Bargaining with God
<<negotiating with God>>
The commercial world largely operates on the principle of haggling and making deals or contracts; an agreement between two or more people or groups where each helps the other in some way. An example is an employer and employee come to an arrangement that says, ‘if you do this I will give you this amount of money’. It is exchanging one thing of value (normally money) for another (time and expertise). It is only successful if both parties have something the other lacks or needs, and both fulfill what they have agreed to. The difference between bargaining and asking for something is that asking admits my own weakness (it involves something I can’t do myself), while bargaining exploits a weakness in the other party or their being vulnerable to manipulation. A request comes from a place of humility while bargaining comes from a place of power, implying that we hold influence over the other.
Some people mistakenly think they can manipulate God. Yet God doesn’t lack or need anything. He is self-sufficient thus is not dependent on anyone or anything. He can exist without us and needs nothing from us (Ex 3:14; Act 17:24,25). In contrast we humans derive our existence from Him our creator and live in dependence on Him (Col 1:17). If we try to bargain with God, it is offering Him things we don’t possess and He doesn’t want, in hopes to receive something we know we don’t deserve.
Making a deal with God doesn't work
of the one-sided ‘deals’ or promises that are commonly made with God are: ‘God if you give me this pay rise, I will give you __% of it’. The truth is He owns everything, and although we are blessed by giving back to Him of what we have received, He does not need it (Ps 50:9-12); ‘God if you heal me, I’ll go to church every Sunday’. God takes pleasure in true worship, but does not need it; ‘God if you get me out of this situation then I’ll [stop doing something wrong or start doing something I should]’. The truth is He has commanded us to do right and will justly punish us for doing wrong. Therefore, while God is pleased with our obedience, He does not need it. The Bible records various people who endeavoured to reason with, made promises, bargains or deals with God including: Abraham when Sodom and Gomorrah were about to be destroyed (Gen 18:23-33); Jacob who promised he would give a tenth of what God prospered him with, “If God will be with me…” (Gen 28:20-22); Jacob when wrestling with a messenger from God said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Gen 32:26); Hannah when asking for a son promised he would be given to God’s service all his life (1 Sam 1:11); Jephthah made a rash vow which he tragically honoured (Jdg 11:30-39). The Bible says we must keep any vow we have made to the Lord otherwise we will be held to account (Deut 23:21-23).
We follow Christ on His terms, not ours
negotiate. He owes us nothing, yet wants to give to us abundantly through His grace if we live in agreement to His revealed will. The Bible says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to Him, trust in Him also, and He will bring it to pass” (Ps 37:4,5). “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths” (Prov 3:5,6). He promises, “If a person remains in me, and I in them, they will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5).
We should pray with faith to accept God's will, submitting ourselves to Him, even as Jesus did when He prayed, "Your will be done" (Mt 26:39). Many times, we do not know God's will nor do we know ultimately, what is best for our loved ones or ourselves, thus we must pray with an attitude of surrender. While we are encouraged to “Ask, seek and knock” and “come boldly to the throne of grace” it is to be motivated by “Seeking first His Kingdom’ not because of our selfish desires (Mt 6:33, 7:7; Heb 4:16; Jas 4:3). Increasingly as we read and study the Bible we will discern what His will is – what lines up with the commands and consistent with the principles it contains.
to Him in loving obedient submission and service does not put God in our debt. God won’t bargain with us because He thinks we have something better to offer Him – we don’t.
We should pray, give and obey without the need to control the outcome, but let our requests be known and commit ourselves to His providence (foresight and intervention) and sovereignty (complete control). He doesn’t promise a certain response for my obedience. God who gave His Son as a substitute for our sin will graciously give us all things that are necessary (Rom 8:32). Whenever God’s power is at work in our lives, it is never because we made a deal God couldn’t refuse. God said, “Let us reason together...” (Isa 1:18-20). This was not a debate but a statement of what would happen if the people were willing and obedient.
See also: dealings of God, God’s will, manipulation, promise, reason, submission, surrender, vow.