“And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.”
Judges 8: 27, King James Version
“Actions and Intentions” Part III
When Good Intentions Don’t Equal Good Results
“I don’t see as it matters much how well you mean if it’s harm you’re doing.”
Have I ever experienced a situation where my intentions were good, but the results from my actions did not turn out as I thought they would?
"Hell is paved with good intentions, not with bad ones. All men (and women) mean well.”
George Bernard Shaw
“It is difficult to say who does you the most harm: enemies with the worst intentions or friends with the best.”
Edward G. Bulwer-Lutter
Have you ever done something in your life and you believed in your heart that your motives were pure, your intentions were good – but in the end, the results of what you did were disastrous?
I asked my husband, Jim, this question and immediately he reminded me of a family situation we became involved in. From the outside looking in, we felt that one of our siblings was suffering a great deal in a very stress producing work environment. After thought and prayer, we truly believed we had a beneficial solution to the problem – so we inserted ourselves into the matter – trying to “fix” things. Believe me, our motives were the best – we just wanted to help. Our intentions were, that in a new endeavor, this individual would find not only happiness, but also a more productive life.
Well, the fact is, we were wrong! Completely and totally wrong!
I’ve often asked myself since living with the consequences of this situation, “What went wrong? Why did things turn out so miserable when we intended that things would go so well?
You may have asked yourself the same question in your own life? Let’s take just one simple and well-known endeavor – marriage. I believe no person in their right mind gets married with the “intention” to divorce. Yet, with the statistics reporting nearly 50% of marriages failing, what happens to all the good intentions that are the catalysts behind all the “I do’s?” No one wants to fall out of love and leave a relationship in tatters – at least not at the moment when you tell someone, “I will love you forever!” But then daily actions set in. And the results can be exactly the opposite of what was first intended.
As we study the results of actions and intentions, Gideon’s life offers us such an instructive textbook on the collision between good intentions and improper actions. His life gives us a panoramic view into some of the ways you and I can, hopefully, learn from the mistakes of those who have walked the path before us.
As we found out, even though Gideon was living in a cave along with all the fearful Israelites, God saw potential and possibilities where earthly men saw nothing. Called to lead 300 bold warriors against the Midianites, God’s strength and power led Gideon’s small band to a decisive victory – an overwhelming triumph for the God of heaven and earth. And when the misguided Israelites tried to brand Gideon as their future ruler, he immediately informed them it was not he – but God – who was responsible for their success.
I don’t know about you, but at this point in time, I can’t find any missteps by our hero Gideon. He followed God; relied on God; trusted God; and obeyed God. He didn’t take credit to himself. He didn’t let power go to his head. He didn’t brag or act vainly.
“What could go wrong, I ask you?
Here’s where the word “intention” rears its head. The word “intention” is defined as a “plan of action, an aim that guides action.” And in Judges 8: 24-27, there’s an often overlooked but extremely instructional story which gives us insight into how good intentions can result in destructive actions.
To get a little background to this story, we need to look at Judges 8:1. It seems when the call was sent out for volunteers for Gideon’s army, even though Ephraim was the largest and most influential tribe of Israel in northern Palestine, they felt Gideon had not given them their proper status before the battle with the Midianites. This was Ephraim trying to say, “Look who we are. Joshua was from our tribe. Give us the respect we think we deserve.” Add to this the fact that the religious center of the Israelites at that time was at Shiloh, in the tribe of Ephraim, and it becomes clear the “big boys” of Ephraim wanted to make certain the “little guys” from Ophrah, Gideon’s hometown, clearly understood who was in charge.
Here’s where the story gets very complicated. The Bible doesn’t tell us what Gideon’s intentions were or why he took the actions he did. However, Judges 8: 24-27 does tell us, in great detail, how the men who fought with Gideon, “willingly” gave him, when asked, all their golden earrings. Judges 8: 25, 26 says, “And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey. And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the Kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels necks.”
Those actions do not appear wrong in themselves, and what happened next, the action by Gideon, in itself, most likely had no evil intent associated with it. We are told Gideon made an “ephod” of all the gold and put it in his city.”
An ephod was the sleeveless shoulder dress of the high priest of Israel to which were attached two onyx stones which carried the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. Apparently, Gideon’s “ephod” was designed as an imitation of the one worn by the high priest at Shiloh. What’s more, Gideon, the Bible says took the action of setting this ephod in a special place in his town, not where God’s center of worship was at Shiloh.
Who knows why Gideon did this? Maybe he felt it was too far to go to Shiloh so he wanted to have a symbol of the worship at the tabernacle nearer to his home in Ophrah. Sadly, as good as his intentions may have been, the results of his action were devastating for the Bible tells us the people of Israel went, “whoring” and made the ephod the object of their worship rather than the God of heaven
As I read this story, two words jumped off the page of my Bible. These words are found in Judges 8: 27, “and Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in HIS CITY.” “His city!” This I believe is the heart of our lesson on actions and intentions. Gideon took his eyes off the God of heaven…off God’s place of worship and instead chose to focus on “his city.”
This is the reason I know, in my own life, “MY” good intentions have so often led to actions that resulted in less than stellar results. When what “I” think is right, when it is “my” view, when “I’m” putting “my” plan of action or “my” aim above God – no matter how unsoiled my intentions may be, the result of my actions may have consequences that are not only destructive in my life but in the lives of those I intended to help. I find great inspiration in the words of R.C. Sproul who pinpoints the way we should live our lives every moment so our good intentions don’t result in misguided actions:
“The idea is to live all of our lives in the presence of God, under the authority of God, and for the honor and glory of God. That is what the Christian life is all about.”
R. C. Sproul
“Write Thy blessed name upon my heart, there to remain so indelibly engraved, that no prosperity, no adversity, shall ever move me from Thy love. Be Thou my strong tower of defense, a comforter in tribulation, a deliverer in distress, a very present help in trouble, and a guide to heaven.”
Thomas á Kempis
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Available in all bookstores and on Amazon.com
For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.