One of our board members of Eagle TV in Mongolia was Roger Stewart, who used to say this to me all the time, “Tom, you can never make a good deal with a bad person and you can never make a bad deal with a good person.”
It was 2004 and I was living in Mongolia. I was engaged in negotiations over a period of months to talk about bringing Eagle TV back on the air with a new license from the government. The man I had been negotiating with was one of the three top leaders of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP); the former communist party. He was a powerful man and he was negotiating on behalf of the most powerful man in Mongolia at that time, Prime Minister Nambaryn Enkhbayar. In exchange for giving us the channel license for the TV station, we were to give him and two others a percentage of ownership in the company and a guarantee that Eagle TV would never report anything bad about the Prime Minister. The pressure was on. They had no legal authority to grant us the license but they promised to make it happen if we gave them what they wanted. There was no mistaking what they were proposing to do. It was corruption, pure and simple.
The man I had been negotiating with? Let me be blunt. He was a bad person. So were his comrades. They proposed to use a little corruption, a little intimidation, and a little pressure to give us what we wanted in exchange for something they had no right to give. I discerned early on that I was dealing with a bad person. When I made the case to our organization that these were bad guys I set out to prove it. I sat with the chief negotiator and said to him, “If you can do for us the thing you say you can do, then we’d like a good show of faith. Give me one half-hour of time on State TV to play a Christian program, just one half-hour, that’s it. Surely, you can make that happen.”
The man cringed a moment then said he’s see what he could do.
Except for one last meeting where he chewed me out we never negotiated ever again. He was a bad guy. I’m positive that if we would have made a deal with him we would have irreparably harmed our mission, our integrity, and the reputation of the Gospel in Mongolia. No matter how carefully worded our contract would have been it wouldn’t have mattered. They would have found a way around it. Bad people always do.
Jesus Doesn’t Make Deals
Have you ever tried to make a deal with God? You know what I mean. “God, if you do this and this and this, then I will serve you and do this and this and this.” Sound familiar? You know why God doesn’t make deals with us? It’s simple. It’s because you can never make a good deal with a bad person.
Face it. We are bad people. We are sinful through and through (Romans 3:23). We are selfish, bigoted, ornery. If we could we would try to dethrone God. In fact, we do it all the time. It’s called, rebellion (I Samuel 15:23).
No amount of deal making will work with God because he understands our nature, that we are sinners. Instead, he has done something altogether different. Instead of making a deal for the forgiveness of our sin, he offered forgiveness free (Ephesians 2:8-9). He did this not only out of a sense of his own mercy and grace, but also out of his sovereignty. He is the Lord of the Universe. We have nothing we can negotiate with. He owns it all. All we can do is surrender. And if we surrender, we win. Why? Because we can never make a bad deal with a good person. Jesus is the ultimate good person.
And that’s the best deal there is.