Our grandson, Zachary, has just finished his first semester of medical school. Recently he told me of a talk a doctor had given to a meeting of the Christian Medical Fellowship he attended. It was instructions for making good decisions.
Decisions are a key function of being human. We make them every hour of our day. There are mostly inconsequential decisions like: What shall I wear today? Or moderately consequential ones like: Shall I study or send a text message? And there are major, history-making decisions like: Is this the time to propose marriage?
Some decisions are morally-neutral like: Shall I wash the car today? And some are morally-fringed like: Shall I do business with that person, when I’m not sure of her honesty? And some decisions are morally saturated to the core like: When I discover that the cashier accidentally gave me two five dollar bills stuck together in my change, shall I return one of them or keep them both?
What you’ve read so far is my elaboration of my grandson’s report. What impressed him about the doctor’s talk was his outline and its common sense. The doctor apparently set forth two reference points that should be reckoned with when we are making important, life-shaping decisions. They are “righteousness” and “wisdom.”
As I understand it, the doctor’s point was that righteousness is fixed. The standards are given to us in the Scriptures. The commandments of God give us solid reference points about life and we are sure to make good decisions only if we act in sync with them. For example, we are to have no other gods, to reverence God’s name; we are not to steal or bear false witness, etc. Issues like these are not negotiable.
On the other hand, according to the doctor, wisdom is the application of common sense in accordance with our understanding of righteousness. We apply the two together to the specific decisions we must make. Wisdom helps us to choose our friends wisely. It saves us from becoming entangled with substance abuse. It aids us in making vocational moves. It allows us to maintain our commitments to righteousness while we wrestle with the uncertainties of life. We don’t lose our solid footing while we choose.
The point the doctor made that seemed most helpful to Zach – and would have been most helpful to me — was that when we take righteousness seriously in our deliberations but must go ahead and make a decisions for which there’s not a clear chapter-and-verse to guide us, we can go forward without fear.
And when we go ahead with the best wisdom at our disposal we are saved from the paralysis of second-guessing ourselves. We believe that the Good Lord can take our decisions and bless their outcomes because we have used the best resources at our disposal. Those resources are righteousness to which we are clearly committed and wisdom for which we earnestly pray (James 1:5).