This morning, like most mornings, I passed a billboard sign advertising tattoo removal. But I guess this morning it made me really think about short term vs. long term consequences. It’s really easy to make a decision that satisfies or eases a problem in the short term. But one of the things we should always be doing is considering the long term consequences. A tattoo is a great example. In the short term it may seem “super cool.” But as the years pass (or even days, for some people), the novelty of the tattoo wears off or there are unintended consequences of having it (like it being in a visible area and that being a mark against someone for the job that person wants). And sooner or later that person decides that having the tattoo isn’t “super cool” any more. That’s why tattoo removal gets business and can advertise on billboards.
“When you saw that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ although the LORD your God was your king. Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen, whom you have asked for, and behold, the LORD has set a king over you. If you will fear the LORD and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the LORD, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God. If you will not listen to the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the command of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you, as it was against your fathers. Even now, take your stand and see this great thing which the LORD will do before your eyes. Is it not the wheat harvest today? I will call to the LORD, that He may send thunder and rain Then you will know and see that your wickedness is great which you have done in the sight of the LORD by asking for yourselves a king.” So Samuel called to the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel. – 1 Samuel 12:12-18, NASB
The people had clamored for a king and Samuel had tried to resist them. However, they continued to look around at the nations around them and saw an earthly king in each case. Israel didn’t have a man as king. And they thought they needed one. They thought that would be the cure for all their problems. Samuel had stayed strong and said, “No,” pointing to God as their king. Eventually, however, God told Samuel to give the people exactly what they asked for. So Samuel went and found the king that would match their expectations. That man turned out to be Saul. At first glance, he seemed like a wise choice: tall, strong, handsome. He was physically imposing. This was a king! But in the end he turned out to be self-centered, paranoid, and unfaithful to God. He put Israel in some bad spots. He was reckless and uncaring for his people. And only because of God did they pull through. What happened?
What happened is the people were not thinking long term. They weren’t considering what God had done for them in the past without an earthly king. They only saw their immediate want: to be like everyone else and have a king. Even after the warning they were given, which we see in 1 Samuel 8, the people didn’t care. They wanted that king. And what Samuel warned them about actually wasn’t the full extent of the problems they would see with their kings. Israel’s kings would eventually lead the nation astray. They would cause a split in the kingdoms. And they would cause the two nations to be taken into captivity through a failure to rely on God, choosing bad allies, and doing things that were detestable in God’s sight. That certainly sounds worse, doesn’t it?
We must think long term. For Christians that means eternally. That means considering what the consequences of everything we do are with respect to God’s Word. This matches with rethinking life from the ground up. It may be easy to make a quick decision that seems to solve a temporary pain. The example I discussed with the youth group last night came from Genesis 39. If Joseph had given in to Potiphar’s wife, his short term problem might have been solved and he might have been able to avoid jail. But that would mean sinning against God. It also would have meant that he wouldn’t have gotten the experience he needed running the jail, which later turned out to be necessary as he was put in charge of running Egypt. We’ve got to resist the temptation to take that short term choice without serious consideration of the long term consequences. Otherwise we may find ourselves in worse shape in the long term than we would have been in the short term.