There are some bad actors in Scripture, like Pharaoh, Ahab, Jezebel, Judas, and others. Bad people who did bad things, and all faced “Payday someday.” But there are others, who weren’t bad actors, they just made bad choices. Jephthah, Eli, David, Peter, and a host of others. No, not bad actors, but tragic figures. Tragic because they made choices that deeply impacted their lives and the lives of others. It is the tragic figure that grabs my attention. I have (rather had) a close friend in ministry, who through sexual sin threw away 30 years of fruitful ministry that was expanding and blessing many people. Tragic. Oh, the consequences of our choices! Shattered relationships, deep burdens, years of work down the drain – these are consequences, not of bad actors, but of bad choices.
When we study the wisdom literature of Scripture we see that wisdom is the application of knowledge to life in order to secure the best outcome. Although we know we can’t control outcomes, the call to be wise is a call to consider the consequences of our ideas, our words, and our actions.
Consequences are usually unintended. For instance, when certain States legalized marijuana there were the unintended but very real consequences of more DUIs and driving fatalities. Not accounting for unintended consequences demonstrates a lack of wisdom because it shows a lack of forethought about how this could go wrong. Wisdom asks, “What damage could possibly come from this?”
When we make sinful choices, we rarely think about the consequences. We are too caught up in the moment to think beyond our own desires. But wisdom says, “Consider the consequences.” Reckoning with the possible outcomes of sinful choices is part of fearing the Lord. The fear of the Lord keeps in perspective that there is a God to whom I will give an account (Heb. 4:13), which of course is a major consequence of our choices. But there are other temporal consequences that should also dissuade us from sinful choices or unwise ones.
When we make selfish choices, we are being too short-sighted. We are only thinking of the now, how this situation affects me now. Often, we don’t think of the ripple effects. We don’t think of the possibility of broken relationships, or financial burden, or health risks. Selfish choices put us at the center of the situation, and we want a certain outcome, but we go about it the wrong way. We want to control the outcome for our own sake, our own advantage. In the end, we may reap serious unintended consequences.
As I sit here in Zambia, thinking about some situations where people did not consider the consequences. I plead with all of us, remember, what we think, what we do, our attitudes and actions, will produce outcomes. Have you thought about the possible outcomes? Have you considered the consequences? Wisdom demands that we ask…
How will it go for me when I give an account to God for this?
How will this impact my relationship with my spouse? My kids? My church?
How will this change me? Is this leading me on a path of “becoming”? How many times I have sat across from somebody who has told me, “I don’t even know who I am anymore.” That is the consequence of a series of bad choices.
How does this glorify God? Only if the thoughts, ideas, words, and deeds are in alignment with God’s Word, will it glorify God. Only if I am trusting Him, fearing Him, and loving Him, can I leave all outcomes to Him (Prov. 3:5-6).
After the dust of devastating choices settles, no one says, “that was worth it.” Except for the hardened reprobate, the tragic figure thinks, “if only I had thought through what could have happened, I would have chosen differently.”
I don’t know your situation, but you are in one. You are making choices, relational choices, church choices, moral choices, financial or career choices. You are settling in an attitude or way of thinking about a situation. You are ten steps down a certain path. Stop! Ask God to search your heart. Ask God to give you the wisdom to think about the outcomes, to consider the consequences. Then plead for Him to give you the wisdom to know the right choice and the grace to make it and follow through. You will be glad you did. You will regret it if you don’t.