When we make choices there are always results and consequences. These can be good, neutral or bad. Choosing to buy a red or a blue pen may have insignificant consequences. The difference between choosing to wear a long-sleeved shirt or a t-shirt could be large or small, depending on what it’s like outdoors, the choice of what kind of new car to purchase may not be nearly so small a decision. But sometimes the choices we make can be life-altering and even life-threatening.
We make tens of thousands of choices over the course of our lives. The consequences of simple choices like what we eat, what we wear or what we watch on television usually aren’t consequential. But even these simple choices should be made with wisdom. What we choose to eat may not be the healthiest choice for us. What we wear may not be the best choice for the weather or the occasion. What we choose to watch on television may not be worthwhile or uplifting.
Other choices we make can elevate the level of consequences. For instance, our choice of friends is very consequential, putting us in either good or bad company. Our choices regarding career, training and education, and where we live have lasting consequences. Choosing a car, a house, an investment and a marriage partner all have long-lasting consequences, either good or bad.
A quick survey of book titles offered for sale shows that people have a desire to be educated about their decisions on everything from diets, careers and college degrees, to health insurance plans, financial investments and choosing a marriage partner.
Some choices we make rise to the level of life or death, whether we recognize them as such or not. While choosing a red or blue pen is inconsequential, choosing to cut the red wire or the blue wire to diffuse a time bomb would be a matter of life or death. Of course, very few of us have to worry about diffusing a time bomb. Hopefully, the “red or blue wire dilemma” is only an action movie trope for the actor’s make-believe scene. But all of us are given a real life or death decision to make.
In the book of Deuteronomy, after the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, God through Moses renewed a special covenant made at Mount Sinai between the children of Israel and Himself. God presented Israel with a life or death choice. He clearly told them that obedience will bring blessings and life, and disobedience will bring cursing and death. “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, his statutes, and His judgments, that you may live… I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life that both you and your descendants may live….” (Deuteronomy 30:15–16, 19).
When Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon made war against Judah, the prophet Jeremiah delivered God’s message to Zedekiah, king of Judah. “Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. He who remains in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but he who goes out and defects to the Chaldeans who besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be as a prize to him’” (Jeremiah 21:8–9).
Our life and death decision is also about how we choose to live: the way leading to life, or the way leading to death. “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). Or, as it is stated in the book of Proverbs: “As righteousness leads to life, so he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death” (Proverbs 11:19).