Summary: When we are offered great choices, although we think we have no real freedom, we can choose to live emotionally, we can choose to give and affirm life for the most vulnerable in our society, and we can always choose to receive God’s gift of eternal life.
“Do I really have a choice?” That question was posed the other day by one of our teenagers. She was talking about whether she had to go to school. She felt cornered. She felt boxed in. She was speaking for a great many of us. We feel as though we really do not have any choice about many important things. “Do I really have a choice?”
That teenager has no choice about going to school. The law says you will go to school, parents say you will do your homework, and teachers get on your case if you don’t. That’s that. Do I really have a choice?
Do I really have a choice as to whether I am going to work? Granted, there are some folks who seem mysteriously to float through life without working, but for most of us ordinary mortals, no work, no pay; and no pay, no eat. That makes the choice pretty clear. Do I really have a choice? So much of the time, choices are already made for us. We have little or nothing to say in the matter. It’s settled, done, finished. No choice.
Oh, I did meet the married couple who had it all worked out about making choices. They had an understanding about who made what choice. The wife said, “I make all the little choices and he makes the big ones. For example, I choose where we live, what we eat, what clothes we wear, and what car we drive. I also choose our jobs, our church, and the color of our wallpaper.” I said, “Wow, that’s a lot. You call those the little choices? What are the big choices, then? What does your husband get to choose?” “Oh”, she said, “Yes, he makes the big choices. He does all the major decisions – like whether the Fed should raise interest rates, or who the Wizards ought to start tomorrow night, or who the next president should be!”
So again, after listening to that, I have to raise the question, “Do I really have a choice?” Choice seems meaningless much of the time. Decisions don’t seem real. Life seems cut and dried. Freedom doesn’t seem accessible. We feel disempowered.
And so when it gets down to the most important decision of all, there too we feel as though we really don’t have a choice. The decision to live or to die. The choice of life or death – is that really a choice? After all, none of us chose to be born. Our parents did that, or maybe not, but here we are. We didn’t choose to be born. And most of us struggle with whether we choose to die. Not too many people are in a hurry to die, and usually we think that it’s not right to choose to end life. We think that the end of life belongs to God alone. And so, once again, when it gets down to the most important decision of all, the decision to live or to die, do I really have a choice? Is there really anything to be decided?
Moses seems to have thought so. The captain of Israel had brought his people through desert and drought, battle and blistering heat, to the very edge of the land of promise. It looked as though soon Canaan would be theirs and they would be able to settle down. It was all done, wasn’t it? What else was there to decide? What else needed to be done? Everything was working out. But Moses spoke of making a choice:
See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity … I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life
Choose life! Of course! Who wouldn’t? Do I really have a choice? I think we do.
For one thing, we can choose whether to live or to die emotionally. We can choose to live with vitality and joy, or we can choose to die like rotten fruit on the vine. We can choose to live with purpose and meaning and direction and energy. Or we can choose to shrivel up. We can choose to let authentic life just slip away.
When Moses told the people that God was giving them a choice between life and death, he reminded them that God’s word of life was right there in front of them, right there for the taking.
Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?" Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?" No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.