The decisions you make impact every area of life. As a rural church planter with limited means, I undertook a habit of prayer prior to purchase. When my wife and I took our monthly shopping trip to Grand Forks, North Dakota, it was astonishing how many times I picked something up at Walmart the mail or grocery store, only to put it back on the shelf following a quick, “Lord, is this a wise purchase” prayer. Later, the practice of prayer prior to was applied to other areas of life and ministry with fruitful results.
In the book of Esther, the decision-making model utilized by the Persian leaders differs greatly from that of stories protagonists, as seen in the following list:
Haman and King Ahasuerus
– Emotion-based, knee jerk decisions (1:12; 3:5)
– Decisions based on partial truths and misinformation (3:8 cf 2:21-23)
– Decisions made using questionable methods and motives–casting lots and providing payoffs (3:7,9)
– Bad decisions result in confusion (3:15)
– Consequences of the bad decisions snowball for the worse (7:9-10)
Mordecai and Esther
– Decisions based on convictions (3:2)
– Good decision-makers share all of the facts (3:7-8)
– Good decisions use the right methods—crying out to God (4:1), fasting (4:3), speaking the truth in love (4:15), faith (4:16)
– Good decisions bless others (8:15-17)
– Consequences of good decisions snowball for the good (10:3)
As a young pastor, I was told, “Never resign on a Monday.” Depending on your personality type, Sunday might be the most emotionally draining day of the week. Not only is the pastor relationally surrounded by people each Sunday, preaching itself is both exhilarating and exhausting. For most pastors, Sunday is anything but a “day of rest.” Preaching, people, potlucks and prayer meetings fill the day. As Adrian Roger’s so rightly said, “If Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” Add in antagonists whose comment yet stings and the stage is set for an emotional, knee-jerk decision on Monday.
Church leaders also need to be aware of the danger of decisions made from a lack of information. Just as Haman told the king a half-truth (similar to Ananias and Sapphira), it is tempting to make decisions quickly rather than once one is fully informed. A co-worker once purchased a new Honda Civic over a Honda Accord (the car she really wanted) because it was $2000 less. However, at the time, the Civic was the most stolen car in America, which meant higher insurance rates were more than the purchase price savings during a five-year period of ownership. Leaders who blindly accepting the lowest bid, hear just one side of a matter or fail to count the cost prior to making a decision fall into this trap of failing to get all of the facts.
Fortunately, casting lots is no longer in vogue. Nevertheless, pastors and church leaders are not immune to using bad methods in their decision making. We would all frown upon a pastoral search committee that looked at the stature of a candidate rather than his character. And yet, I have frequently worked with pastors and church leaders who assumed “school teachers” make good Bible teachers and “bankers” are qualified to be church treasurers. In the same way, we err if we default to our favorite commentary or Christian blogger instead of Scripture when studying.
In my mind, the most tragic verse in Esther is found in 3:15, “The king and Haman sat down to drink, while the city of Susa was in confusion.” Bad decisions give birth to confusion. A few years ago, a pastor friend received a sizeable cash Christmas gift from a member. Rather than use the money to pay down his student debt–a common complaint and sermon illustration–he purchased a big-screen television set so he could “have the church men over for the Superbowl.” The congregation and donor were perplexed over this decision. Later that month he canceled the evening service on Superbowl Sunday, a unilateral decision that circumvented for established calendaring process. This is an example of how bad decisions are often not immediately recognized and can snowball if left unsettled.
Take a moment to reflect on the chart above. Would your church and family say your decision-making process is more like Haman and King Ahasuerus or Mordecai and Esther?