Is Choice Theory in the Bible?
The ideas of choice theory have appealed to me a lot. Initially, I the appeal had to do with my belief that choice theory ideas would improve the school at which I was a principal. As I learned more about the ideas, though, I came to see that they were deeper than mere school improvement, as important as that goal is, and that similar to a C.S. Lewis phrase out of Narnia, choice theory involved “deeper magic.” In other words, unintentionally, Glasser had stumbled onto spiritual principles as his therapeutic strategies took form.
I have thought about choice theory and its comparison to spiritual principles a great deal and thus far it has appeared to me that they consistently strengthen and support one another. Choice theory is not a gospel in itself. Choice theory describes and explains human behavior, but it doesn’t empower. It can explain, as our last blog did, how a person can repeatedly choose an unhealthy way to meet a need, yet this insight does not necessarily bring about change. Scripture is full of choice theory, yet religionists have missed it. So many of us church-attenders have not come into a knowledge and appreciation for our own role in making good choices, in believing, in having a saving faith. Many are waiting for God to change them from the outside-in, like a giant puppeteer, but alas, they’re still waiting. So, anyway, I think the two – the principles of choice theory and the principles of Scripture – can help each other.
Over the years I have been collecting Biblical texts that speak to or support choice theory components. What follows are texts that speak to each of the basic needs. Glasser settled on five basic needs – survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun – although in Control Theory (1984) he allowed for flexibility in this list. My list of basic needs looks slightly different and includes – Purpose and Meaning, Love and Belonging, Power and Achievement, Freedom and Autonomy, Joy and Fun, and Security and Safety. I invite you to add to this list. What Scriptures have you found that support the basic needs?
Purpose and Meaning
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jer. 29:11
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” John 10:10
Love and Belonging
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:34-40
Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. 1 John 4:11, 12
Power and Achievement
Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desire. Ps. 37:3, 4
“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.” Ephesians 1:19
Freedom and Autonomy
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to announce that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.” Isaiah 61:1
Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, he gives freedom. 2 Cor. 3:17
Joy and Fun
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalms 34:8
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” John 15:9-11
Security and Safety
“Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but to trust the Lord means safety.” Proverbs 29:25
“I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27
I am comfortable with the concept of the basic needs. I cannot prove their existence, and if we agree on their existence we cannot prove exactly what a person’s basic need strengths are. Yet theory of the basic needs provides a very good starting point when considering personality and motivation. To know ourselves seems to be a life-long process. Sometimes when I pray I ask the Spirit to show me me. Over time I have come to see myself a little differently. I used to think that I have a very high power need; now it seems to me that my power need is somewhat average, while my love and belonging need is very high. Regardless, the premise of the basic needs is supported in Scripture. And it is so cool that God cares about our needs so much. As Paul wrote – “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19