Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.
What It Means to Bargain
To bargain with someone is to enter into an agreement that both parties will receive something from a transaction. It is like quid pro quo. In essence, if you do something for someone, then that person will do something for you. It is an exchange of favors.
People from the young to the very old, make bargains whenever they can. Little Johnny in first grade is willing to give up his ham and cheese sandwich to little Sally if she will give him her peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Even disciples of Christ make the mistake of trying to bargain with God. They offer God something in exchange for Him doing something for them. The fallacy with that transaction is that people really have nothing tangible that God wants or needs. The only thing God wants from humans is for them to love Him just as He loves them.
Anytime you try to bargain with God it will result in you losing because God has everything already.
God, the Dealmaker
We like to think we can bargain with God. He reminds us throughout the Bible and especially in the Old Testament that He is quite the dealmaker Himself.
He constantly uses "if-then“ statements by saying if you will do something, then He will do something. For instance, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Bargaining with God Puts Us in Bondage
Bargaining with God can never be a fair transaction because you have no bargaining power. God is the embodiment of everything. He lacks nothing because He made the world and everything in it and everything belongs to Him, according to Acts 17:24 and Psalm 24:1.
The one and only living God is nothing like pagan gods who require an offering for giving favors.
A story is told about an old woman who was very ill. She prayed and told God if He would heal her from her illness, she would attend church every Sunday. No matter what the weather was, the old lady got up early every Sunday morning and made her way to church to satisfy her part of the bargain. That put the woman in bondage. God wants us to worship Him freely without any strings attached.
God is never impressed by our promise to be obedient if He does us a favor. On the other hand, we must trust God without trying to get Him to make up His mind or to change His mind about something He had already said exactly what He will and will not do. A finite and divine God doesn't respond to our bargaining tactics no matter how good they seem to us.
Human Bargains Don't Match God's Promises
Some people have told God, "If you bless me, I will follow you." God has done enough for us already without us making a promise to follow Him. Even if God doesn't do anything else for us, He has done enough.
We shouldn't promise God we will follow Him if He blesses us. We should be delighted to serve Him because He is God, and He is worthy to be served.
Your bargain with God will never match up to God's promise. Rely on God. He will shower you with His grace and mercy even if you don't promise Him anything.
Biblical Bargains with God
By now, you might be wondering why some people in the Bible made bargains with God. There are four instances that might come to mind. Notice that one of them did not end well.
In Genesis 18:23-33, Abraham bargained with God over the fate of Sodom because his relatives lived there. Abraham asked God not to destroy the city if there were at least fifty righteous people in it. Then Abraham lowered the number all the way down to ten, and God spared the city.
in Genesis 28:20-22, Jacob made a vow when he was journeying to Paddan Aram to find a wife from among his people. “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”
in Judges 11:30-39, Jephthah made a vow to God, ‘"If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord's, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering." Jephthah fought the Ammonites, and God gave them into his hands. When he went home, the first thing that came out of his house was his only daughter. He had to keep his promise to God because God had kept His promise to him.
In 1 Samuel 1:10-17, Hannah was barren and promised God if He would give her a male child, she would give him to the Lord. God answered Hannah's prayer and when Samuel was born, she kept her promise and took him to the temple to work with Eli, the priest when he was a little boy.
So, if bargaining with God worked in the above situations, why shouldn't we make bargains with God today?
Why We Shouldn't Make Bargains with God
There are several reasons we shouldn't make bargains with God today. It is significant that all of the above examples are in the Old Testament. That was before God sent Jesus into the world. There are no examples of people bargaining with God in the New Testament after Jesus came to earth.
Since we are followers of Jesus Christ, we should do what He did and refrain from doing what He didn't do. We know of no situation where Jesus tried to bargain with God. We should say what Jesus said in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed about going to the cross. He said, "Thy will be done." Once we say that, there is no need to bargain with God.
We don’t need to bargain with God because such negotiating reveals a lack of faith in what God will do on His own without being provoked to act on our behalf. Since everything is from God and through God, when we bargain with God, we are offering Him what is already His.
We have no bargaining position. God created us, and the created shouldn't negotiate with his Creator. We are reminded in Acts 17:25, "God is not served by human hands as though he needed anything, for he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything.”
We don’t need to bargain with God because it indicates a wrong kind of service. Serving God is not about trading anything with Him. We have nothing to offer Him that is as valuable as what He freely gives us.
We can trust God for protection, provision, safety, and security. It is better to trust God instead of trying to bargain with Him.
Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on November 06, 2019:
wba108, thank you so much for your detailed comments. I can tell that you know the Bible by the examples that you provided.
firstname.lastname@example.org from upstate, NY on November 06, 2019:
Another example is Moses, God had specifically said that whoever saw God would die but Moses requested to see God's glory and He provided a way for Moses to experience this. He had him hide in the cleft of the rock as God passed by.
So Although God had expressly forbidden anyone from seeing Him, He made a way for Moses to do just that, on the basis of friendship. This, of course, was a foreshadowing of our being in Christ (our rock) as a way to approach God without being consumed.
email@example.com from upstate, NY on November 06, 2019:
I agree, of course you shouldn't argue with God because it's akin to trying to manipulate Him, which is witchcraft.
I saw Abraham in a different light in regards to his bargaining with God over Sodom and that is that Abraham felt he could approach God and possibly change His mind toward Sodom.
That Abraham thought that God was approachable and just was a good thing and that He wants to hear our ideas and work through us if possible.
There are several examples of this in the Bible, where God changes His mind on the basis of friendship. God had initially told David that He did want or need a temple built with human hands but because of God's close relationship with David, He delighted to have Soloman build a temple. The Temple was David's idea, not God's, so this I believe is an example of God delighting in His people's ideas.