Right, Wrong, and Wise

Right or Wrong?  Wouldn’t life be easier if everything were a simple “yes or no”?  Life’s choices would be easier if we right and wrong was always crystal clear.  That, however, is not how life works.

James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

Even this verse, which gives a high standard for sin, opens up a discussion that can people can intelligently disagree about.  What does the phrase “knows the right thing” mean?  What are we liable for in our actions and what are we not?

This verse is not actually intended to be the Scriptures total definition of sin (right or wrong).  This passage intended to be a guide.  In other words, when you know the right thing – whether by clear instruction, wisdom given, or leading of the Spirit – and you do not do it, you sin.

Right and wrong are easier to define on certain issues.  Other issues require some thought, discussion, study, and consideration.  The main goal of this blog is to encourage you to seek that wisdom.  This Sunday I am preaching on the topic “who is wise?”  My key text will be Proverbs 14:8, 15.  The idea in this passage is that a wise person “consider his ways.”  The wise person does not just do, they consider.  They consider further than the fork in the road they stand at or the crossroads they find themselves considering.  They consider not just the decision at hand, but where it leads.  They consider their “way.”

The book of Proverbs is a must for a believer.  You need to read and re-read it.  You need to study it and memorize it.  Here is why.

Honoring the Lord requires more than simple right and wrong decisions, it requires wise decisions.

Wisdom is the ability to see beyond simple right and wrong and see better and best.  It is the ability to apply knowledge to a situation.  It is the capacity for a person to consider who they are and who someone else is and make a decision about a situation not based on a universally known right or wrong, but the ability to apply knowledge to a particular situation.

The Proverbs help us learn how to do this.  I hope to share some insight in how to use wisdom.

  1. You must want wisdom to have it. You need to love it and desire to learn it.  (Prov. 19:8)
  2. You must want what is beneficial not just what is permissible. (1 Cor. 10:23) Some applicable examples of this from Probers are the teachings on gluttony, laziness, or alcohol.  Wisdom calls you to consider more than what is wrong to consider what is wise. How does one apply the truth “beer is a brawler and wine a mocker” into your life?  Well you consider the benefit of the drink.  Do I really want to pour some liquid brawler or mocker in me right before I spend time with my spouse that I am already aggravated with?  NO.  Consider the way not just the wrong.  (Prov. 20:1)  Or how does one consider the idea that gluttony and being lazy go together in Scripture?  (Prov. 26:15)  If I have a lot of work to do this afternoon, should I go to the all you can eat Chinese buffet for lunch?  NO – not because of simple wrong, but because of wisdom. 
  3. You must want to honor others above have for yourself.  (Prov. 31:4-5) This is especially true for anyone who leads.  The King should not drink because he has too much responsibility and power to end up foolish.  It is not the right or wrong of the drink but the wisdom to not allow drink to have influence over great power or authority that must be considered.  Consider wisdom not just right and wrong.

I challenge you to become a student of wisdom in Scripture.  So many of life’s decisions are addressed in the wisdom writings.  You must, however, not read them for simple yes/no commands.  God is teaching you wise ways to decide right and wrong along your way.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.  Proverbs 4:7

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