Editor's Note: This devotional from James MacDonald and Walk in the Word ministries is currently undergoing a metamorphosis, switching from once-a-week to daily, and changing it's name from "A Weekly Walk" to "Our Journey Online." As you can see, we've made the name switch, and anticipate being able to run the daily content shortly. Thanks for your patience!
Faulty Change Plan #1
11And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.”—Luke 15:11-13
We’re often told that we can change by changing our environment. Another term by which this is known is behaviorism, an approach made popular by B.F. Skinner. It stresses the importance of environment in controlling human behavior. The idea is that surroundings condition a person to behave certain ways. Alter the environment, change the behavior.
Now, there is some validity to this theory. Certainly behavior is influenced by environment. We do pick up cues and shape responses depending on surroundings.The problem is that there is no automatic or predictable cause/effect relationship between environment and behavior. For example, some mass murderers come from wealthy families and are very educated. Some Nobel Prize-winning scientists come from abject poverty. If behaviorism was true, childhood conditioning would explain everything. But in fact, personal choice plays a huge role; people constantly violate their upbringing. One classic illustration is studies of identical twins. They share the same parents, family, school—as same as two people can get. And yet they grow up to become as different as different can be!
Environment matters, but environment is not determinative. If you have bought into the idea that you are the way you are because of your surroundings, it’s time to drop that explanation in a garbage bag and head for the curb.
The parable of the Prodigal Son nukes behaviorism. It begins, “There was a man who had two sons” (Luke 15:11).Take a moment and read the rest of the story, Luke 15:11-32. Here’s another classic example: the younger, brought up in the same family but so different.
The details vary, but prodigals usually follow the same script outline. They reject their environment, often with uncontrolled carelessness. The Prodigal went wild and “squandered his inheritance with reckless living” (v.13). Eventually, he got to the end of his rope and his resources. He “came to himself” (v.17). He couldn’t fix his past or his problems. His change of environment had only helped to reveal the real problem—him. He had a heart problem. He had to change!
If you think that running away from marriage, family, relationships—any external environment is going to fix what needs to change about you, you are just pursuing Faulty Change Plan #1, and it’s not going to work.
· What examples from my own life illustrate the point that environment influences but doesn’t determine who we are?
· As I think about Faulty Change Plan #1, who seems to be pursuing this strategy that I can pray for?
Prayer: Father, thank You that I’m not just a product of a mold. Thank You for all that You do to help me come to my senses. I realize that I am powerless to change just by altering my surroundings. Thank You for offering to me Your plan for change, the only one that really works! In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.