It's better to leave everything as it is...

Would you rather have familiar blows than an uncertain hope? Would you rather have familiar slavery than freedom in an unknown country?

Worship , , , automatically translated , Evangelical Free Church Leichlingen

Introduction

In the 1980s, there were several places that had to move because of open-cast lignite mining. In one place, the citizens were presented with different plans of what the new place could look like. For example, they improved the layout, the street layout, etc., but the citizens chose the variant that most resembled their original old town, even though the old layout was inefficient and confusing and caused problems.

This place - unfortunately I didn't find out the name - made it into a research paper by US psychologists, which had the title:

"Status quo bias in decision making

which means roughly in German:

"Status quo bias in decision making".

"Status quo" does not mean the rock band here, but is Latin for the existing current state, which is how the term is usually used.

Let's take another quick look at the example. A completely new city was built: Why wasn't it built more beautiful, better? Why did they choose the old familiar, but worse, over the better?

I kind of liked the term "status quo bias". The definition (from Wikipedia) is like this:

The status quo bias (also called status quo tendency) is a cognitive bias that leads to an excessive preference for the status quo over change. In other words, people want things to stay about the way they are.

or

As a result of a status quo bias, people take greater risks to maintain the status quo than to change the situation.

Is that so? Do we find ourselves in this description?

Let's look at an example from the Old Testament on this.

Exodus from Egypt

A few thousand years ago, the Israelites lived in Egypt and were doing well, so that they had many children and became more and more. At some point, this became scary for the king of Egypt at that time (Exodus 1:9-14; NL).

9 He said to his people: "These Israelites have become too numerous and too powerful for us. 10 We must think of something to prevent this people from becoming even larger. Otherwise, in case of war, they might ally themselves with our enemies, fight against us and then leave the country." 11 Therefore, the Egyptians set overseers over the Israelites to oppress them with hard labour. The Israelites had to build the store cities of Pitom and Rameses for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. 12 But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more numerous the Israelites became! Then the Egyptians became afraid of them. 13 They forced the Israelites to do drudgery by force and 14 They made life difficult for them because of the hard work: the Israelites had to make bricks out of clay and work in the fields.

And Pharaoh later goes one better (Exodus 1:22, NL):

Finally, Pharaoh ordered all his people: "Throw all the newborn Hebrew boys into the Nile, but spare the girls."

A boy survives and is given the name Moses, which plays an important role later on.

How long and how consistently the Egyptians carried out the murder of the newborn boys is not recorded, but they also wanted to use the Israelites as cheap labour slaves, so they probably stopped murdering the newborn boys at some point.

Most people know this incident. Forty years later, the aforementioned Moses leads the people of Israel out of Egypt and travels through the desert towards the Promised Land, accompanied by God's visible intervention, e.g. through the pillar of cloud and various miracles.

So the people lived in this drudgery for about forty years. Children were born there, grew up in this bondage, a lifetime of slavery.

So now the people have left Egypt, have seen God part the Red Sea and defeat the Egyptians.

They were then in the desert and things didn't always go super smoothly. Sometimes it took a few days until they found water. God had then provided water.

And then, on the 15th day of the second month after the departure from Egypt, so everything was still fresh, the following happens (Ex 16:2,3; NL):

2 Again, the Israelites strongly reproached Moses and Aaron. 3 "If only the Lord had killed us in Egypt," they complained, "At least there we had meat and enough bread to eat. Instead, you led us into this desert so that we could all starve here."

Of course God provided for them again, with manna and quails, most of you have heard the story before.

But I would like to pause here for a moment.

The meat pots in Egypt were still familiar to the Israelites, but the drudgery, the beatings, the slavery were forgotten. Or, in retrospect, they were no longer so important to them.

Rather familiar beatings than an uncertain hope? Rather familiar slavery than freedom in an unknown land?

You know what you have.

Even the Bremen Town Musicians were smarter: "We can find something better than death anywhere," and they were just made up.

But I don't want to look down on the Israelites so much. This preference for the status quo over change is certainly something we also find among ourselves, including me personally.

Let us look at another example from the Bible.

Abram

He is known by the name "Abraham", but he was first called "Abram" and was later renamed by God.

This is how it began with him (Genesis 12:1-4; NL):

1 Then the Lord commanded Abram: "Leave your home, your relatives and your father's family and go to the land that I will show you. 2 A great nation will come from you. I will bless you and you shall be known throughout the world. I will make you a blessing to others. 3 Whoever blesses you, I will bless him also. Whoever curses you, I will also curse. All the nations of the earth will be blessed through you." 4 Abram set out as the Lord had commanded him. And Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran.

Start over again at 75? Now Abram was still very fit physically and mentally, as we know from subsequent descriptions in the Bible. But still?

He listens to God and takes full risks. He already behaves differently than his descendants later in the desert, about whom we had heard earlier.

The term "comfort zone" also comes to mind here, which Abram is obviously leaving here.

Now, one could say that Abram receives great promises from God here and that it is therefore not difficult for him to set out on his journey.

But the Israelites in the desert had also received a great promise, for God had promised them a new, good land flowing with milk and honey. Nevertheless, their thoughts kept returning to their old, familiar life in slavery.

Examples in the New Testament

We also find positive and negative examples in the New Testament.

Jesus' disciples left their lives behind and joined Jesus. Peter also asks specifically at one point (Luke 18:28-30; NL):

28 Then Peter said, "We have left our home and followed you." 29 "Yes," Jesus replied, "and I assure you: Whoever has given up home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the kingdom of God 30 will get it back in many ways in this life and will receive eternal life in the world to come."

Actually, one would have to look at this text in more detail now, what all this can mean in detail, but that would go beyond the scope now. However, the disciples took risks, just like Abram, and left their familiar lives behind.

A counter-example would be the rich young man (Matthew 16:22, NL):

16 Once a man came to Jesus and asked him, "Master, what good thing must I do to have eternal life?" 17 "Why do you ask me what is good?" replied Jesus. "Only God is good. You can only get eternal life by keeping the commandments." 18 "What commandments?" the man asked. And Jesus answered, "You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony. 19 Honour your father and your mother. Love your neighbour as yourself." 20 "All these commandments I have kept," said the young man. "What more must I do?" 21 Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go and sell everything you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me." 22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he was very rich.

If you want to go to heaven by doing good, you have to be perfect, and no one can do that.

His actual status quo was not his wealth, but his thinking that he would get to heaven through good deeds, a thinking that is certainly still widespread today. But you don't get there, as Jesus clearly shows the young man. Eternity is a gift from Jesus Christ, and if you put your mind to it and set out on the path to it, then you are taking a risk, because then your life changes fundamentally and you leave your own status quo.

Community

I want to take up a sentence from the beginning again:

As a result of a status quo bias, people take greater risks to maintain the status quo than to change the situation.

If you look at the very first church in Acts, the new members act completely differently (Acts 2:42-47; NGÜ):

42 What marked the life of the Christians was the teaching in which the apostles instructed them, their cohesion in mutual love and helpfulness, the Lord's supper and prayer. 43 Everyone in Jerusalem was moved by a deep reverence for God, and through the apostles many miracles and many extraordinary things took place. 44 All who believed in Jesus held tightly together and shared everything they owned. 45 They even sold land and other possessions and distributed the proceeds according to their respective needs to all who were in need. 46 With one accord and with great faithfulness they came together day after day in the temple. They also met daily in their homes to eat together and celebrate the Lord's supper, and their gatherings were marked by exuberant joy and sincere cordiality. 47 They praised God in everything they did and were held in high esteem by all the people. And every day the Lord saved more people, so that the congregation grew and grew.

Whether this church model would be literally suitable for today in our country, I have my doubts. At that time, it was probably suitable for a while, but later the church in Jerusalem ran out of money, so other churches collected for them.

But the values that were lived here are certainly timeless.

Teaching about the Bible, cohesion, mutual love and helpfulness, sharing with each other, giving a share, fellowship in the temple, i.e. in the church hall, with communion and prayer, meeting back and forth in the homes and celebrating God in everything you do, these are all marks of a living church.

Does this fit with our current status quo or do we need to take a risk and change something? Do we really want something to change?

Everyone has to question themselves personally. I'm more the type who stays loyal to the familiar. You can also see that from the three times I changed jobs, the company closed down in two cases and I had to look for something new.

While researching for the sermon, I found three golden rules of management:

  1. We have always done it that way.
  2. We have never done it like this before.
  3. Anyone could come.

Of course, it's not supposed to be like that ;-)

How much we should or must leave our home, our familiar status quo, I don't know. Maybe, like Abram, we need to move to a whole new country (figuratively speaking), maybe we "just" need to check our lived values against the Bible and bring our shortcomings to God and work on them, I don't know.

But we know from the Bible that God did not abandon the people who set out with him, we can already rely on that, no matter where the path ultimately leads.

Summary

I conclude:.