Knowing the wrong thing to do, or the wrong kind of person to follow, is easy to figure out. But learning the right thing to do, and identifying the right kind of person to follow, or becoming the person you want to be and ought to be, is a much tougher mission.
For my people is foolish… and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. (Jeremiah 4:22)
Jesus was addressing the same universal human predicament when He said,
Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)
Getting it wrong is easy. Getting it right is a much tougher proposition.
Deciding whether a career as a petty thief is a good idea or not is easy to answer. No. Bad idea. Okay, so that rules out looting, mugging, piracy, robbery, larceny and shoplifting.
Now what? What is the right career path to take?
That’s a little trickier to answer.
The same holds true with many day-to-day moral issues. We tell our kids not to lie. Well and good. Now, how should they answer the door when the SS comes knocking and wants to know if they have any Jews in the basement?
Doing the right thing, or the best thing, is not always easy to work out.
…yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. (Romans 16:19)
Paul says that when it comes to doing what is good, and right, and true, we should be wise.
But, when it comes to that which is wrong, or harmful, or evil, Paul says we should be simple.
Literally, this word means “unmixed”.
Don’t parlay with evil. Make no bones about it. Call a spade a spade. An intact conscience will let you know when something is off. Be direct, and straightforward and to the point when it comes to that which is wicked.
When someone comes along and starts saying, “Yeah, but… it’s tricky, it’s complicated”, take a step back. Is evil really that complicated? No. The path is wide and easy to spot. And don’t let anyone every tell you otherwise.
But doing the right thing, or the best thing, for you or your family takes wisdom.
Should you marry this girl, or that girl? Should you live here, or there? Should you take this job, or that job?
Being wise to the good takes thought, patience and maturity. It takes discernment, grounded in a knowledge of, love for, and reverence of God and His word (Proverbs 9:10).
Doing something good with your life, something meaningful also comes by tuning in to the older and wiser folks around you (Titus 2:3-5).
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7)
Finally, in order to become wise to the good you should be cultivating a life of daily prayer. One of the prayers that have become part and parcel of my life was drawn from Psalm 37.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
This does not mean that God will give you whatever you want. It means that those who delight in God will find their hearts desires aligned with His will and desires. And so my prayer has often been that God would govern the desires of my heart.
There are plenty of times in life when I haven’t got a clue what I should be doing. But if He is governing my desires then, obvious sinful, selfish and proud choices notwithstanding, I can step forward with confidence that God will guide me and lead me, and align the desires of my heart with His will.
Christians are often under pressure when asked why they make the choices they make, especially when in the company of other Christians. I’ve even been berated because I cheerfully admitted that I didn’t know what the best thing to do was. I’ve been told that, if I was truly following Jesus then I should have heard a voice from God or received a sign before I did such-and-such.
And sometimes you do get that kind of clarity. Sometimes, but not often.
That is why, to me, this word from the Psalms is the best (and wisest) of all possible words and all possible worlds.
Did God tell me to marry my wife? No. Was it a sin? No. Did I want to marry her? Yes. But how do I know that this was God’s will? Because I’m trusting that He will lead and guide me and govern my heart’s desires.
Follow Jesus in the things you know, and delight in the things He has commanded. Follow them wisely and closely.
And in everything else, pray that God will govern the desires of your heart and delight yourself in the good. Delight in the knowledge that, by His Spirit, He is guiding and leading you, moment-by-moment and day-by-day, as you look heavenward to Him.