What do I say to people who claim God told them to do something foolish?



I am a criminal defense lawyer. Often when I am discussing a plea deal with my clients they tell me that God will deliver them. They say that since they are innocent God wants them to go to trial and will not entertain plea offers. (This despite, in some instances, clear evidence to the contrary and my advice that going to trial will likely result in a guilty verdict and many many years in prison.) As a member of the Lord's Church, I feel compelled to correct what I see as an error in interpretation of Scriptures. When I hear this I tell my clients that many innocent people were punished for things they did not do, like Jesus dying on the cross.

At other times my clients will tell me that God told them to go to trial. Once again this can be done when there is ample evidence to convict my client and my advising to take the plea deal. Generally, my response to this is II Peter 1:20 "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation." I then explain to them that if this prophecy had been given to them by God, then I would have gotten the memo too.

I am hoping that you can provide me with some more scriptures to tell my clients when this situation arises. Finally, thank you so much for your web site. I find all of the information to be very helpful in my spiritual journey.

Thank you for your time and God bless you and your work in the Lord.


I thought about your question for a while. The core problem is that many people substitute their own feelings for what God actually thinks. I would make a poor lawyer because I would ask if this was something God actually said or a feeling that they have. Most people state the latter and I would point out that the Bible never shows God directing people through vague feelings. Instead there is a warning, "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered" (Proverbs 28:26). It was the false prophets who were condemned because they spoke their own thought and attributed them to God. "I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, 'I have dreamed, I have dreamed!' How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart" (Jeremiah 23:25-26). People have a bad habit of lying to themselves.

Another point is to quietly note that God is a bit particular about what other people claim He says.

"The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; and he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?" says the LORD. "Is not My word like a fire?" says the LORD, "And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore behold, I am against the prophets," says the LORD, "who steal My words every one from his neighbor. Behold, I am against the prophets," says the LORD, "who use their tongues and say, 'He says.' Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams," says the LORD, "and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all," says the LORD" (Jeremiah 23:28-32).

For those who say, "I know this is what God wants." I'll ask how do you know? Do you know what your husband, wife, mother, father, etc. are thinking? So often we assume what someone else thinks without ever asking, only to later find out that our assumptions were wrong. "For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God" (I Corinthians 2:11). God told us everything we need to know about life and godliness in His Word (II Peter 1:2-4). That word was delivered once (Jude 3).

For those who claim special revelation, I usually ask, did you know God said that such revelations would end a long time ago? "Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away" (I Corinthians 13:8).

None of these will likely convince a person determined to believe what they want to believe. Sometime God encourages the wicked in their self-deception so that a lesson can be taught. "And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (II Thessalonians 2:11-12). But what is important is that later, when they are reflecting on what happened, they will remember that you told them the truth, even when they didn't want to hear it.