These core values are so closely interlinked they are each aspects of the other. A significant facet of our belief that we are autonomous and deserve to be free is that we highly prize choice.
Choice is basically what drove the first sin, and is behind every sin we commit – we choose between God and ourselves.
I was struck during a Bible study last week by Genesis 3:6:
[T]he woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom.
In other words, looking logically at the situation, there seemed no reason not to pick the fruit. It looked good, it had nutritional value, and it would convey a positive outcome. ‘Rationally’ there was no reason not to eat it – and that’s the same with many choices we face today. The secularists, our non-Christian friends, even some Christians, might be able to rationalise why the option you’re considering is a good one, but, as Andy pointed out in his sermon on Sunday (yes, the same one I quoted yesterday – it was a great sermon, what can I say?!), Eve’s choice was not between good and evil, but between God and Eve. God said ‘don’t eat it’, so however nutritious, juicy, ripe, tasty and ‘good’ it might seem, the right choice was to choose God not anything else.
The point of our society’s desire for choice is that they want the freedom to choose self over God (or anyone else). It is indicative of a perception that they know better than anyone else what is best for their lives.
In my philosophy course, I read recently an excerpt from the writings of Plato in which he relates the tale of his brother, Glaucon, challenging Socrates to explain why he should be moral. “The life of the immoral,” Glaucon reasons, seems “better by far than the life of the moral.”
His words echo those of the prophet Jeremiah, who demands of God:
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why do all the faithless live at ease?
It is easy to see where Jeremiah, Glaucon and our friends and neighbours get that impression – selfishness does usually seem to have a beneficial effect on the selfish person. Corruption, manipulation and lies often lead to a comfortable, easy life – as long as you don’t get caught – or have a good PR and legal team on standby if you do.
The right choice is almost invariably the hardest one, from whether to give the biggest piece of cake to my brother or not, to whether or not to fiddle the books when I’m in dire need and I can do it without getting caught.
In this life, the harder road usually seems, and often is, painful and costly. If you have no hope or expectation of a future judgement day with rewards or punishments for each according to his due, what possible motivation could you have for living rightly now? (It’s hard enough when you DO have that assurance!)
Eve chose something good – as far as we know, it tasted good, too. But immediately, that simple choice corrupted the purity, trust and relationship she had with Adam, and that both of them had with God.
Our society wants choice as an end in itself, but choice is not choice if you just have it and put it on the shelf; it only exists when you use it, and every choice is a choice to follow God or to reject Him. The things that look good now may not be as immediately and obviously devastating as Eve’s choice, but the consequences will have to be paid one day.