believer’s standard for living. This opens the door for what we have now a blurred line between right and wrong and no absolute truths. Ian Rand commented on the position, there are no more blacks and whites there are only grays. Mr. Rand points out that this is a contradiction because gray is a mixture of black and white. Therefore, before you can have gray, black and white must exist.
As Eve continues to engage and listen to the voice, the subject of consequences comes up. The voice advised Eve that the consequences are not as dire or extreme as she has been led to believe. “You will not surely die.” Once the line between right and wrong starts to blur and standards governing the acceptable and unacceptable are relaxed, consequences are no longer a restraint.
- “They are not going to fire you for taking a few pencils, fudging your time-sheet or slacking off”
- “Your spouse is not going to leave you just because you spend time with a co-worker of the opposite sex or you had a few drinks together”
- “Your children will not be affected by your use of profanity, lying or breaking your promises to them – they will get over it”
- “No one will miss you if you do not show up, besides so and so did it and nothing happened to them”
- “It is my body and I can do what I want with it”
The voice that Eve is now listening to offers her a final caveat before it disappears. “God knows…you will be like God.” After sowing the final seeds that will give birth to compromise the voice just stops. It advanced the idea that God would or is withholding something from her and that her life is lacking and incomplete. How many times do we think to ourselves if I only get this or that I will be better off, happy, satisfied or whole and complete? After three attempts Eve finally gives in to the impulse to do the wrong thing. She abandons everything she knows is right.
• First the voice encouraged her to question the truth
• Second the voice encouraged her to ignore the consequences
• Third the voice encouraged her to believe she was missing something
As we can see compromise calls out to us to disregard what we know is true and to do what we feel is best without regard for the consequences of our decision. Compromise leads to the erosion and destruction of standards and principles. When we examine what happened with Eve it becomes clear that she did not just act on whim, but over time what started out as swaying became a complete drifting away from the truth and God. Compromise begins with subtle drifting. You know you are moving, but you do not realize how far away from God you have actually traveled. Last summer Jill and I went to the beach with her brother’s family. The waters along the northeast corridor tend to be a bit rough. In many spots swimmers have to be careful of undercurrents that can pull you out away from the shore. The water was particularly rough on that day. As I was in the water with the kids, I noticed that as the waves coming in got bigger and bigger the force of the undercurrent would pull us further and further out. It had reached the point where Jill and her brother who were our markers were almost out of sight. That is the way compromise works, as truth and standards are dismantled we drift farther and farther away from God our marker until finally we do not even see or consider God anymore. Honestly, how often do we stop to consider how a decision or a choice we make will affect God or how God would feel about what we are getting ready to do? The upside is, God always provides warning signs before we start drifting and even after we have started drifting. When every thing inside of us is telling us STOP! DO NOT DO IT! These are divine caution and warning signals. The downside is we usually fail to heed the warnings that go off inside of us.
Think about this, after Adam and Eve had given in to compromise, they tried to cover it up. If you have to cover up what you are doing or have done or have to sneak around to do it, you probably should not be doing it.
Scripture reveals in the end compromise is extremely costly.
- Lot compromised and ended up in Sodom
- Abraham compromised and almost lost his wife
- David compromised and almost lost his throne and his children were in open rebellion against him
- Pilate compromised and lost an opportunity to come to know Jesus as savior
- Adam and Eve compromised got kicked out of paradise and lost a close fellowship with God
If nothing else, this text teaches us that the choices and decisions we make carry with them life long consequences. The belief that a single choice will not matter or bring with it implications beyond actively carrying a decision out is erroneous and totally untrue.
The fact of the matter is that what happened to Adam and Eve does not have to happen to us. There are steps we can take to ensure that we do not fall victim to the destructive effects of compromise.
We can avert the damage of compromise by:
1. Making the word of God our standard bearer – this means that we have to get into God’s word and know what God’s standards of living for His people are and when we are confronted with a choice between what God says and something else, we always defer to what God says. Did God really say such and such and His word bears it out, our answer must be Yes, God really did say it.
2. Always consider the consequences of our actions and keep them before us – No matter how trite or insignificant an action may seem at the time, all actions carry some consequences and some consequences have eternal ramifications. God always spells out the consequences of actions that are contrary and opposed to His will for us. The idea that another person did something and did not suffer obvious consequences is irrelevant. We must remember that believers are judged by a different standard than unbelievers and consequences do not always manifest themselves immediately but they will occur at some point. “God will not be mocked, you will reap what you sow.” Sometimes we reap more than we sow, later than we sow but we will always reap what we sow.
3. Be satisfied with what you have and where you are in life – The grass will always look greener on the other side until you get there. Once you are over there then the patches of brown, the weeds and all of the other imperfections will become apparent. God is not in the business of withholding anything from His children. Whatever we have is what we are supposed to have at that time. Conversely, whatever we do not have are probably things we do not need and cannot handle. Most of us have tremendous difficulty juggling and managing what is under our purview now. When and if we need more, God will see to it that we get.
The way we prevent falling prey to the devastating effects of compromise is making a commitment to know the word of God and live by the word of God. David said, “Thy word have I hid in my heart so that I may not sin against you.”
April 18, 2010