The way of wisdom and the lesser thing
Making decisions can be mind boggling, and heart stirring. It may be even more true today because the information age has in many ways inhibited our ability to think. With so much information available at the click of a key cloud computing may have robbed our neural synapses of electrical or chemical conductivity. In many instances we're left indecisive by the bombardment of data at our fingertips.
Having the mind of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 2:16) should give believers an edge in making morally right decisions. Of course, like any other avenue to sound judgment, having the mind of Christ about daily living is subject to human interpretation, a long list of personal biases, preferences, and other factors, leading to disagreement even among those who diligently seek to serve Christ. For example, let me mention two: spiritual expedience (or the way of wisdom) and the lesser of two evils. Election 2016 and the moral shifting of our nation have brought both concepts under scrutiny. Many have demonized them as being inappropriate for Christian decision making and more false dilemma thinking or Consequentialism. Let me respond.
SPIRITUAL EXPEDIENCY OR THE WAY OF WISDOM
In the mystery of his ways God chose not to show us everything (see Deuteronomy 29:29). He has revealed his will and his ways in the person of Jesus Christ and the written word, The Holy Bible. The Holy Spirit guides us by teaching us all things and bringing to remembrance all that Jesus taught (see John 14:26). Scripture gives us eternal guidance in all things (see Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; and others). Every decision in the life of a believer should be made through prayer in all circumstances, the instruction of God's Word, and the sure guidance of the Holy Spirit. Many decisions are clearly directed in the counsels of heaven. Like, for instance, should I use heroin? My body being the the temple of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 6:19) should prohibit illicit drug use. That's a simplism. But, you get the point.
Some decisions are not so clear. Let me use another easy one. What music is appropriate for Christian worship? Well, there are dozens of Scriptures about worship, praise, the use of instruments, warnings about performance, reverence, and doing all things in order. Still, there's no single verse about which music is biblical and which is not. In prayer, Bible study, and submission to the Spirit every believer and congregation must decide.
The Apostle Paul wrote about this.
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful
for me, but all things edify not.
1 Corinthians 10:23, KJV
The English Standard Version translates this verse in more modern language.
All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not
all things build up.
1 Corinthians 10:23, ESV
What the KJV translators rendered as "expedient" is the Greek term "sumphero", interpreted as "helpful" in the ESV, "beneficial: in the NIV, and "profitable: in the NASB.
Here's the deal about spiritual expedience, as a decision making reference point. It doesn't always reduce to "easy" or "convenient". In a greater sense, spiritual or biblical expediency involves decisions that are lawful and beneficial, made with spiritual wisdom. Author Gary Friesen identified this as the way of wisdom in his book Decision Making and the Will of God (Multnomah, revised 2009). An example from Scripture may be when the Apostle Paul "thought it best" not to take John Mark on the second missionary journey (see Acts 15:38). He chose the way of wisdom.
Does the Bible dictate every decision a believer must make in life? No. But, seeking the will of God in every decision requires that we hear his voice through the instruction of Scripture and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Our decision must be beneficial to the Kingdom, our own spiritual growth, and for those around us.
THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS Here's another trip wire in the evangelical community right now. And, like many other debatables it may be a matter of straining at gnats rather than clear spiritual wisdom. Choosing the lesser of two evils is an adage explaining options in a decision dilemma. Many of us use this axiom in everyday matters of choice. Most of the time none of the choices are actually evil or good, for that matter. Many are just neutral. So, I prefer the tacos at Restaurant A but the wait in two hours. So, we choose Restaurant B which has average tacos but no wait. Unless the restaurants actually contravene the guidance of Scripture or the law of the land, neither is really evil. But, I chose selection B because it suited our circumstances at the time. It wasn't spiritually expedient because the counsels of God were neutral about it. This decision was the lesser of two evils.
It's somewhat ironic the way the lesser of two evils has been portrayed by many evangelicals. The earliest reference I could find using the phrase was in the writing of Thomas a Kempis, the fifteenth century author of The Imitation of Christ, a classic on devotion. He wrote, "Of two evils the lesser is always to be chosen". Charles Haddon Spurgeon also wrote in The Salt Cellars---Proverbs and Quaint Sayings, "Of two evils choose neither". Spurgeon was actually quoting John Ploughman who had previously written, "Of two evils choose neither. Don't choose the least, but let all evils alone". Obviously he was addressing genuine evil and not the mundane matters of life. Perhaps more binding on much of culture today is the quote by Jerry Garcia, icon of the counter culture of the sixties, who said in a Rolling Stone Magazine interview , "Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still evil". Is Jerry Garcia setting the pace for our decisions today? Pray not.
I'll join with so many others is choosing the way of wisdom, or, if you wish, spiritual expediency, in making life's important decisions. In the process, I'll trust God's sovereign will to guide and direct world movement. Every day I'll seek the greater good in all of life's matters, with the righteousness of the Kingdom at the top of my personal priority list.