Summers are for yard sales. It’s not only a great way to save money on stuff you need, it's also a great way to spend money on stuff you don’t! But as most of us know, the best and worst thing about yard sales is the bargaining.
Bargaining at yard sales is like an adult-sized game of chicken to see just how desperate someone is to get rid of their junk. If you're a seller, taking less than asking price isn’t fun, but is it as un-fun as putting up with another year of those rusty golf clubs sitting in your garage? Probably not.
Americans are great bargain seekers. It’s part of our national spirit to find deals. Which is why it’s no surprise that most Americans approach God like a neighbor hosting a yard sale: if haggled correctly, He can give you what you want for as little as possible.
But should we bargain with God? Isn't that the point of prayer? Here are three points to keep in mind:
1. Bargaining with God Diminishes His Greatness
It’s natural to ask things of God. What mother hasn’t prayed for a healthy newborn? I would be lying if I claimed I never asked God to help me find my lost keys. Scripture teaches us that God, like any Father, loves giving good things to His children. Not only that, He loves being asked!
But the difference between bargaining with God and asking for something from God is that asking admits your own weakness, while bargaining admits the other’s weakness. I might bargain at a yard sale because I know the person needs me to help him get rid of his/her junk. But I only ask for something when I know I can’t do it myself. A request comes from a place of humility while bargaining comes from a place of power. When someone bargains for anything, they imply that they hold influence over the other. We do the same to God when we bargain with Him.
2. Bargaining Reveals a Failure to Understand Who God Is
The Greeks believed that the goddess Demeter was pleased by their offerings of wheat. Therefore, they crowned her goddess of the harvest. The ancient peoples identified their gods based on what they believed pleased them most.
Which is why we should be careful when we assume what God wants from us. A soldier in a foxhole may tell God that, if saved from battle, he’ll become a priest. That soldier not only assumed what makes God happy, in doing so, identified God's nature. That soldier believed that the God he was praying to was the kind of god who would be happy to find young men walking around in black robes who never smoked, never married, and never listened to rock-and-roll. What a small view of God!
Do we really believe that the same God who carved the Grand Canyon and ignited the nebulas could be appeased by us putting an extra $100 in the offering plate? My wife once instructed me in the early days of our marriage that I could buy her flowers on any day of the year I wanted… except for days after we fought. Why? She didn’t want me to think I could buy her, and she certainly didn’t want me to think all it took was $20 flowers from the grocery store!
When we dangle good works to God like a carrot on a stick, we are labelling Him as a deity dependent on our behavior. God is so big that not only does He not need our religious servitude, He doesn't want it. God wants something more. He greatness demands a higher price.
3. Bargaining Looks For the Wrong Things the Wrong Way
The only thing we could offer God that would honor His matchless worth is our very selves, a living sacrifice. God does not need us as servants, but He wants us as sons.
When we bargain with God, we misunderstand what God wants, and misunderstand who God is. But we also misunderstand what we want. As C. S. Lewis put it, “God does not find our desires too strong, but too weak."
We could ask God for more money so we can buy the things we want. But God would prefer that He be the thing we want. We could ask God to give us the things that make us feel loved, safe, and accepted. But God desires we find our love, safety, and acceptance from Him.
In short, God doesn’t want to bargain because He thinks we have something better to offer Him. He doesn't want to bargain because He has something better to offer us. God refuses to rip us off.
Sadly, some Christians read blogs like this and think the solution is to talk to God less. Don’t! Keep asking God for stuff. But for every request you make, ask for something else in addition: a closer walk with Jesus. When you lose your keys, ask God to help you find them, but then ask God for the strength and patience to still love Him even if you don’t.
Pair every request with the additional request for Christ to have a larger role in your life. God does not want us to bargain with Him because they only thing that will satisfy Him is our hearts, and the only thing that will satisfy us is His love.
Resting in Him,