Free Will and the Pizza Parlor

Once upon a time, there was a little girl. With her birthday just days away, her parents announced that as part of her gift, she could pick any restaurant she wanted to go to for dinner. She debated and deliberated. She hemmed and hawed. She asked her mom where she thought she should go. She asked her dad, too, but neither offered an answer. It was up to her, they said.

The little girl really wanted to go to Luigi’s, the pizza parlor downtown. She quite fancied the old brick walls and the smell of the wood burning stove. And watching the thick-forearmed men shape the dough and toss it into the air was a show in itself.

But then she thought of the longer drive. Money was tight, and she figured her parents wouldn’t be too happy about having to spend extra money for gas and pizza that was more expensive than the other place just down the street (which wasn’t nearly as good.) She also knew that her dad was in the middle of a big project at work, and he might appreciate a shorter meal so he could get some extra stuff done before bed.

Her birthday finally arrived, and she announced to her parents that she had decided to go to McDonald’s. So that’s where they went. The fries were a little soggy and the Happy Meal toy wasn’t very exciting, but it was nearby. And cheap. And fast.

The little girl was somewhat disappointed on the drive home, but appreciative of the time spent with her family and the rare chance to go out to eat. Her heart sank however, when her dad said, “That was a pretty good meal, but I have to say I was pretty surprised you didn’t pick Luigi’s. When I got home from work after filling up the gas tank, I was sure we’d be having pizza tonight. Those guys making the pizza sure are fun to watch.”

Sometimes Christians have quite a struggle with the concept of free will. I’ve run across many people who believe that although it’s great in theory, life would be a lot easier if we had instructions detailing every move we should make. After all, it would make discerning God’s will so much simpler if he’d just tell us what to do already. We’re so worried about making the WRONG choice that we’d sometimes prefer if he’d just make EVERY choice.

That may make life easier, but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as rich, or fun…or free.

As we make our way though life, we are often faced with decisions. Which career to pursue. Which person to to marry. Where to live. What restaurant to visit. Now, all the really important stuff regarding making decisions is already in the Bible. It’s pretty clear that God’s not ok with any choices that are outside of the guidelines he’s already set forth.

In addition, God has given you gifts in the form of a special set of talents and passions. Things you’re good at. Things you enjoy. Things that interest you and excite you and fulfill you. Those are clues to follow as well.

And here’s the crazy weird part about free will: you actually get to make some choices on your own. All by yourself. You are not a robot that needs to be programmed before you can make each and every move. If you’re faced with a smorgasbord of possible solutions to a decision you’re trying to make, and if none of them go against the guidelines set forth in the Bible, it’s safe to say the choice is yours. That’s not to say you shouldn’t pray for guidance or seek the counsel of trusted allies, but don’t paralyze yourself overanalyzing which choice is more “right” than another.

Sometimes there is no one “right” choice. Sometimes there are MANY right choices. 

Free will is a sign of how much God really loves us. He didn’t create you to be a mind-numbed robot, so he very often leaves decisions up to you (big ones, even). Sometimes, instead of revealing what he thinks you should do, he turns to you and says, “Where do YOU want to go?”

Sometimes he really is happiest with whatever decision makes YOU the happiest. It really is ok to pick the one that you want the most.

In other words, if you want to go to Luigi’s, go to Luigi’s.

A version of this article first appeared at


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