When Good People Make Bad Decisions
Did God really ask us to make that decision?
Good people can make bad decisions. Often it is not clear that the decision they are about to make will actually turn out to be a bad one. But analysis of the results after the fact reveal unwanted results. I have not only experienced these bad decisions, I have made some!
The most traumatic occurrence for Patti and I was when a group of godly men to whom we had submitted our lives believed that God was wanting to send us in a different direction.
They had asked us to do a particular assignment that involved recruiting a team to work in a particular nation. Over two years we had completed that assignment and the team was preparing to launch.
At the final moment, these men came to us. They had been praying as a group about another nation where they believed there were challenges that needed a new effort. They brought us in and reported their spiritual journey together that led them to believe that Patti and I needed to give our team over to someone else and step in to fill the gap in this urgent need.
We are under authority when we join an organization. When we know that we work in the midst of leaders of goodwill, committed to the direction of the Holy Spirit and wanting to also do the best for us, we willfully commit to such people.
In this particular example, time demonstrated that this was a bad decision. The results were challenging for all of us involved and created conflict between these godly men and the godly people who were already in the project.
This is not to say that challenges that result from our decision-making are a primary demonstration of a bad decision.
But, when relationships are broken, trust is eroded, and the glory of God is brought into question, we must suspect that the original decision that was thought to be from God, was actually compromised by the weakness of the decision making of even godly people.
I am sure that with me, we can all think of such personal moments when we wonder, “did God really ask us to do this?” Was this the Holy Spirit’s leading or were we influenced by mistaken exuberance, or personal desires, or corrupted “listening?”
These failures are part and parcel to our growth process of learning to walk with the Spirit. The newer we are to this maturation journey, the more likely that we will feel the brunt of such “bad” decisions and will in fact make some ourselves. It is a part of the journey.
But, what happens at the larger level when people who lead others make “bad” decisions on the behalf of hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of Christ followers? When local church, denominational, network and para-church leaders make “big” decisions about money, or properties, or convictions or even the continued existence of their “ministry” that time clearly demonstrates was a “bad” decision? Or, when “bad” is never identified or discussed or worse even understood?
When good people make bad decisions. Did God really say to do this?
“We are blind to our cultural sins and excesses," (Gospel-Powered Humility" by William P. Farley). That is a powerful thought. I find that I have to mull it over again and again, on a regular basis to understand just how much I am influenced by the thoughts that surround me. More often than not, they invade my thoughts uninvited. Through radio, TV, through my friends and colleagues, and especially through my electronic devices. All too often unrecognized by me, they assault my stated convictions, the desires of my heart, and the decisions that I make. If they did not blindside me, or as Farley says, if I were not so blind, their subtle attacks would not be so disturbing.
Farley goes on to point out that it is arrogance driven by our original sin, pride, which causes us to fail to see this truth as God sees it. Pride is the original sin, believing that God was not to be fully trusted and that there was something in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that would release us to our full potential. Something God was hiding from us!
“We don’t need to be obedient, subservient, to God, when we could be equal to Him.” Of course, it is very probable that Adam and Eve did not understand all of this, but Satan did. Still, they were given a choice, trust their Maker and live life as He designed it, or reach out to something more that Satan had maliciously seeded for them to consider. How pride twists something so simple into the disobedience, disregard and pain that so many Christians, and their churches, suffer!
This blindness to our propensity to pride, and the corrupted view of the life that it begets, continues today. Indeed it is even more pervasive than it was in the years past when religion cloaked our culture and its corrupt roots. The impact of rebellious worldly thinking, invades every dimension of life. It impacts our expectations about life and as such affects the decisions we make daily about work, school, friends, commodities, the programs we watch and the music we listen to, everything!!
The Bible teaches that those who belong to God in Jesus Christ have crucified this world and it passions, desires, expectations. Or we might say, our crucifixion with Christ impacts what we do daily with all of the assets, expectations, investments, etc., that God’s sovereignty has placed into our hands to steward, ON HIS BEHALF.
Nowhere have I been as amazed at failure in this challenge of pride and its impact upon decision-making, especially as it affects our expected stewardship, then in how church leadership carries this out in their local congregations. We ought to be able to easily see that how leadership sets the pace in protecting its decisions from the bleed of cultural sin and excesses, sets models to all who follow them. It sets the pace for how individual Christians and their families will do the same, and feel justified and affirmed. “If our leaders make this kind of decision with our corporate assets, then we too can follow suit with our personal expectations and assets.”
“I confess to a feeling of uneasiness about this when I observe the questionable things Christ is said to do for people these days. He is often recommended as a wonderfully obliging but not too discriminating Big Brother who delights to help us accomplish our ends, and who further favors us by forbearing to ask any embarrassing questions about the moral and spiritual qualities of those ends.” (The Root of Righteousness, A.W. Tozer, Christian Publications. Inc. 1955. Page 23)
All over the world and almost daily, we hear church leaders invoking God’s name in decisions. In some cases, from clearly self obsessed leaders, the decisions they make, “make sense,” at least to them. But in other cases, apparently Godly leaders make questionable decisions and leave many of us scratching our heads in wonder. On the surface the decisions sound reasonable. But one must ask the question, reasonable to who?
Do these decisions assist Christ’s people to mature in righteousness? Do they model for them decisions that enhance righteousness? Do they show how they too should make decisions with their assets, impacted and dominated by the righteousness in which they now walk.
Some thoughts on a way forward next time. This is an extract from a new book that will come out some time in 2021.