Making Wise Decisions – 3 Lessons From Lot’s Bad Decisions
What was your best decision this past year? Think about that for a moment. Can you think of one?
What was your worst decision this past year? Think about that for a moment. Can you think of one?
Every year is filled with decisions. We make decisions about our families, our jobs, our school, where to live, what hobbies to pursue, what relationships to invest in (or not invest in), and so much more.
2020 is over now. One good verse for bringing in a new year is:
Philippians 3:12-14 – Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Now perhaps you made some very good decisions in 2020. Praise God. But that’s now past. You have more to make in 2021. Or perhaps you made some poor decisions in 2020. Well, the verse says we are to forget what is behind and push forward to what lies ahead. We press on.
So today we are going to talk about how to make good decisions in 2021. And we are going to look at an example of a person from the Bible who made very bad decisions.
Who is someone in the Bible who makes very bad decisions.
Hint: We know that unbelievers would make bad decisions, but the person we are going to look at is a believer who made bad decisions.
Lot is one of the worst decision makers in the Bible.
Lot – 3 Bad Decisions
#1 – Made decision by sight
Genesis 13:8-11 – Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other.
Abram and Lot became very wealthy. Because of their great number of flocks, their was increasing tension and conflict between their herdsmen. Abram wisely took note of this and sought to keep the peace by putting some distance between them. As the head of the family, Abram was the authority. He could have told Lot what to do and because of the culture norms of the day Lot would have been obligated to obey. But Abram graciously gives his junior the first choice.
Reflect: How should Lot have responded to Abram?
Here are a couple of responses that would have been wise.
“Thank you for your great kindness. But far be it from me to take up this decision. Abram, my father, you choose which way to go and I will go the other way.”
“What counsel do you give me?”
“This is an important choice for our future. I must consider the impact it will make on my family, my wife, and my children. Please give me one week. I will seek direction from the Lord and respond to you.”
Any of these responses would have showed humility and discernment. But Lot did none of the above. Instead he made a decision purely on what looked good to him. He looked around, saw what he thought was best, and then took it for himself. Lot made the decision how most people make decisions, by leaning on his own understanding. He weighed the choices using a worldly scale of value.
Lot trusted his own judgement, used his own logic, and kept his own counsel.
Not only was Lot’s choice a selfish one, but it was highly impudent and prideful to presume upon Abram’s good graces in this way. And it was reckless to make this decision without prayer or counsel.
Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 11:14 – Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
Lot made a hasty decision without consulting God or Abram and paid the price as his family was disastrously affected.
Lot’s bad decision was because he did not:
- Seek Godly counsel
- Surround himself with good influences
You have likely heard of Dunkirk. Perhaps you have seen the movie or read the story. Germany had launched a fast sweeping attack against the Allied British and French army, driving them to the coast. The Allied army of over 350,000 soldiers was trapped in Dunkirk and faced the possibility of total annihilation or surrender. Transport ships were too large to bring to shore to evacuate the army. So an amazing rescue attempt was launched, Operation Dynamo, on May 27, 1940. 861 small vessels, fishing boats and motor boats, etc. were used to ferry the men from shore out to the transport ships. It was an amazing rescue and 330,000 soldiers were saved and lived to fight another day.
This is the part of the story you probably know. What you may not know is that on May 26 England had a national day of prayer, one of only two they had during the whole war. It was requested by King George VI. People were responded and churches overflowed with people praying. Long lines were outside as people came out to pray. They not only prayed for deliverance. But they confessed their sins, nationally and individually.
And God answered. The German army inexplicably stopped pressing the attack and for 3 days stood by, giving time for the evacuation attempt. Cloud cover prevented the German air force from attacking. And calm seas aided the rescue attempt. Many of these same soldiers would come back and liberate Europe four years later.
In this piece of history, we see how important prayer is in making decisions and taking actions.
We do not see that Lot ever prays when making a decision. He sees and he acts.
#2 Made Decision in a Panic
Genesis 19:4-8 – But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”
Here Lot does one of the most incomprehensible things you can imagine. He offers to turn his two daughters over to a raging mob and allow them to be raped. Why would he ever even conceive of such a thing?
Lot clearly had a serious case of misplaced priorities. It is evident that he does this out of loyalty to a code. The cultural code he was following demanded that he protect the guests he was hosting at all costs. But the cultural code was just that, culture. And the culture in Sodom and Gomorrah was completely perverted. It should not have to be said, but we will say it anyway. A father should never under any circumstances allow his children, sons or daughters, to be abused by others. There is no justification ever for this.
Note that Lot says his daughters are virgins. In other words, he had protected their purity all of this time. It wasn’t that he didn’t care at all about his daughters. It was that he wrongly placed a higher priority on these guests.
Lot acted in a panic. There was a mob at the door. He didn’t have much time. So he made a snap decision. But once again he trusted his own judgement, used his own logic, and kept his own counsel.
Reflect: What should Lot have done?
Lot should have realized that it was not an either/or choice. In his house were powerful angels, messengers from God. These angels could have (and did) protect his family from any dangers.
We should take note here that God is merciful. Lot made many mistakes. He foolishly offered to hand his daughters over to a mob. But God stepped in and saved Lot from this bad decision. God does not always do this. He does not always save us from bad decisions. Sometimes he does and we should be thankful. But we should presume upon Him to do this.
For Lot’s part, he did not pray and seek help from God. He looked at the situation with his own tainted perspective and came to a decision based on his own rationale. And clearly a lack of respect for women fed into this incorrect rationale.
If you are near someone now turn to them and say, “There is always time to pray.” There is always time to pray.
Question: Who can think of an example in the Bible where there wasn’t much time, but the character still found to pray? (Nehemiah in front of the king, Daniel when all the wise men were going to be killed).
Application: When making decisions, you must remember it is never necessary to sin. The situation appeared desperate, but Lot failed to seek the way out. He looked at the situation as a binary choice rather than seeking another option, help from God.
1 Corinthians 10:13 –
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
God promises that He always provides a way of escape for temptation. Many people say, “I had to sin. There was no choice.”
There is always a choice. You did not need to commit one sin in order to avoid a supposed greater sin. Instead of focusing on the problem from your own perspective, step back, pray, and throw yourself upon the mercy of God.
Lot’s bad decision was because he did not:
- Seek Godly counsel (he could have asked the angels)
- Pray (he should have asked God)
- Surround himself with good influences (his moral decision making compass was off because he surrounded himself with corrupt people/culture)
#3 Made decision slowly – Slow to Listen to the Angels and Leave Sodom
Genesis 19:15-16 – As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.
The angels warned Lot that he and his family needed to quickly leave that city or they would perish in along with everyone else as God poured out his punishment. But Lot “lingered.” He was slow to take action.
Reflect: Why do you think he was slow to respond?
Sodom was their home. He was used to it there. His business and house and materials were there. He had friends there. He was attached to it. And even with the warnings, he didn’t fully see the immediate danger. He was still looking with his physical sight rather than spiritual sight.
Inaction can be just as dangerous as taking the wrong action.
His inaction could have been fatal for him and his family. But here we see God’s mercy. God didn’t say “Forget it, I tried. Now the punishment is on his head.” Instead the angels physically drag his family away from the city. God knew what was coming and He had made up His mind to graciously save Lot’s family. It is a reminder that God is patient and full of grace. He gives us so many opportunities to repent and time and again He delays punishment.
Once again, God in His abundant mercy saved Lot from the worst of the consequences of his bad decisions. He and his immediate family were saved.
But thought some of the consequences were averted not all. Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back. He had other family members not with him who perished. He lost all the earthly possessions he had. His daughters lost their morality and became corrupted. His life was spared, but it was in tatters. We don’t know what year it was, around 1890 BC perhaps. The year 1890 wasn’t very good for Lot. He lost almost everything because of one bad decision after another.
But leaving the city, he had the chance for a new start. He could “forget what was behind” as terrible as it was and press on with new faith and conviction.
Question: What should Lot have done and where should he have gone after his escape from Sodom?
Here was a chance for Lot to learn from his mistakes. Past mistakes were made because he didn’t seek Godly counsel, he didn’t pray, and he didn’t surround himself with believers.
So Lot should have of course prayed. Then it would have been wise from him to go to Abraham. Abraham was a friend of God. Abraham is the father of our faith. Abraham was a man of God. He was blessed by God. He could help Lot pick up his life. He could help take care of him if needed. He could provide good counsel. He could perhaps help find good spouses for Lot’s daughter.
But Lot doesn’t go there. Instead he decides to live in the mountains alone with his daughters. Perhaps it is a face thing. Lot had lost everything. It seems part of the motivation for his leaving Abraham to begin with was independence. Perhaps he wanted to be his own man and have his own success, to get out from Abraham’s shadow.
Pride may be at the root of this decision not to go back to Abraham.
Once again Lot trusted his own judgment, used his own logic, and kept his own counsel.
Bad decision #4 was going to the mountains to live alone with his daughters. If you have read the account in Genesis, you know how it ends. It gets worse and worse for Lot and the last shattered vestiges of his family and life are ruined there.
Before we conclude the story of Lot, let us take note of a couple of more things.
Lot was called Righteous
2 Peter 2:7-8 –
And if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard).
Lot is described in this verse as righteous. How can this be?
We see that he his righteous soul was tormented by what he saw. In other words, Lot had a conscience. And his conscience was working. In Sodom, it was in overdrive. Lot did not sell out to the culture. He didn’t support it. He didn’t agree with it. It bothered him.
Lot was a not a person who hates God. He was not an atheist. He wasn’t an idol worshiper. He was a believer. But his life went woefully wrong. His life was destroyed. His family was destroyed. It is a sad tale. And it happened because of bad decisions. The same thing could happen to any of us if we make decisions with our own wisdom.
God’s grace – The number one takeaway from this story is God’s grace. Lot and his family do nothing deserving of God’s mercy. And yet God gives it again and again. Abraham prayed that if only ten righteous people were found in the city, that God spare it (Genesis 18:16-33). And ten righteous were not found. But Lot was counted as righteous and his family was spared.
The fact that Lot is called righteous is an amazing example of God’s grace. Clearly the righteousness was not his own. Like Abraham, Lot’s righteousness was imputed on the basis of faith.
And thank God, He treats us the same way. It is easy to look on Lot’s life in judgment. But how often are we too influenced by culture? How many times have we chosen worldly riches or pleasures over God?
We are not innocent. And we are not righteous. We are not more righteous than Lot. And yet God forgives. He shows us mercy just like He did to Lot. He imputes Christ’s righteousness to us, and we don’t deserve it.
Thus in the end, this is not a story about Lot’s sin and the results of it. It is a story of God’s grace toward sinners. And that is the same story we see repeated throughout the Bible and in our own lives today.
God is gracious. When we make bad decisions, He forgives. He takes us back like the father of the prodigal son.
At the same time, bad decisions are costly. And God calls us to live our lives in a worthy way in response to His grace.
Colossians 1:10 – So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
In the year 2021 you will face many decisions. Some of you are deciding if you will stay in the city you live. Some of you are deciding whether to pursue another PHD. Some of you are deciding when to return to your families. Others will decide what career to pursue or what place to live when you leave. Some of you will consider getting married or starting a relationship.
I hope that the example of Lot today shows you how important making decisions are.
Do not trust your own judgement.
Do not use only your own logic.
Do not keep your own counsel.
- Do seek godly counsel ( Proverbs 15:22 – Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.)
- Do Pray (James 1:5 – If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.)
- Do surround yourself with good influences (Proverbs 13:30 – Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.)
If you do these things, I believe you will have a fruitful 2021.
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