The Fine Print

“When someone is tempted, he should not say, “I am being tempted by God,” because God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone. Instead, each person is tempted by his own desire, being lured and trapped by it. When that desire becomes pregnant, it gives birth to sin; and when that sin grows up, it gives birth to death.” James 1:13-15 ISV

Ever hear the acronym “EULA?” If you’ve ever downloaded a software app or a game, you’ve no doubt met Eula even if you didn’t take time to know her. She’s the lady who makes you so impatient that you check the box without reading it just to get what you wanted. When you actually DO click the link to read the “end user license agreement,” it’s frustratingly long and complicated and full of legal yadayadayada, so you scroll past and select the box to accept the terms of the contract, get your product, and hope like crazy that you didn’t just pledge your firstborn. It doesn’t matter anyway…right?

I’ve done it many times and probably so have you. We have that inherent trust that surely, it’s just a required disclaimer and nothing more—a means to an end. Surely the licensor would not mean the licensee any harm. We just want what we want; then to our surprise, we start getting a mysterious recurring bill for $14.95 on our credit card. When we trace it back, our epiphany moment reveals that yes, it did turn out to cost us more than we bargained for. Oh, most of those checkboxes probably are harmless; but there’s a reason the terms are so long and cumbersome…they’re intended to frustrate you into agreeing without reading the fine print.

The devil is in the details of real life, too, and not just metaphorically. His end goal is to take you farther than you ever intended to go. Eula’s real name is ELLA—the End Loser License Agreement (no offense to ladies whose names happen to be Eula or Ella, btw). Surely the forbidden fruit is good for food; and then your eyes are opened and you find you’re not liking what you see.

Many times we blame God when our life choices go wrong. He allows us to choose for ourselves despite His warnings not to choose a certain way; and then when we override Him and it goes south, we angrily accuse Him of being an unreasonable tyrant. He should’ve made it so that there were no hidden surprises, no consequences, right? Actually, He warns us in clear language not to do certain things. Sometimes He’s been screaming in our conscience so long that we don’t even hear Him anymore. What we view as punishment from God is just the fine print of the devil’s crafty license agreement to do what God tries to warn us not to do.

Lord, You are not a deceiver. Your Word doesn’t trick us into hasty decisions and moral upsets. It’s very much to the point. If something is going to harm us, You say, “Don’t.” If something will bless us, You say, “Do.” You created clear boundaries for our safety, but You gave us free will. You don’t want us to choose what You cannot bless; You want us to choose life.

It’s only within Your boundaries that Your rules are in force. When we override Your written Word and even Your laws written in our hearts—our conscience—we begin to deal with another licensor. His product has no clear guaranteed end result. It can lead us down a thousand “additional in-app purchases available” paths before the end result emerges as death. Oh, it may not be literal death at first, but a thousand tiny cuts. Death of healthy relationships, death of a marriage, death of our health, death of our integrity, death of critical opportunities, death of time.

You came that we might have abundant life and You gave Yourself to give us eternal life. And though our salvation rests in what You did alone, we still must receive Your sacrifice. We still need to operate within Your boundaries in order to ensure an outcome You prescribe.

Thank You for grace and for mercy. You can set us back on the right path if we confess and repent for our sins (our deliberate overriding of what You have warned us and outright commanded us not to do). Sometimes You lessen the severity of the consequences even as You forgive us, but our bad choices will still have altered our lives in ways that won’t change. We may leave here prematurely or damage others’ lives for our hasty rush to accept the terms of the other licensor. Whatever’s in his terms of agreement, the devil cannot fulfill a promise of no consequences for departing from Your will.

Create in us a clean heart, one that responds again to Your guidance and isn’t seared with a hot iron. Give us a hunger for Your presence and a desire to consult You for the choices we make, before we make them. Right choices don’t totally exempt us from opposition or hardship—sometimes we will suffer for doing right—but You will ultimately work all things for our good and will bless us for following Your lead. You can even bring about good things in spite of the consequences of our poor choices and sins.

We love You and we ask You to help us love You more. We will strive to make choices within the framework of Your Word and our conscience today, so that we don’t grieve Your Holy Spirit. Grant us mercy and grace to recover from the outcome of our sins. Teach us to judge ourselves, to pray, to turn from a pattern of repeated wrongs. Help us to do the work of killing the roots of strongholds that promise to keep reproducing cursed results. Forgive us and shape us in ways that please You, for You paid a terrible price to redeem us, we ask in Jesus’ name.

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