Rule #6: Eliminate Excessive Choices

torah-scrollAs I continue my march through Joel Harper’s “Ten Rules that Fit People Follow,” examining each rule in the light of biblical teaching, I find myself arrived at rule #6. (You can read my musings on rule #5 and before here.) The sixth rule is “Eliminate excessive choices,” which is described as follows:

Chocolate croissant or steel cut oats? Grilled salmon or a quesadilla? When you have to make these types of dietary decisions all day long, you may end up exhausting your willpower. Planning your meals in advance, however—even just one meal per day—can make it easier (and less stressful) to eat healthy.

My initial reaction to this rule is that it is nonsense. Do people who plan their meals in advance actually eliminate any choices? I’d argue that as a ‘no.’ They move the choices to a different time, but they don’t eliminate anything.

On the other hand, I think there is something to be said for actual elimination of choices. Think of what Jesus said to the rich young ruler: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” This young man went away from Jesus sad. Why? He couldn’t let go of his wealth. Wealth, you see, indicates choice.

When I receive a pay check, I send a text that initiates a gift for 10% of that check to my church. Do I have to give that tithe on the first day I receive the payment? No, but by doing so, I eliminate the choice and thus the temptation not to give it. In fact, if my pay came in consistently, I’d set the thing up to go automatically twice a month.

In reality, I think that this rule should be “Surrender your will to God’s will.” Was there ever a better example of that than when Jesus willingly allowed Himself to be arrested, tortured, tried, tortured again, and then murdered? If I could demonstrate that level of surrender, then I could easily choose the oats over the croissant.

The problem, I think, with Harper’s rule is that his elimination of choice is an illusion. If I eat the grilled salmon, I can easily enough opt to eat the quesadilla later in the evening or allow my wife to talk me into ice cream.

This so-called elimination of choices is actually just an exercise in reinforcing will power, but humans have shown for millennia that we’re not particularly good at will power. Surrender, on the other hand, takes will power off the table.