If you think you have a better idea than obedience, you’re wrong.
There is a sentence that I use with my sons when they disobey. The sentence is, “If you think you have a better idea than obedience, you’re wrong.” I say this to them because there are times when I will tell one of them to do something, and he will seem to think, “If Dad really understood the situation, he would have asked me to do this other thing instead.”
So, instead of telling me that he thinks I might be missing some information, he simply does what he thinks I should have told him to do. His assumption that he knows better is what leads him to disobey.
In 1 Samuel 15 Saul decides that he knows better than God. Seeing someone disobey God may, by itself, not be a very helpful thing. But in the case of Saul, we get insight into what led him to rebel.
This insight is incredibly helpful because it gives each of us insight into two realities that are often at the core of what leads us to rebel against God.
Trusting Your Limited Wisdom.
- In 1 Samuel 15, God told Saul to do battle with the Amalekites and utterly destroy them all (people and animals). While this command is deeply troubling (and could be the subject of a whole different post), the basics of the situation are that God decided to judge a wicked nation and that Saul and the Israelites would be his agent of judgment.
But Saul, instead of carrying out the order, decided to bring back many of the livestock and the Amalekite king. When Samuel confronts this disobedience, Saul has a ready response: “‘But I did obey the LORD,’ Saul said. ‘I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.’” (1 Samuel 15:20-21)
Saul’s logic seems pretty solid.
He knows that God loves sacrifices. So, if God would have really thought this whole thing through, God would have ordered them to bring back the best animals for sacrifices instead of killing them. Since God, however, clearly didn’t think of this, Saul and his men would help God out by doing what God should have told them to do.
Saul ended up rebelling against God because he put too much trust in his own limited wisdom.
Craving the Approval of Others.
- After Samuel tells Saul that God would rather have his obedience than his sacrifices, Saul reveals the real reason why he rebelled. He says in verse 24, “I have sinned. I violated the LORD’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them.”
While Saul originally claimed that he kept the animals in order to please God with sacrifices, he confesses that his real reason for rebellion was that he wanted to please his men.
Whenever you think you have a “better idea” than obeying God, it would be worthwhile to check your motives to see if your real reason for rebellion is to make other people happy with you. I believe that the situation in which this happens to Christians most is when it comes to telling the truth.
On the surface, we may tell someone that God is okay with their sinful behavior because we don’t want the person to think of God as an angry killjoy. If we’re honest, though, our motive is probably that we want them to like us. On the surface, we may stop talking about hell and judgment because we say that we don’t want to turn people off to God.
But most of the time our real motive is to have people come to the conclusion that we are not like those other Christians who are judgmental. After all, if they thought we were judgmental, they would not approve of us.
The approval of others is such a strong craving that Jesus said it is one the main desires that keeps people from placing their faith in him.
In John 5:44 he said to the Pharisees, “How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”
Craving the approval of others is one of the key causes for rebellion against God.
The next time you find yourself tempted to carry out an idea that is “better” than obedience to God, ask yourself two questions.
- What leads me to believe that I have better facts and better judgment than the God who has called us to follow his word?
- Am I valuing the opinions of other people over the opinion of the God who created me and rescued me through Jesus?