God’s commands give us heart-protecting boundaries.
From the Ten commandments to New Testament instructions for married couples, the Lord’s clear and peace-creating directions simply make sense.
But then there are those gray areas. Those little pockets of life not specifically addressed by the Bible, or maybe liable to various interpretations. You know, the ones subject to controversy.
Should I homeschool or send my children to public school?
Should we use birth control?
Is it okay for Christians to drink alcohol?
Where should Christians shop?
We can debate all day, and usually end up at two extremes:
One side says, “We have total freedom in Christ, we have grace. We need not overthink.”
The other responds, “No. We have to ___. We cannot ____. We should not ___.”
Is there a way to balance the two? To not abuse the precious grace Jesus has given, but also not cause division through legalism?
To answer these questions we need to look to Proverbs.
“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.” Proverbs 2:6-8.
The key element here is wisdom, which God’s Word values very, very highly.
The question we as believers skip over in gray-area conversations is this:
Is it wise?
Is this (activity, decision, opinion, etc.) wise?
When thinking about our Christian liberty, this verse always has to be upon our hearts and minds:
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 1 Corinthians 10:23
All too often we only ask, “Is this sin?” and miss out on God’s gracious counsel. Confusion ensues, because it isn’t black and white. In reality, it’s up to each believer’s conscience, as led by the Holy Spirit and according to…wisdom.
The principle of wisdom, as outlined in Scripture, is fear of the Lord that leads to skillful, optimal living. Coming only from above, wisdom involves grasping God’s “sky” view and letting it inform your present actions.
Something may not be inherently evil, but it may not be helpful to you, your family, or your neighbors’ spiritual well-being.
Consider 3 more questions that follow: “Is it wise?”
1. Will it draw me closer to God or farther from God?
Determine whether this activity helps you to obey Jesus, or inhibits your ability to follow Him. Does it promote holiness, or cater to fleshly desires? Be careful here. Make sure Scripture is supporting your reasoning, not the culture.
Does it build others up or can it cause others to stumble?
Although you may individually feel fine doing something, the Bible tells us not to sear another’s conscience or lead them into sin. See this example of Paul in Romans 14:12-23.
Christians follow the image of Christ when they, though having true freedom, lay it down to save the soul of another.
Paul’s main takeaway is this: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Romans 12:17-19
A good example of this is dressing modestly. It is not a matter of if I can wear this, but if this would shame the name of Christ—would it make those around me sin?
Does it steward my God-given resources well?
Often when it comes to family and financial situations, we have a one-dimensional outlook (i.e. Will this be enjoyable or not?) However, usually more variables are involved in the equation.
We need to evaluate if it would allow for proper use of our time and energy, and consider its impact on our family’s ability to serve God well.
I hope this was helpful! Keep these questions in mind, and remember, always challenge other believers out of love, not pride. Rather than casting immediate judgment, perhaps asking a friend, “Is this wise?” could be the better route. Blessings!