As For Me and My Household, We Have Decision Fatigue

Today is a day of choice in our lesson from the Book of Joshua.  And it’s also time to talk about choice for ourselves.

In the Book of Joshua, the people of Israel have a very a simple choice: worship the gods their ancestors worshipped in their former lands, or worship the one true Living God who had called them by name.

Our choices are a lot more complicated than that, but they come down to the same issue in the end.

We as modern Americans are bombarded by choice not just every day, but multiple times an hour.

The combination of our many resources, our fast-paced lifestyle, and our plugged-in technological interfaces subjects us to information overload.

We experience what psychological experts call “decision fatigue.”

Decision fatigue describes the phenomenon in which our capacity to make good decisions wears out if we have to make too many decisions, too often and too quickly in a row.

The more decisions we have to make, the poorer the quality of our decision making.

We begin by being very rational and careful about our decision-making, but by the end we’re choosing based on our desires rather than our values.

You may have experienced this yourself—the first three times you were offered a dessert at a party, you turned it down, but by time number four you just said, the hell with it, I love cheesecake.  After all, the second Sunday in November comes but once a year.

The people of Israel did not face decision fatigue in quite the same way we do today.  They weren’t being bombarded by smartphones and over-packed schedules, but returning to the false gods of their ancestors was a constant temptation.

And so Joshua had a very simple answer to decision fatigue: he took the Israelites aside, and had them make their decision ahead of time.

They made their commitment to the Lord firmly, while they were all together.

Then when the temptation came along, they did not have to keep deciding what to do.  They had already proclaimed along with Joshua, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

One of the decisions we have to make over and over again is what to do with our resources.

Our money, our time, our mental and emotional power—there are a thousand things competing for them.

We’re actually not so different from the Israelites—where we place our resources can often reveal the false gods we’re tempted to worship.

False gods can go by another name—addictions.

But not all of the things that compete for our resources are bad things.  Lessons and activities for our children, family vacations, a newer, safer car—all of these things, which are good, will add to the load of decision-making we have to make.

Which is why it is so wonderful that our church provides us a fall pledge campaign each year to help us set our priorities from the very beginning.  Every autumn, in rhythm year after year, we have the opportunity to lay out our resources and offer our firstfruits to God.

We have the chance to prioritize giving of ourselves and our material and spiritual resources to God, to say along with Joshua, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Then we can go forward having short-circuited the decision fatigue process altogether.

We know that serving God with everything we are and everything we have is our first priority to which we have already firmly committed, and the rest will settle out around that.

For what is the signal act of God in the lives of the Israelites in the Hebrew Scriptures?  Our lesson from Joshua tells us: “It is the LORD our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went.”

God is here to lead us out of our slavery in so many ways, especially when it comes to stewardship.

God is here to lead us out of our slavery to fear, our slavery to the mentality of scarcity, our slavery to old ways of doing and being church, our slavery to our own selfishness and putting ourselves first, our slavery to the suspicion that there simply will not be enough.

The people of Israel remembered that as God led them out of slavery, God protected them all along their way.

We too can rely on that protection, from whatever we fear will catch up to us if we give too generously.

The amazing thing about Joshua’s proclamation as the lays their choice before the Israelites is the confidence with which he makes it.  “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua is not just speaking for himself, he is speaking for his entire household.

And that household is not just his immediate family.

Joshua’s household could have included multiple wives, many, many children, extended family like grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, slaves, servants and employees—anyone who was associated with Joshua in some direct way would have been considered his household.

And he promises on behalf of all of those people—possibly as many as one or two hundred—“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

I want you to be able to say the same thing with utter confidence about the household of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.  As for me and my church household, we will serve the Lord.

I want you to come in here next Sunday for our Pledge Campaign Ingathering and be able to stand up and say with bone-deep knowledge that your entire household has prioritized giving to God of our time, talent and treasure with all the gratitude and commitment that God deserves.

And how will you have the confidence to say that?  To say, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”?

It begins with you.

You have to be the type of person you would want all of your beloved fellow church members to have complete confidence in.

You have to set the priorities for your time, talent and treasure that will make your fellow householders proud.

You have to be the one whose actions allow your fellow church members to say with confidence on your behalf, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

So I urge you to continue to pray and discern about your stewardship as we prepare for our Ingathering next Sunday.

As we travel this path together and commit to serving our Lord first and foremost, we will find as the Israelites did, that after that choice to give and serve, the next step is God leading us into a new and promised land.

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