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God Does Not Negotiate With Terrorists (Or With You Either)

I am reading a book by Miroslav Volf where he mentions that a common misconception we have of God is The Negotiator. As humans we tend to bargain with God because we think he is like us. I have visited men in prison cells who promise God their devotion and lifelong service if he will only get them free. They project their own motives onto God, as if he were just a grander version of themselves with the power to rule the world. 

But this idea of God is more misguided than Ryan Reynolds signing on to the Green Lantern.

There are three great reasons why it’s good news that God is not a negotiator.

#1. Even if we could negotiate with God, we couldn’t keep up our end of the bargain.  The nation of Israel modeled an unfaithful relationship with God that was typical of the first Adam as well as every Adam that followed him. Humanity has the longstanding history of screwing things up with God. Throughout history we have been the worst girlfriend ever. We ignore God, don’t return his calls, only drop his name when it’s convenient, and in the end want him to pay for everything. If God is a bargaining God, we don’t have any poker chips to play with, and if he gave them to us we would lose them faster than fiberoptic internet. 

#2. We don’t actually have anything God can’t get. I mean, what are you honestly going to bribe God with? People promise God their money as if he needed it. They bargain as if God was just waiting for the unknown routing number to their penniless bank account. Honestly, it’s not very impressive to show up to the round table with monopoly money and God owns literally everything.

Now, some could argue that the one thing we have to offer God that he is actually interested in is our free will. The fact that we can choose or reject him means that there is something that God can’t just spontaneously generate like bread or fish or Nutella. But even our free will is a gift from God. He gave it to us. If he wanted to take it away he could make us all into Stepford Wives. If he bought off our freewill it wouldn’t be much different.

#3. What we often want would hurt us. Think about what people most often bargain for, they want unlimited power. They want the ability to see through walls or control the stock market or understand what dogs are actually saying to each other. They want someone to force someone love them.

If we could leverage God into just giving us what we want, the world might be worse off than before. We are five-year-olds praying to God that our teachers would get sick or our neighbors would cease to exist.  An ancient king named Hezekiah begged for more years to live when God told him he was going to die. It was during that time that he birthed a son who became one of the worst in Israel. In the words of the great philosopher and poet Daughtry “be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it all, and then some you don’t want.”


The good news it that God is not a negotiator, he is a giver. We arrive at a negotiating table with nothing to give and everything to condemn us and he forgives us and lavishes us with things we don’t deserve. He cannot be bargained with because he already wants our best at all times. He is not sitting in the sky holding back blessings waiting for us to give him guns or drugs. He is sitting waiting to pour out what we will not receive because our taste has not matured or because we are innately suspicious of gifts.

It’s a good thing for us that God does not negotiate. If he did, we would be royally screwed.