The young boy slumped at the table, sullenly bulldozing his broccoli around the plate with a fork. He couldn’t believe any human being could be expected to eat this stuff. It was mushy and green and disgusting. Other children were probably eating cheeseburgers this very minute, and here he was forced to eat trees. His mom had added condiments, but if you put butter and salt on a dogwood would it taste any different?
Maybe if I swirl it around the plate enough it will disappear. He kicked his foot impatiently against the table leg, until his sister yelped and he realized his foot had gone astray. Don’t potatoes count as veggies? Why can’t we have carrots like normal people?
His mother’s voice broke his vegetable reverie. “C’mon, honey. Finish your broccoli.”
“I am not going to eat this. It’s gross.”
“Don’t you want to grow big and strong?”
“You are not leaving this table until you have eaten every piece of broccoli on your plate.”
The boy’s brain went into overdrive calculating his next move. He could slip the broccoli to the dog or maybe hide it in a napkin. Flush it down the toilet? No, the only option was to do what he did best.
With a heavy sigh, he began negotiations with his mother.
BOY: I will only eat two more pieces.
MOM: Ten more.
BOY: Five, but no more broccoli for a month.
MOM: Six, with broccoli twice a month.
Ten minutes later…
BOY: One piece, end of story. No more broccoli. Ever.
MOM: (head on table) Deal.
In the end, mom’s exhaustion sealed the deal. The boy perceived her weak point and pounced. Just another day on the job. Not bad for a five year old.
All young children have a side job of Negotiator. If the police force would take this into consideration, they could have some serious help. Who has better tenacity and determination than a child? And besides their obvious negotiating skills, they have something that adults seem to be lacking. Energy.
Of course, the negotiating never ends, even in adulthood. We still find ourselves trying to cut a deal with God. Eventually the stakes get a little higher than broccoli.
When God decided to wipe out the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham tried a hand at his negotiating skills (Genesis 18). He was a little rusty, since it had been awhile since he had negotiated with his mother to eat fewer leeks. This time he substituted people for vegetables, and it was essentially the same technique.
ABRAHAM: Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city?
GOD: If I find fifty righteous people…I will spare the whole place for their sake.
ABRAHAM: What if the number is forty-five?
GOD: If I find forty-five there, I will not destroy it.
GOD: For the sake of forty, I will not do it.
GOD: I will not do it if I find thirty there.
GOD: For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.
ABRAHAM: Don’t be angry, but what if only ten leeks – er, righteous people, can be found?
Abraham must have felt pretty good about his negotiating prowess. He probably stopped dead in his little moonwalk victory dance as he caught the news headline:
Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed
Even during negotiations, God already knew there were not ten morally upright people in the whole place. But he listened patiently to Abraham, who learned that God always makes the righteous decision.
We can negotiate with God all we want, but ultimately He is the one with the foreknowledge and the power. He even has the strength to withstand the negotiations of a toddler. So sometimes we need to just suck it up and finish our vegetables.