If you read the Old Testament very much, you probably grow weary of reading these words: “And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. . .” (1) The operative word being “again.” 🙄 My reaction sometimes as I read this is, “What’s wrong with these people?” But then my gut tells me, “I am one of these people.” 🙁
Why is that? Why do we continue to do leave good things and return to what is “evil in the sight of the Lord”? My only conclusion is Paul’s conclusion, who also struggled with it. He wrote: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (2) I must pause there, however, for I actually believe that most of the time people do what they want to do. So am I disagreeing with Paul? Actually no. Paul says he ends up doing what he wants, which happens to be what he hates. Wait. What? 🤪 Paul is wise enough to realize that what he wants is of far less value than what God wants; therefore, he hates that he does not really want to do what God wants. (If you need to take a sip of coffee at this point to follow this logic, please feel free to do so! ☕ )
The rest of us mortals (excluding Paul and a few other godly people—the disciples perhaps and some Old Testament folks like Deborah, which we will get to eventually) are not even wise enough to truly believe that . . . that doing what God wants would be way better than doing what we want. And so: the struggle.
Most of us—with some exceptions, I am sure (but they are few😏)—most of us do exactly what we want to do. Most of us—if we even commit to anything—leave a back door open in case something better comes along. In other words, we are committed to living for the Lord . . . until something else catches our attention. Yes, I believe we are that selfish and that fickle. ☹️
My evidence for such a depressing philosophy? The number of meaningful relationships people forsake. The number of promising jobs people quit. The number of excellent programs people abandon. The number of wonderful diets people ditch. The number of notable churches people leave. Etc. Etc. Etc. 🙄 And so our story reads like something out of the Old Testament: “And the people of _____ again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” We are just not very good at sticking with things—even good things!
But that’s on the large scale, regarding the big decisions in our lives—relationships, jobs, programs, health, churches, etc. What about the little decisions? The daily ones? How do we handle those? Well . . . 🙄 basically the same way. We commit to praying more . . . until our phone buzzes. We commit to reading the Bible more . . . until that TV program lures us away. We commit to exercising more . . . until we are too tired (lazy). We commit to attending that class . . . until something else needs our immediate attention. And so: the struggle. “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (3)
But wait a minute. 🤨 Am I saying these other things are actually “evil”? No, not independently evil. But, yes, if they keep us from doing the better thing, the godly thing, the thing God wants us to do. The fact is, God’s ways are so much better. We just have a hard time really believing that . . . because if we did, we would do what God wants! Instead, we do what we want to do. And settle for less. 😕 And struggle. Aargh! 😠 “I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” (4) It’s serious! We are actually in bondage to this lesser way of thinking—this double-minded, on-again-off-again unstable way of living. And there is only one way out of it: “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (5)
My goal one day is to be able to say with Paul, “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” and understand that what I want (and generally end up doing) is not as good as what God wants, and then conclude that I really hate that. 🙁
(1) Judges 4:1 (2) Romans 7:15 (3) Romans 7:19 (4) Romans 7:23 (5) Romans 8:2