Don’t Shoot Yourself in the Foot

“When you besiege a city for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. You may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Are the trees in the field human, that they should be besieged by you? Only the trees that you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down, that you may build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you, until it falls.” — Deuteronomy 20:19-20

The nation of Israel is being instructed before entering the Promised Land to conquer it before settling in to enjoy it. How should they proceed? What will ensure success? God gave them specific and comprehensive instructions, including how to choose trees for use when mounting a siege.

Trees come in handy when building a tower to assault the city walls. Cut them down; they’ll grow again! Yes, they will, but it will take a while. Once the city is conquered, someone will be living in it. Fruit trees will be useful in the near future, so think before cutting.

Thinking one more step ahead is helpful more often than not. It may look like a good solution at first glance, but will it still be as good tomorrow, or even this afternoon? Most of the time, this is a mental habit we simply need to exercise. It’s nothing exotic or a talent only a few can have. You can do it, and it will pay off.

If you would like to get better at thinking one more step ahead, there are some things you can do other than just pausing to do it.

  • You can make a physical reminder for yourself, like a sticky note on the kitchen cupboard or the front of your planner. This functions as a mini-inspirational poster in your daily life (only much cheaper).
  • Some people may be better at this than you. If so, ask them when you are considering a next step. What do they see as potential pitfalls in your next actions? “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:!4)
  • If you know someone, in your office or in your home, who could be asked to helpfully (not annoyingly) ask you before you start something, “Are you sure?”, that could be a great trigger for you to pause, reconsider, and confidently more forward.


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