Biblical Decision-Making Part 2: Balancing Faith & Wisdom
Faith and godly wisdom are foundational elements of the Christian life. It is essential to recognize that Scripture never pits faith against godly wisdom in an “either-or” fashion. Rather, faith and godly wisdom are viewed as co-occurring and in harmony with each other. God is ultimately the source and focus of both and they can, and should, be used together in the decision-making process. In fact, while faith and godly wisdom are distinct in some ways, it is important to view them as highly interrelated. Consequently, the person who is strong in faith will walk in godly wisdom, and the person who is strong in godly wisdom will walk in faith.
Our Heavenly Father desires for us to walk in the “way of wisdom” and also promises that He will lead us in right paths. Prov. 4:11-13, “I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths. When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble. Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.” By faith, we trust Him to lead us. Prov.3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Faith and godly wisdom both flow from God and are designed to work in harmony. Unfortunately, human beings tend to move toward imbalance instead of fully incorporating both. God is aware of these tendencies and addresses them in 1 Corinthians where Paul challenged the people to avoid relying too heavily on either human knowledge or supernatural signs.
1 Cor. 1:22-25, “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
Paul speaks of how both Jews and Greeks missed the opportunity to know Christ because of their expectations. The Jews demanded miraculous signs while the Greeks fell prey to the pride of human reasoning. Both groups allowed their assumptions to blind them to God’s plan. Likewise, we too must not limit God, nor believe we can control how he should direct us. Note the errors listed below and think about which you tend toward.
- Over-spiritualizing and devaluing godly wisdom – Some individuals tend to over-spiritualize and over-interpret coincidences and benign actions. They may have a tendency to look for signs or rely on their emotions as they make decisions. They may also force their own meaning on the Scripture they read.
- Relying on worldly wisdom and devaluing walking by faith – Some people rely too heavily on logic, facts, knowledge, education, and personal experiences when making decisions. They may have difficulty walking by faith because it doesn’t always “make sense.”
Note: Some people tend toward going back and forth between the two extremes, while missing the middle which incorporates both faith and Godly wisdom together.
Error 1 – Over-spiritualizing and devaluing wisdom.
Error 2 – Relying on worldly wisdom and devaluing faith.
Goal – Faith and godly wisdom.
In the book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis addressed the issue of the human tendency toward extremes and provided a solution:
“I feel a strong desire to tell you – and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me – which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs – pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.”
Using Scripture Accurately and In Context.
The Bible contains all of the guidance necessary for us to find salvation and live a life that is pleasing to God (2 Pet. 1:2-4). When we read and follow the Word, we can be assured we are doing what God desires for our lives. Remember it is important to take the whole counsel of the Word together (Acts 20:27). The holy Word of God should not be used haphazardly or to prove our point. We must take from the Scripture what it actually says and not what we want it to say. We must not superimpose our own meanings onto it but must take it in context. When we are seeking guidance from the Word during a time of decision making, we may be especially prone to the errors of inserting our own meanings into what we read. We need to “rightly divide the word of truth” if we are to glean God’s guidance from it (2 Tim. 2:15).
Some helpful questions to ask when seeking guidance from the Word:
- To whom was this text originally written?
- Who was the author and for what purpose did he write?
- What does the text say?
- What words do I need to look up, so I know the actual meaning of the words in this passage?
- How does this text fit in the context of my life today?
Some areas of caution to be aware of when reading the Bible, especially while seeking God’s direction:
- Reading too much meaning into vague Scriptures.
- Superimposing specific meanings onto Scriptures. For example, reading the word “go” in a verse and believing it automatically was an affirmative answer to the question, “Should I go to college?”
- Seeking Scripture to support a preconceived idea.
- Relying too heavily on any kind of “mystical” use of the Bible such as repeatedly flipping the Bible open for a specific answer.
- Over-emphasizing the need for signs or believing God must provide a sign.
- Basing a decision solely on one thing that opens in the Bible.
- Taking verses out of context.
- Not using godly wisdom or wise counsel.
Some Notes about Signs:
We affirm God can speak to his children however he chooses. Some people report situations when they were given a sign to confirm or reinforce a decision. These situations are very memorable. Certainly, there are examples of this in the Scripture including Gideon and the fleeces, Daniel and the interpretation of dreams, Paul receiving visions from God, the angel Gabriel visiting Joseph and Mary, etc. However, we must remember there are even more examples of times when miraculous signs like this did not occur and yet God was still present. We tend to emphasize the spectacular and miss the way God quietly works in the day to day. We must discern from these biblical examples whether these incidents should be considered unique or part of the normal, expected Christian experience in our lives.
We may find ourselves hoping for a dramatic sign to give us confidence in a big decision. However, it is more important to “walk by faith” (2 Cor. 5:7) through the Word of God, the Holy Spirit’s promptings, counsel, and our use of godly wisdom. Our object of faith must be God rather than a sign. A good principle is to seek wisdom from God rather than a sign. If it seems like a sign has been given, it must be tested against Scripture.
Anything from God will not contradict Scripture. We should also stay open to the wise counsel of others and not rush to a conclusion when seeking to determine what God has told us.
Our object of faith must be God rather than a sign.
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