The Boys' Growing Up in the Lord

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Question

Can you make a deal with God? Because I promised God I wouldn't look at pornography or masturbate in return for a divine blessing on my athletic dream, and if I broke my promise He could or I would punish myself for a month each time I looked at porn and two weeks for masturbating by not playing a sport to my best abilities. I've kept my end by not participating in the school sport I want but each time I'm so close to paying my dues with like a week or days left to end my deal, I relapse to months again. This has been going on for five years. I've broken my promise technically, but not exactly, because I'm keeping my word by punishing myself.

Why did God put me in this situation by letting really bad things happen each time I looked at pornography or masturbated? Because of my fear of God I made promises and tried to negotiate with Him. I was planning to let myself accept that maybe it's a test to see if I would be willing to risk my athletic career for God, which I kind of have for four or so years. Or if I keep my promise by paying my dues, and then play the sport and see miracles added to my athletic ability because of my loyalty.

Can you pray for me and ask God what should I do? I feel like I'll get my share if I keep my promise, since the Bible says keep all your promises since God has no pleasure in fools.


Answer

You ask why God put you in this situation, when He didn't. You put yourself in this situation. God never asked people to make deals with Him. To even thinks so is to think that you can manipulate God. Making promises to not sin is basically saying that you will only obey God when you think it is important. Therefore, let's back up and look at this situation correctly.

When God says something is sinful, that is a command men must keep. You can ignore God and lose your soul in hell, but if you are serving God there is no option that allows sin. "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:1-2). Therefore, you can't make a deal concerning a matter which you are required to do regardless.

The reason God tells us to stay away from certain things is because they contain inherent harm. God's laws are for our good and not our annoyance. "Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD'S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?" (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

God warns that chasing after passionate things that excites lust is wrong. "For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God" (I Thessalonians 4:3-5). Pornography is wrong because God said it is a sin. He declared it to be sinful because it causes harm. See: Lies Pornography Tells Men.

There is nothing in God's Word that indicates masturbation, by itself, is sinful, even though it is alluded to in a few Old Testament passages. See: Is masturbation sinful or not?

What you've done is set rules for yourself that you attributed to God, even though some of them did not come from God. You decided punishments for yourself even though you are the one breaking your own rules. It sounds good on the surface, but as you noted, it doesn't work. "Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations -- "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using -- according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh" (Colossians 2:20-23). Even if we just focus on the sin of pornography, your rules and punishments don't work because they don't get to the heart of the problem. There is no solution to the problem of sin. All you've managed to do is make yourself miserable and blame God for your misery when in truth it your misery is because you haven't been heeding His teachings.

Therefore, the pornography stops for no other reason than the fact that it is wrong. The vows you made were foolish, and continuing foolish vows is also not a smart thing to do. Whether you masturbate is up to you, so long as if you do decide to do it, you do so without pornography and other forms of lust.

In regards to sports, God promises to answer prayers that are made in accordance to His will. "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him" (I John 5:14-15). "According to His will" doesn't mean, so long as God doesn't object. It means that what you are asking for in some way furthers His desire. Whether you are good at a sport or not probably will not accomplish God's tasks. Prayers like that are mostly about boasting your own prestige. "You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:3).

This doesn't mean you can't go out for sports. Do so because you enjoy the sport. Be the best you can and give God the glory for the strength and health He as given you. Whether you are excellent or an average player doesn't matter, because the purpose of games is enjoyment in playing.

Thanks for your reply, but what do I do? I believe if I keep my end of the bargain by punishing myself like I said I would do each time I broke a promise. Once I finish all the time accumulated I'll be at the point were all I have to do is keep my oath of not participating in those sins, then I would receive what I wanted due to loyalty, faith, and by assurance He could make up all that time I lost.

Also how come one man in the Bible who sacrificed his daughter, was able to negotiate with GOD if he doesn't make deals?

You made a vow to not sin, but people aren't supposed to sin in the first place, so your vow is basically meaningless. You only offered something that was already committed before the vow. In contrast Jephthah did not owe God anything if he won against the Ammonites. God didn't even ask Jephthah to fight the Ammonites. He was asked by the elders of Gilead (Judges 11:4-11). God decided to make use of Jephthah and Jephthah voluntarily vowed to give a special offering to God if he returned successfully from destroying the Ammonite army (Judges 11:29-33). Jephthah is remembered because his vow was foolishly rash, but that he kept it. But the way, many people mistakenly think Jephthah killed his daughter, but this is not the case, see: Jephthah's Daughter. Jephthah's offer was not a negotiation with God. It was essentially as statement of thanks in advance.

My point is that you made an empty vow. You set terms for punishing your sins when God already has determined both the punishment and solution for sin. Everything you did in this regard is contrary to God's teachings; yet, you expect God give you something in response to your rebellion. Because the vow itself was contrary to God's Will (i.e. sinful), the vow needs to be dropped. There is no honor in upholding a promise that is against what God wants.

Thanks for your help.