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Devotions > Trials of Transactional Thinking

3 Dec 2012


As humans we tend to think of most interactions as transactional.    For example when we go the grocery we pay money and they provide milk. This is a transaction.   We are so immersed in transactional thinking in our daily lives that we can easily move transactional thinking into our interactions with God.    But God is not in the transaction business.   He is in the relationship business.   Relationships work different than transactions.

For example:  Mr. Smith is a model husband for twenty five years, and then one day he has an affair.    Using transactional thinking we would say that since Mr. Smith has done many more good things than his single affair, he should be able to pull up all of his good chips and present them to his wife and since they overwhelm the single bad chip he should remain in good standing with His wife.   Of course this is ridiculous, because we must use completely different thinking when we are dealing with relationships from that which we use for transactions.

The Holy Spirit used Ezekiel to shine a light on the way God wants us to think in terms of relationships:

Ezekiel 33:1-6 (NASB95)
1 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
2 "Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, 'If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman,
3 and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people,
4 then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head.
5 'He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life.
6 'But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman's hand.'

In God’s economy relationship engenders responsibility.   Everyone in this illustration has responsibility flowing out of their relationships.  The watchman is required to act dutifully and the people are required to respond dependably, or pay very hefty consequences.  

We prefer to think in terms of transactions, where we leverage limited liability.   In transactional thinking I have very little responsibility for my brother in Christ.    But he is my brother and because of this relationship I must use relational thinking if my thinking is to be acceptable to God.

God expands His teaching of accurate relational thinking further in this same chapter.

Ezekiel 33:17-20 (NASB95)
17 "Yet your fellow citizens say, 'The way of the Lord is not right,' when it is their own way that is not right.
18 "When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, then he shall die in it.
19 "But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and practices justice and righteousness, he will live by them.
20 "Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not right.' O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways."

In verse 18 we can see the condition of Mr. Smith.    God is in effect saying this is the way I think regarding My relationship with My people.   In verse 19 we see God’s grace that flows to repentance.  We might also see this same kind of grace should Mr. Smith elect to repent and plead for forgiveness from his wife.

Notice God through Ezekiel is saying to those who are called by His name that their thinking is wrong.  Yet while their thinking is flawed they are erroneously accusing God of applying unrighteous judgment.

We would encourage you to study this entire chapter.   The theme that has been touched on here is found in much repetition which should lead us to the knowledge that a clear understanding of His ways are of upmost importance to God.   I must also acknowledge that my awareness of these categories of thinking has been greatly enlightened by Chip Ingram in several of his small group studies.

 So, what does this have to do with prayer?     Transactional thoughts flow from a sense of power.  “ I have something and I will trade my something for your other thing.”    In truth, upon careful examination, in the dark dank basement of this thinking we can nearly always find a plethora of perennial pride.

Pride is a positive eradicator of powerful prayer.   Any surreptitious or blatant sense of personal power brings death to prevailing prayer.  God is looking at our hearts.   The very idea of prayer requires we come to our God and Savior empty, and in need.   This means that we must begin to see God as He is, all powerful and loving.    We must see ourselves as we are, without resources and hope except as they are found in our relationship with Him.   We must always relate to Him as our Father, a very special relationship.   When Jesus taught His disciples to pray His first words were: “Our Father.” 

We also have the injunction to humble ourselves in 2 Chronicles 7:14, which further instructs us to pray and seek the face of God and to repent of our sins.    These ascribed actions are each deeply and intrinsically relational.   If our God is to heal our land we must obey His directives and our obedience must flow from our commitment to a renewed and revived relationship with God.

This week we would encourage you to spend time thinking and praying about deepening your relationship with your Father.   For it is out of this relationship and this relationship alone that we find all true answers to life and to prayer. 

Jeff Williams