Considering the Whole Picture

There are plenty of opportunities in life. Life provides a constant stream of decisions. Some are big, such as where do I go to college, where do I live, who do I marry, or do I take this next job? Others are small such as do I want the red or blue tie or do I want the plaid or stripey socks? One of the things we don’t want to do is rush a decision. Sure, there are times when we have to make snap judgments. For instance, troops in combat often face this situation. But when we have the time we should use it to carefully consider our choice. The more important a decision, the more time we should take, if we can. For instance, when considering between colors of ties, we should consider the relative condition of the ties and which matches up better with our shirt and/our suit. But that shouldn’t take us a whole lot of time because it’s not a really big decision. But considering if we should marry a particular person, that is a huge decision, and one not to be taken lightly. Therefore, we should make sure we take the time to weigh out all the facts. And that’s something else we should try and do: look at all the facts available to us.

One of the traps we can easily get into is looking at only the good aspects of a particular choice. We don’t consider the whole picture. We don’t give valid weight to the cons of a choice. For instance, we look at the tie we’re considering and it has our favorite cartoon character on it. We know it’s a big hit with the kids. And we are always in good spirits when we wear that particular tie. Those are the good aspects. But what we’re not considering are the cons. For instance, we’re wearing that tie to go to a job interview and we’re not thinking about what the likely reaction will be when we show up with it. The tie is a simple, light-hearted example. But it’s easy to make that kind of mistake in significant decisions in our lives, too. For instance:

Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land. So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.”

Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere–this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah–like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other.
– Genesis 13:5-11, NASB

Lot had to make a choice. Abram (later Abraham after God renames him) gave Lot first choice as to where he would settle. The current land wouldn’t support both of them and conflicts were erupting. In the interest of peace and family unity, Abram made the hard decision to separate. But he wanted to make sure his nephew was taken care of, so he let Lot choose first. Lot looked up and saw the richness the Jordan River valley. He thought about how his flocks would flourish there. But he was only looking at the good. He didn’t consider the bad. He didn’t consider the people who lived there. He didn’t look at the whole picture. And with only the good as part of his consideration, he made his decision:

Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD. – Genesis 13:12-13, NASB

It was a terrible choice. There was a war in that region and Lot was captured. It took Abram to rescue him (Genesis 14). But that wasn’t the only price Lot paid. God destroyed Sodom and Lot’s home with it (Genesis 19). While fleeing from the city, Lot’s wife turned back and was turned to a pillar of salt. Shortly thereafter, Lot’s daughters got their father drunk and had sexual relations with him. So Lot lost his home, his wife, and entered into sinful relationships with his daughters. And all of this because Lot went where the grass looked greenest, as the old saying goes.

When it comes to our decisions, we’ve got to consider all the facts we have available. And we can’t neglect some of them because they don’t happen to fit with the decision we want to make. Otherwise, we could make a bad choice and suffer the consequences. That’s what happened to Lot. He only saw the lushness of the Jordan River valley. He didn’t consider anything else. And in the end it cost him his home and his family. That was a terrible price to pay. If we don’t consider all the facts, we could find ourselves paying similar prices. So we’ve got to consider the whole picture and make our choices accordingly.

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