7-Day Practical Faith Blog: Bargaining with God
Matthew 7: 7-8
"The End" is a quirky, dark comedy movie starring Burt Reynolds. His character is diagnosed with a fatal disease, and rather than suffering from it, he wants to commit suicide. He eventually seeks the help of a friend who is a schizophrenic murderer and only too happy to help. (Does it sound funny so far? Their deliberations and failed attempts are designed for laughs).
In one of the few poignant scenes, Reynolds' character decides to end it all by swimming as far as he can into the ocean so that he cannot make it back. He has reached the point of near-drowning when he suddenly realizes the impact it will have on his young daughter. He decides to swim back, but he realizes he is too weak. So he starts bargaining with God in a memorable, humorous sequence.
Here is that portion of the script, written by Jerry Belson and taken from Scripts.com:
I want to live! I want to live!
I can never make it. Help me, Lord, please. I promise not to try and kill myself anymore.
Save me, and I swear I’ll be a better father. I’ll be a better man. I’ll be a better everything!
All I ask is, make me a better swimmer!....
Oh, God, let me live, and I promise to obey every one of the 10 commandments. I shalt not kill. I shalt not commit adultery. I shalt not…I…I…I’ll learn the 10 commandments!...
It was a mistake, God! I never really wanted to kill myself. I just wanted to get your attention! Help me make it. I’ll give you 50% of everything I make. 50%, God! I want to point out that nobody gives 50%! I’m talking gross, God!
(At this point, he starts getting closer to shore)
I think I’m going to make it! I think I’m going to make it!
You won’t regret this, Lord. I’ll obey every commandment. I’ll see my parents more often. No more cheating in business – once I get rid of those 9 acres in the desert. And I’m gonna start donating that 10% right away! I know I said 50%, Lord, but 10% to start. If you don’t want your 10%, then don’t take it! I know it was you that saved me, but it was also you that made me sick!
(He says this last part as he is walking onto the beach and doesn't "need" God so much anymore)
I don't know if you have ever bargained with God. It really doesn't seem like a good idea, trying to manipulate God by making promises to the Almighty that you probably won't keep.
Jesus warns us against bargaining with God, steering us instead to a different way of working with the Lord. In Matthew 7: 7-8, Jesus says:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
It's a straightforward approach of simply talking with God to present our requests. Jesus also tells us that when we ask anything of our heavenly Father in faith, it will be done for us. Clearly God is not a genie to do our every wish if we just say magical, faithful words; what we receive (or don't receive) will be aligned with the scope of God's will and his overarching plan for how his creation operates. But God does desire to give good gifts to His children. We don't need to bargain in order to access God's goodness.
As part of your 7-day practical faith, get in touch with God. Pray more often. Converse frequently. Let Him know what's on your mind. Ask for help in the midst of your seeking and knocking. God may not respond as you expect, but as Jesus indicates, he does want you to ask and to talk to Him in a loving relationship.
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