In Luke 15, Christ tells the parable about a man who goes to his father with a presumptuous request: to receive his inheritance now. His father grants his requests, and in a short time the son leaves home and squanders his inheritance on, as the Bible describes it, prodigal living. Just prior to the man making a change in his life and going back to his father, we find him penniless and feeding pigs. He is even jealous of their food because it is better than what he is eating. What brought him to this place, or started him on this path, can be traced back to that first decision: he decided that he wanted what he felt like was his right now. Had he never made that decision he probably would not have found himself in the company of swine, jealous of their food.
The Bible has many anecdotal stories and accounts of people who, like the prodigal son, made a poor decision that led to subsequent poor decisions. Comparatively speaking, the prodigal son ended up in a much better place than many others. David chose Bathsheba. Lot chose Sodom. Jeroboam chose idolatry. We see the fruits of those decisions: David stole a man’s wife and murdered the husband; Lot found himself defending angels from being raped by a mob of men; Jeroboam built golden calves that infected an entire nation with idolatry.
Each of these consequences began with a certain framework of thinking that led these men to make these poor decisions. Based on the parable Nathan uses in 2 Samuel 12, it appears David had a sense of entitlement. As the rich man felt that he was entitled another man’s lamb, David felt he was entitled to another man’s wife. Lot appears to have become more and more comfortable with the sins of the men of Sodom. In Genesis 13, he chooses the plain around Sodom for his herds to graze and pitches his tent near the city. By Genesis 14, he is living in the city (Genesis 14:12). In Genesis 19, he is sitting at the city gates. He seemingly disregarded the condition of the people and fully vested himself, and his family, in the city. Lastly, Jeroboam decided the people’s allegiance to him was more important than their allegiance to God. That drove him to build idols for the northern kingdom to worship and an entire religion with priests and feasts to distract the people from returning to the temple in Jerusalem. Each of these men had a framework of thinking that caused them to make the wrong decision again, and again, and again.
These events highlight the importance of correctly framing our thinking. If our decision-making starts with the wrong framework — like a feeling of entitlement, or a comfort with the sins of the world, or an attitude where we put ourselves above God, or even a misunderstanding of the scriptures — it is likely we will make the wrong decisions. In a sense, we have laid a foundation and now every decision is viewed by what could be built upon that foundation. If that foundation is not correct, it if is not truth, the results can be disastrous. It can lead us down a terrible path and even blind us from the truth.
We see these effects all around us. I would suspect we all have people in our lives — many times people very close to us — that we have watched make poor decision after poor decision and we think, what are they doing? Why are they making these decisions? Or maybe we have even found ourselves somewhere where we never thought we would be and we think, “How did I get here?” Looking back, we will likely see a decision that led to a poor decision that led to a poor decision.
We also see people blinded to the truth because of the framework of their thinking. There are so many people who won’t even lend an ear to hearing about Jesus Christ because they have been convinced there is no God. How do you talk to someone about Christ when they don’t even believe in the existence of a higher power? We even see it in the religious community as many are so lost as to the purpose and the function of the church.
As we make decisions, we can’t make them only based on what is directly in front of us. We must be willing to look back at the principles that guide our decisions to make sure they are grounded in the truth of the scripture and in the knowledge of God’s will. We also must look forward to where those decisions might take us, to “ponder the path of our feet,” as Proverbs 4:26 instructs us to do. Do they lead us along paths of righteousness? And in those moments when we find ourselves in the wrong, we must be willing to tear things down and start back from the beginning. Like the prodigal son, we must be willing to swallow our pride and walk back into the loving arms of our Father.