Moving the Goalposts

Proverbs 22:28 

Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.
Don’t cheat your neighbor by moving the ancient boundary markers set up by previous generations. (NLT)

My house is one of a cul-de-sac of eleven homes that were built in the late 1980s on land that was previously an apple orchard. Owners of bungalows behind the new cul-de-sac believed that bungalows would be built in the orchard. Instead the developer built two-story homes that overlooked the bungalows. To placate the mainly elderly bungalow dwellers the developer erected a six-foot high fence between the new houses and the bungalows.

All was well until my rear fence blew down in a storm. The neighbor in the bungalow behind my house soon asked me when I would carry out repairs. I told him that according to my deeds the fence was his responsibility, and showed him the deeds. He then admitted that the fence had been built eighteen inches on my side of the original boundary and that he had removed the previous fence and gained eighteen inches of garden. Eighteen inches of my garden to be precise. Although hardly an ancient landmark, the boundary had been moved.

I do not believe that my neighbor intended to cheat me. He just did what seemed logical, never expecting to be rumbled one day. Am I bothered? Not really. I never had that eighteen-inch strip of land, and my neighbor is a good man, who on viewing my deeds immediately agreed to pay for the fence repair. Others may have taken a different view and demanded that the fence be moved.

moving-the-goal-posts_dilbert_9498While the removal of ancient landmarks was a serious offence when this proverb was written, the issue remains relevant today, but not only where property is concerned. The modern day equivalent in the UK is ‘moving the goalposts.’ This metaphor may have its origins in sport, but is increasingly used to describe an agreement or business deal where one party changes the conditions to the detriment of the other. The word cheat, as used in the NLT translation of this verse, is an apt description of a person who moves a boundary, the goalposts, or acts in a generally devious manner that harms another person to the benefit of the cheat.

There are goalposts or boundaries set for us by God that we should never try to move. In Acts 17:26 Paul states:  ‘From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.’ That is a mind-blowing statement. God who knows no boundaries is so involved in every aspect of our daily lives that He marked out boundaries for when and where we should live. This means that you are where you are now because God placed you there, and God wants you there. It is futile to try to move God’s goalposts. Instead we should rejoice in His intimate involvement in our lives.


About David

David: Half Scot, grew up in Guernsey and the UK. Lives in one of the most rural counties of the UK not far from the Welsh border. Former Merchant Navy officer and hydrographic surveyor. Self-employed risk management consultant from 1992 travelling globally to carry out risk and security audits, plus some loss adjusting. Now retired. Father of Nick who encouraged David to start blogging. Married to Marilyn for 40+ years. Four other children in addition to Nick. Ten grandchildren. View all posts by David

9 responses to “Moving the Goalposts

  • Anthony Baker

    For now my goalpost is a yellow bus. He will remove it when it’s time.

    • David

      The yellow bus remains? I thought you had given up the bus driving?

      • Anthony Baker

        I couldn’t replace the income in time, so I must continue doing it until the means are available to walk away. But, we have several new children attending our church, all of which know me as a bus driver. Now, when they see me at the schools, they will be able to point to me and say, “That’s my pastor!” That’s what I really wanted all along.

      • David

        I met a bivocational pastor when I was doing an insurance survey in Geneva a few years ago. He was driving an armoured truck. The other crew members called him the pastor – half making fun of him, but with some respect also. He had a witness outside the church that most pastors never have.

      • Valarie

        As a pastor, my dad always had a second job, It was tough on him, but it was also a way to minister outside of the church. It is funny to me how much different your witness is when the people you work with know that you are also a pastor. Oh the stories he has told us.

  • Valarie

    Thank you for these thoughts. My husband and I have been considering a move in our lives but it seems that every time we try to do so, God says, “no, stay where you are.” Frustrating as it may be, I do believe that God has us here for a reason.”A flower planted in a garden with weeds need not be transplanted somewhere else, but required to stand tall and shine as it basks in the rays of the “Son”. God bless you!

  • Don’t Move the Stones | Proverbial Thought

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