To drive a hard bargain is an American idiom that means to be uncompromising when making a deal. The person who drives the hard bargain is the person who has the advantage in any negotiation. His or her advantage is so great, and the position of the other negotiator so poor, that the price for the bargain can be set at almost any level. In reality, when a person is able to “drive a hard bargain,” negotiation does not truly take place. Instead, the disadvantaged negotiator simply capitulates to the bargain driver either out of need for the deal, or out of an overwhelmingly strong desire for the deal. Or, they walk away from the deal altogether.
God drives a hard bargain. Every. Single. Time. This is because his advantage over us is overwhelmingly, demonstrably, inarguably great. He is the creator of everything, the owner of everything, and the controller of everything. There is nothing that we can offer him that he does not already have. Our failure to recognize this truth sometimes compels us to engage in immature thoughts about what we think we have to offer. The usual thought process goes something like this: Dear God, if you get me out of this fix, I will do x, y, or z. Interestingly, the reverse offering is also frequent: Dear God, if you get me out of this fix, I will NOT do x, y, or z. But the truth is that God is not that interested in what you do or don’t do. Just think for a moment about any human behavior separated from motive. If you think your tithe has worth to God you are mistaken, he already has your money and can separate it from you at any time. What has worth to God is you giving your tithe cheerfully because you love him and wish to obey him. The tithe itself is of no value. The condition of your heart is what holds value. If you do good things because you expect good rewards, your deeds are self-serving and of no value to God (Isaiah 64:6). But a heart that desires good deeds because they are good, and because they help to establish the love of God among men, and to change them into something better, is of immense value (Hebrews 10:24, Titus 2:7-9, Philippians 2:13). If you avoid doing wrong things because you fear punishment, then you are not truly being good, you are simply preserving yourself. What God desires is that you have a transformed heart that willingly follows Jesus with a desire to be like him. Such a heart is of very great value. God knows that once your heart is actually changed, you will tithe for the right reasons, do good for the right reasons, sacrifice for the right reasons, avoid evil for the right reasons, and most of all love him for the right reasons. This state is a total transformation for the better, and God’s love and your well-being so completely reflected in it that he is unwilling to compromise or negotiate on the process. Perhaps A.W. Tozer realized this when he noticed, “God never negotiates with men. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross put an end to any kind of negotiations. It is now Christ or nothing. It is now God’s word in its entirety or nothing.”