By Contributing Writer, Molly Evert
This week’s posts have touched on some hot button issues including higher education, vocation, and living “off the grid.” Unfortunately, there are no debate-ending proof texts on any of these issues that clearly tell us which choices are “the biblical ones.”
In her post about college yesterday Natalie went after a few verses that many Christians point to as “crushers” to show definitively why Christian young people should not attend secular universities. I think these well-meaning and loving brethren honestly believe, in good conscience, that these verses should end the debate once and for all. Natalie did a wonderful job pointing out why they don’t, and why these verses fail as proof texts for prohibition.
In the absence of proof texts, we are left to make many of our decisions guided by what some refer to as “wisdom principles.”
Wisdom principles represent the sum total of how we believe the Bible applies to the choices we face regarding issues that are not specifically and directly spoken of in Scripture. How should we educate our children? Where should we work? Jeans or prairie skirts? In the absence of a proof text stating “thou shalt not eat fast food” we are left to read the Scriptures broadly and deeply and decide how they influence what we will serve for dinner tonight.
We all make choices based on wisdom principles every day—and so we should. But it can get sticky when there is no clear scriptural injunction and your “wisdom principles” don’t jive with mine.
Therefore, I can not say to a friend “Thou shalt not hand thy children over to the public school” in the same way that I could say “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” I may believe it is unwise for her to do the former, but I have to admit (reluctantly—LOL) that there is no chapter and verse in Scripture which is definitive on this point.
I may personally believe it is unwise to put your 6-year-old in public school, but as a humble “Wemmick” I have to remember that I am fallible in the way I apply and understand wisdom principles, particularly when I am applying them to someone else’s life.
I think I know what is right and wise, and I am living accordingly—but I still regularly question myself when it comes to the wisdom principles I am living by. After all, I have changed my position on many things over the past couple decades—some things I formerly thought were “wisdom” look pretty foolish to me now.
My belief in the sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture has never changed, but my understanding of how to apply God’s Word to my life has deepened. I ask the questions not because I don’t trust God or His infallible Word, but because I do not trust my own heart, knowing I am but dust.
We want everything to be right or wrong, black or white, when in reality many decisions defy absolutes. I told you it was sticky.
And we don’t like sticky. We like to be right. We like for others to be right just like we are, by holding the same beliefs we do—or else we like them to be wrong. We don’t feel comfortable when godly people make decisions that are different than ours. It makes us feel unsafe, especially when it comes to our young adult kids making decisions about their own lives and futures. Our job as parents is easier and more comfortable if our children adopt all our wisdom principles as Gospel Truth.
Christians are each responsible to live according to their understanding of the Scriptures and God’s calling when it comes to wisdom principles—and many will unwisely fail to look for and discern wisdom principles, and their lives will be the worse for it. The danger comes when we try to hold others to live according to principles where there has been no definitive Scriptural injunction, assuming that our understanding of “what is wise” trumps others’ understanding of the same.
As Wemmicks we can also be prone to cling tightly to our wisdom principles while giving ourselves unwarranted latitude on Scriptural injunctions. That’s why we allow ourselves to indulge in that little bit of gossip about the person who is acting contrary to our wisdom principles.
Now does all this mean that I am saying we cannot share what wisdom we feel we have been given? By no means. Share away! I have been helped by many brothers and sisters over the years who shared things that I now believe are godly wisdom.
However, as we do so, let’s consider which hills we are willing to die on. On issues where Scripture has clearly, distinctly, and definitively spoken we should fight til the last breath. Grace, care, and humility should abound when we wrestle together over hills that don’t meet that threshold.
We should be gracious to others who might see things a bit differently. They could, after all, have a point which we would do well to consider for ourselves. At the minimum we should be willing to concede that someone who makes a different choice than we do could still be living according to God’s will for them—rather than mentally placing them lower than ourselves along our “holiness continuum.”
Where there is disagreement our natural tendency is to think that God brought this up so that our sister can learn from us, however the truth may well be that the Lord intends for us to learn some of His wisdom from them. When iron sharpens iron, both blades are honed.