“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not my ways,” says Adonai. Isaiah 55:8
How often have you engaged in what you assumed was a good deed, with very positive intentions, only to see it ‘go off the tracks’? If you have, and I know we all have at some point in our lives, we have run against the Law of Unintended Consequences. If you are not quite sure what I mean by this, please allow me a few minutes to explain this law to you.
There are three categories of consequences, which flow from any action.
Unexpected Benefit. Sometimes, when we do something to help others, we experience a consequence which we did not expect, and which adds something positive to the situation. For example, when you notice a family which is experiencing hard times, you approach them and offer to help them through this period of time. As a result of your generosity, others take notice and step forward to assist the family and you. This becomes an unexpected benefit of your efforts.
Unexpected Drawback. You step forward to help a family through a difficult time, providing them with time and money. The provincial government becomes aware of your generosity and draws back money the family was receiving, from their monthly support cheques. Thus, they are now left with less money than when you started to help them. This becomes an unexpected drawback of your efforts.
Perverse Result. Also called a ‘backfire’ this unexpected consequence actually makes things worse. For example, when you step forward to help a family in need, you are accused of meddling in other people’s affairs and one member of the family lays a dubious charge against you. However, your reputation is sullied, as a result. Thus your attempt to help others results in a perverse action.
These three categories of unintended consequences also appear within our spiritual lives. Yahveh, our Lord God, asks us to engage in behaviours which are good, righteous and worthy of repentance. Does this sound strange to you? If we engage in activities that are both good and righteous, what need will there be for repentance? And that is just the point. How often do we do things which may be seen by Yahveh as ‘good’ and ‘righteous’?
Let’s look first at the decisions all believers have made, when they came to faith (trust-in-action) and accepted Adonai Yeshua, the Lord Jesus, into their lives. What benefits come to us, when we do this? Matthew 12:50 is very clear – “Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants, that person is my brother and sister and mother.” We enjoy a special relationship with our Master, the Son of God and God Himself. What more could we desire?
Next, we might examine the decision made by Lot (Genesis 13), to relocate to the much richer Jordan River, leaving Avraham to the more barren land of Cana’an. Lot believed his decision was good and righteous; however, his was a selfish move, designed to better himself and his family. Little did he know that his decision would result in being in the midst of Yahveh’s destruction of his home and the death of his wife. Was his decision to accept his uncle’s offer a good one, acceptable for repentance?
Finally, we focus on the decision made by Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), two believers who willfully lied to God, for their own selfish reasons, and paid the ultimate price for their rebellious acts.
There are many more examples which could be used; suffice it to say, the choice of which behaviours we make depends on our goals and desires. If our goals and desires are good and righteous, then our behaviours will be reflective. The same is true, if our goals and desires are self-focused and selfish. In these cases, no matter how much we may camouflage our behaviour, what shows through to Adonai Tziva’ot, our God of Hosts, will be our goals, desires and basic intentions.
Beloved, each of us has a very deliberate decision to make. Do we move ahead with our own selfish desires and intentionally or unintentionally violate Yahveh’s will or do we make conscious decisions based on our clear desire to serve Him in all our ways? In this case, how can we believers be assured of making the right decisions? Is it not by the guidance of The Holy Spirit? (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
May the God of Avraham, Isaac and Jacob bless you richly.
 The law of unintended consequences has long existed dating back to at least Adam Smith but was popularized in the twentieth century by sociologist Robert K. Merton.