Say “yes” to an invitation and you have been robbed of your freedom. All other options for that evening have been ripped away. What if a better invitation comes along? Too bad, you are beholden to something else. Decisions, indeed, exclude.
So some procrastinate and defer decisions until the last minute. Some say “yes,” but they mean, “maybe.” Some become serial daters, now that they have a near limitless pool of internet dating possibilities. Some postpone marriage, because how can you make a decision to marry when a better offer might come along? Some even abandon marriage when a more attractive or lower maintenance companion is found.
You can be sure that practitioners of this uniquely modern lifestyle are rarely content. They wonder what they are missing, rather than enjoy what they have.
And they are not just hurting themselves. The selfishness of their behavior hurts the ones left behind for the better offer. I know because I practiced this lifestyle during my teen years and was oblivious to the relational fallout. It changed the summer I was nineteen. I was working in a beach community that held an annual rowing competition. A good friend—who was a little soft around the middle—asked if I wanted to join him in the doubles race, and I quickly said, “Good, let’s do it.” That was code for “Sure, unless I get a better offer.”
Two days before the race someone else asked me to partner with him, and, having quickly assessed who was the stronger rower, I said, “Good, let’s do it.” But the friend I had jilted was also a roommate who I saw every day for the rest of the summer. I felt horrible after I told him I had changed teams, and I still feel the regret decades later. This scanning-for-the-best-option lifestyle leaves a wake of both discontentment and broken relationships. Given such consequences, I am amazed that I still see these old instincts in me.
To which Jesus responds, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matt. 5:37). There is freedom in that simple wisdom. In marriage we might apply his words this way: live as though you are on a deserted island and there is no other possibility and there will be no other possibility. That guarantees that a couple will work toward unity rather than let their minds imagine how life might be with another.
Then the Apostle Paul added something important. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Phil. 4:12). How did he learn contentment? His letters give a number of answers, but the heart of his contentment was that the Spirit of the living God was with him and would never leave. If you have the source of all blessing with you, why wonder if there are greater blessings somewhere else?
Yet we are slow to discover Paul’s secrets. Discontentment reigns today. As a general rule, the more options, the less contentment, and the less contentment, the more people we will hurt. What a gift that the word of God reveals a different way to live. When we say “yes” we are led in freedom, not bondage. Our “yes” becomes the will of God for us, and when we know we are living as our Father intends, life is good.
There is freedom and contentment in not holding out for a better offer.
The epilogue to the rowing story is that my friend turned out to be a beast—a pudgy, rowing beast. He was, in fact, the much better rower. He was also quite forgiving and overlooked my selfish immaturity. He continued as a good friend who I respected more than ever.