An Ethic That Shows No Law Can Provide Salvation

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

It’s common to think that the point of religion is to have the right laws and to follow them.  However, James 1:27 says “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”  This is a different definition of religion than we often think of.  Today continues a series based on this verse, focusing on the insufficiency of laws as a way to salvation.  Only by Christ’s fulfillment of the laws of God through His life, death and resurrection can we achieve salvation, or a restoration of a right relationship with God and with each other.

Which laws do I mean?  In the Old Testament, there are three types, which include what many people think of as “religion”: moral laws of what is right and what is wrong, civil laws about what to do when those laws are broken, and ceremonial laws that explain requirements for restoring relationship with God.  But also in the Bible are signs that all civil and ceremonial laws are provisional, or temporary and incomplete, even if they are designed by God.  They exist because man cannot keep the moral laws, which is where this post begins…

The Poor Among You
Consider these verses from the same chapter in Deuteronomy:
“But there will be no poor among you; for the LORD will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess— if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today.” – Deuteronomy 15:4-5
“For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” – Deuteronomy 15:11

Just a few verses apart, it says that “there will be no poor among you”, but then that “there will never cease to be poor in the land.”  It seems like a contradiction, but the two thoughts can coexist because the first one is conditional on full obedience of the law – “if only you will strictly obey…”  God knows His moral law is perfect, but also that our obedience is imperfect, which will lead to poor in the land.  So, He further commands that His people take care of the poor.  This second command shows that He provides additional moral and civil laws to help those who are hurt by the failures of people to follow moral law.  Every failure of His people throughout time was known to Him when He gave the law, but He gave it anyway because it was not intended as an ultimate solution.

Jesus also recognized that poverty would not be solved until we reach Paradise, after He comes a second time.  In Mark 14:7, He said “For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me.”  He said this because His disciples were criticizing Mary of Bethany, who decided to use ointment worth a years’ wages to anoint Jesus rather than to sell it and help the poor.  The gospel of John singles out Judas as the accuser of Mary, but also says that Judas “said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.”[1]  Elsewhere, Jesus quoted Isaiah, who said “this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me.[2]  What we now call “virtue signaling” is not new.  Throughout history, people have been better at promoting virtue in concept than in practice, and in others rather than in themselves.  Therefore, even if the law we have is perfect, we will never achieve its ends.

Ruth and the Civil Law
Second, the Old Testament story of Ruth shows that even a perfect moral law, perfectly followed, cannot solve every problem – specifically the problem of “orphans and widows in their affliction.”  In addition, civil law can only limit the impact of some problems, not eliminate them.  The civil laws for gleaning and levirate marriage are key to Ruth’s story, while providing examples of faithfulness in a broken society, are also reminders that society is broken in ways laws can’t fix.

Gleaning, provided for in Leviticus 19:9, 23:22 and Deuteronomy 24:19, is necessary because “there will never cease to be poor in the land.”  God commanded His people to leave the edges of their fields unharvested, so the poor could eat what was there.  Levirate marriage, defined in Deuteronomy 25:5-10, is necessary because there are widows and orphans in the world. It gives provision for widows by obligating relatives of the deceased husbands to care for, or even marry, the widow to preserve the family line and inheritance.  However, these laws didn’t prevent Naomi and Ruth from becoming poor, or from losing their husbands.

One aspect of Ruth’s story is that people of faith can rely on God’s provision, both through His civil law and through others who follow it, to make a tangible difference in a world where many ignore God’s law.  Good civil law can improve the conditions of the poor, the orphan, and the widow, if people also follow the eternal moral law of love.

Civil law is a provision for

a fallen world, not a pathway

to a perfect world.

Another aspect of the story of Ruth is how it keeps us “unstained from the world.”  The world wants us to believe that with enough time, effort, resources, cultural revival, laws, coercion, or whatever, that we can produce a widow, orphan, and poverty-free utopia.  But whatever its source, civil law is a provision for a fallen world, not a pathway to a perfect world.  There will always be widows and orphans as long as there is death, and no law can overcome death.

Jesus, Our Religion
For me, the power of thinking about James 1:27 this way is not that I come away thinking, “now I know what to do!  Let’s go!” but that I come away knowing there is no way any of us could possibly measure up to the standard God requires.  Every time we see someone left behind it is a reminder of our collective failure, evidence that we really don’t have the answer even to our own individual problems, much less a path to perfection for the world.

Fortunately for us, the book of Ruth ends with hope, in the form of a genealogy showing her as an ancestor of King David, and therefore an ancestor of Jesus Himself.[3]  Through His life, death, and resurrection, He overcomes both death and the cause of death – our inability to generate religion that is acceptable to God the Father on our own.  Only Jesus, in a perfectly lived life, seeking out and loving “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” fulfilled the requirements of “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father.”  He offered His perfect record to the Father in our place, so we could be accepted based upon His religion, not ours.  He fulfilled the moral, civil, and ceremonial laws in our place, providing a way to a world with no poor, no orphans, and no widows.

For many in the world, civil law is their false gospel, their hope of salvation.  But the Bible lets us know that in this world, we will always have poverty.  There will always be widows and orphans here.  However, because we cannot follow moral law perfectly, we need temporary civil law as a provision for a fallen world.  To keep society from falling apart until Christ returns and molds us into new creations that follow the moral law of love naturally, with no need for civil or ceremonial law.

Until that day, Christ rejects both the tyranny of, and freedom from, law as the answer for His people.  Any civil law – even that of the Old Testament – can only mitigate the damage of sin, but in many cases, the wrong laws can make the damage worse.  However, absence of, or rejection of, all law is not the answer because the gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news of a Kingdom.  Jesus said in John 8:31-32: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  This freedom is from the failed kingdoms of this world, but not license to reject His righteousness as our personal standard of behavior.

Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.[4]  His righteousness brings us into a Kingdom like no other, where to “Visit orphans and widows in their affliction” is the freely offered sacrifice acceptable to our Lord, and an example of what James refers to later in his letter: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.[5]

This is the 3rd post in a series on James 1:27, which began here

Next Up in This Series: An Ethic That Puts People First and Issues Second


[1] John 12:6
[2] Isaiah 29:13, Matthew 15:8, Mark 7:6
[3] Ruth 4:17-22
[4] John 14:6
[5] James 2:18

An Ethic That Applies to Every Society, in Every Time and Place

Photo by Free Walking Tour Salzburg on Unsplash

If Christianity is a message of salvation to all people, in all times and places, then the practices it recommends must apply in every situation.  The political and cultural societies we each live in today have only existed for a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of history, and people reading this post may be living in societies entirely different from the one I’m writing this in.

When James wrote: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” he didn’t just mean “pure and undefiled” right here and right now, but that to an eternal God whose character doesn’t change, there is a religion that remains pure in all circumstances.  There is no expiration date on James 1:27.

To apply James’ words that way doesn’t mean he was using “orphans and widows” only as a metaphor for something other than actual orphans.  He does mean to take care of them.  But he was also using them as the best example of people unloved in his society and by the world – the ones who fell through the cracks of society, and that “to keep oneself unstained from the world” means that pure religion leaves nobody behind the way the world does.

The world has many people who believe perfect society is only a matter of time, effort, and ingenuity, and it also has many people whose very existence shows the folly of that belief.  This tension reflects human history all the way back to Adam and Eve, who had to decide whether the kingdom of God they already lived in was what they wanted, or whether they wanted to build a kingdom based on their own ideas.  This tension existed when Jesus ministered on earth in the Pax Romana, or “Roman Peace” of the society He lived in.  The Caesars declared in what they called “gospel,” or “good news,” messages that they should be revered as gods for producing the most peaceful and prosperous society the world had ever known.  When Jesus came, all He had to do was walk down the street – any street – and find problems not being solved in Caesar’s great empire. [1]  Jesus didn’t shake his fist at the utopians in protest, He just loved those in need of love, exposing the immensity of the flaws that exist in any human system, and proving by example that His kingdom is better.

WWJD
So, when James says “visit orphans and widows in their affliction” he means to do as Jesus did – to seek out and care for those left behind by the utopian imaginings of the world, and its related denials that these people matter.  This does include literal windows and orphans, but it’s also whoever is left behind in your area of the world.  The people in your neighborhood, country, organization, or even your church that the system doesn’t notice because there is nothing worldly to be gained by noticing them.  In Jesus’ eyes, even Zacchaeus, a wealthy Jew in a Jewish society that valued wealth, was one of “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” because nobody saw him as a person with a personal and spiritual need.[2]  These “lost sheep” Jesus referred to in Matthew 10:6 and 15:24 need to know “the kingdom of heaven is at hand[3] because this world’s kingdoms have failed them.

Each and every world system leaves some behind, proof that Adam and Eve made the wrong decision to go their own way.  There are always those who it is unpopular or uncool to pay attention to, even in your church.  Therefore, James calls us to love the unloved and the genuinely oppressed, whoever they are, wherever you are.  By definition, there’s no program to reach these people, because they are the ones who were missed.  It takes the actions of individual, loving people to reach them and that’s kind of the point.  Christianity is about the restoring of relationships, not systems.

But does this really apply in every time?  How is the ethic of James 1:27 eternal, while other ethics are not?

At the risk of oversimplifying (inevitable in a blog!), the difference is that worldly ethics depend entirely on “progress” – on a solution that is theoretical and in the future.  Those pursuing worldly utopia hope they will progress to a solution for the orphans and widows’ problem, but what about the widows and orphans of the past?   Or right now?  In a framework of Darwinian evolution, death is just part of the process and an inevitable circumstance we must except until we find a solution.  Death itself is the philosophical orphan or widow they don’t want us to notice.  A solution in the future has no real hope for people in the past or present.

In Christianity the solution already exists – it was available even to our first ancestors – and death is only the result of refusing to accept it. And in all times places and situations “love God and love neighbor” is the right ethic, epitomized by James 1:17 and to be consummated in Heaven.  All those who have ever turned to God and accepted His solution, in the past, present, and future, will see His salvation.  We don’t have to hope that someday our children, or their children, and so on, will be loved, and know love, perfectly.

Until mankind actually produces a utopia, it is unscientific to believe utopia is possible, but because Jesus exists and walked among us, it is scientific to say perfect love is possible, even in this world.  From this perspective, Christianity is only horrendous if false; other systems are horrendous if true.

Today you may live in the greatest empire the world has ever known, or the worst tyrannical state, or you may live in a country most people on the world couldn’t find on a map.  In every case, and all cases in between, there are orphans and widows among you because only the kingdom of God is a perfect solution and it will only be fully realized in Heaven.  Find them in their affliction and visit them, “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” – Matthew 10:7

This is the 2nd post in a series on James 1:27, which began here, and continues here.

Next up in this series: An Ethic That Shows No Law Can Provide Salvation


[1] For more on this, see an earlier post, More Than Truth
[2] See an earlier post, A Man in Need of an Ally, for more on Jesus and Zacchaeus
[3] Matthew 10:7

An Ethic That Epitomizes Love for God and Neighbor

Photo by Robert Guss on Unsplash

When James 1:27 was written, James wasn’t resorting to hyperbole for mere effect.  He meant what he said, which is: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”  James didn’t choose his example haphazardly and he didn’t make such a strong statement just as a nice sentiment for a Hallmark card.  But what does he mean?

Because Jesus said that to love God and to love your neighbor were the greatest commandments, the highest form of religion, James is probably using “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” as the purest, most undefiled form of love.  In James’ time, these were the people genuinely unloved by the world – the ones who fell through the cracks of society.  Not only were they without a husband or parents, but society was not providing for them either and they were truly abandoned “in their affliction.”  Anyone caring for them would get no credit or recognition for it.  Therefore, the only motive for visiting them is love for them.  Pure love, with no impurity or stain from a desire to get something in return.

James specifically refers to “God the Father,” who has always taken His own, and His peoples, responsibility to widows and orphans seriously.  He wants to take care of them, but Psalm 94:6-7 says about the rulers of the nations, including Israel: “They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless; and they say, ‘The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.’”  They preyed on those nobody cared about, and also boasted that not even God cared.

When any group of people – even[1] one with God’s institutions of His law, temple, priests, prophets, and kings ruling the promised land – neglects the oppressed, their religion is impure and defiled.  All institutions – including ones provided by God – are useless outside of God’s purpose for them.  The temple was a way to approach God by sacrifice, foreshadowing Jesus’ death on the cross, but Judah used it as a way to appease Him so they could do their own thing.  Jeremiah criticized the religious leaders of his day, who thought they were free from judgement because “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD,”[2] treating the temple as more important than God Himself and a reason God would always bless them.  However, God doesn’t want us to follow a checklist of religious observance – He wants us to be His loving family.

Because they replaced love with empty religion, Israel was cast into exile under the Babylonians, and Jeremiah cries in Lamentations 5:3 that “We have become orphans, fatherless; our mothers are like widows.”  Perhaps God would teach compassion to His people through painful discipline and experience, living like those they ignored.

Unstained
Visiting widows and orphans keeps one unstained from the world when it thinks that it’s ok to leave some behind.  That it’s ok to think we can’t do any better and that God doesn’t see, and that He doesn’t have an answer for it.  That if we follow the letter of the law, or rely on institutions, but not on the spirit of love, God will just look the other way because we tried our best.

Therefore, don’t visit widows and orphans because its popular, because a law tells you to, or for any reason besides Godly love, because when we mix in worldly motives, we risk loving only those who are popular to love or who our government and culture have put in favored positions.  Maybe we even reduce love to a comment about distant people trending on social media at the time, and not those individuals who are actually suffering the most.  These people are often right in front of us.

Heaven is for people who

love when there’s nothing

more at stake than

the person being loved.

It is by ministering to specific widows and orphans in their need that the Christian retains the preservative power of salt and the illuminating power of light to the world.[3]  It’s not the idea, but the actual visiting that is pure and undefiled.  Me writing this and you reading this is only an idea.  But it is a beginning.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Heaven is for people who love when there’s nothing more at stake than the person being loved.  Only Jesus has met this standard, but He has made a Way to Life for those willing to accept His Truth.  Jesus willingly takes our stain on the cross, and gives us His righteousness as a free gift, but only if we actually want His righteousness more than we want our stained world.  In Christ, the Father will change His people into people who care for widows and orphans.  People like that don’t need anything else to make a perfect society.  It’s loving people that make a perfect society, not rules and institutions, and certainly not good intentions that leave people behind.  Paradise will be a society that is pure, undefiled, and unstained, and where the only Institution needed is Jesus, our Prophet, Priest, and King.

No better solution exists than God the Father’s plan to build a family where everyone loves Him and loves their neighbor as themselves, and when we visit widows and orphans, we illustrate the truth that God sees them and cares for them, even when nobody else does.

Visiting widows and orphans is an ethic that epitomizes love for God and neighbor.


Look for more posts based on James 1:27 in the coming Saturdays.  The more I think about the verse, the more implications of it I see.  Next Up: An Ethic That Applies in all Places and Times.  There are always widows and orphans. Also, this series is part of the ongoing Beatitudes series but this one skips to Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.


[1] Perhaps especially.
[2] Jeremiah 7:4
[3] Matthew 5:13-16

Advice for “Our Strange New World”

A long but worthwhile read for the weekend. Carl Trueman argues the massive change to attitudes about gay marriage and LGBT+ recently are symptoms of changes in attitudes about what it means to be a person.

Regardless of what you believe about these issues, this is for Christians struggling to understand, and love, this world that Christ died for. Trueman’s 6 suggestions for Christians and the church largely fall under what C.S. Lewis might call Mere Christianity, and applicable to many situations.

This was shared by my former pastor on his personal page. It took me a few days to find the time to read it, but I didn’t give up…

(Estimated reading time 20 minutes, but worth it!)

Tuning in to Wisdom

“But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” – Psalm 130:4
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” – Proverbs 9:10

So far, I’ve written about Jesus as the only Answer to our need for purpose.  He is the only one qualified to be the Truth we can rely on, the Way to our salvation, and the Life that can restore us to what we are intended to be.  Jesus is the cornerstone upon which we must build our lives and impact the world around us, as a witness to the God who loves us and offers us a new heaven and new earth where His purpose and our purpose are perfectly aligned.

God’s “perfect system” exists only in heaven, but in this world, He calls His people to do His work, pointing the way to His kingdom. But if we are to create for His glory, we require His wisdom, which I briefly mentioned last time as “set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth”, and there, “like a master workman”[1] To all the people and kingdoms of the world, His call is to repentance. If you want utopia, you need to go through Him.

Now we come down from the almost cosmic level of the prior posts to the level of the individual.

Learning Fear

What follows started with me pondering Psalm 130:4: “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”  I read this a few weeks ago and initially thought it was backwards: why does knowing that God forgives make us fear Him more?  Shouldn’t we fear Him less when forgiven?  Also, if “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”[2] then to find purpose we need wisdom, and to have wisdom we need fear.

Getting Psalm 130:4 to make sense with the order of forgiveness, fear, and then wisdom required a re-thinking of repentance.  My conclusion was: the one who has not been forgiven has not repented, and the reason they did not repent was that they did not fear God.  They did not understand Him properly.

But the one who has been forgiven has repented, and they repented because they understood that was the best thing for them to do.  A proper understanding and respect for God’s character makes us turn to Him with our guilt, rather than run away from Him.  We should not be afraid of God, where we are motivated to passivity – avoiding mistakes that would anger the one we fear.  We fear God in that we revere Him and respect His authority, thus actively seeking to please Him.  When we pray and ask for forgiveness, it’s often a simple prayer made with the proverbial faith of a child, but if you unpack the implications, prayers of repentance acknowledge:

1) Him as the source of the law, the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong
2) Him as the righteous judge who is personally offended by our sin
3) His omniscience, knowing we cannot hide our sin
4) His uniqueness, as there is no other God to turn to
5) His steadfast love for us, knowing He bore the cost of our sin, and therefore we can approach Him
6) His compassion since He lived as a man
7) His power and willingness to heal us
8) His consistency of character: that He is not arbitrary
9) …and more

If we don’t implicitly or explicitly believe these things, then why repent and ask forgiveness from God?  Why expect to get it?  Exploring that set of statements could fill multiple volumes of theology books, but we don’t need that knowledge.  Fortunately, in His grace, He honors our heartfelt confessions.  He paid the price for all our inadequacies – even when we don’t fully understand our own prayers or who we’re praying to.  The Spirit pleads with the Father on our behalf[3].  Without His inexhaustible grace, our doubt on any one of these points might prevent us from repentance.  Mercifully, our forgiveness is based on His faithfulness to us: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

The righteous must live by faith because otherwise God would be playing whack-a-mole with our doubts for eternity.  Faith – our trust in God – is imperfect but it is the only thing that can bridge the gap between the faith of a child and the omniscience of God, who knows all our doubts and all their answers.  We come as we are.

In pondering Psalm 130:4, I better appreciate how complex, and in fact, miraculous, repentance really is.  Genuine repentance leads to forgiveness, which gives us a better appreciation of who God is.  We will have lived Psalm 34:8 for ourselves:

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”

Only through your acceptance of the cross, where Christ’s atoning blood was shed for you, can God in His Holiness commune with you.  Only through forgiveness will the Holy Spirit come and live in you – the indwelling referred to last time.  Only by tasting of His goodness do we really know what He is like.  It requires participation on our part.  If you never repent, you don’t know what it tastes like, only what you’ve been told.  And you might not have been told the truth.

So, forgiveness enables proper fear of the Lord, and the fear of the Lord enables wisdom, but what’s wisdom?

Upgrading Wisdom

I’ve had some sort of working definition of “wisdom” for most of my life.  As a teenager, I remember joking that it was the ability to learn from other people’s mistakes.  Sounded teenager-wise, but how do I know what’s a mistake?  Later, I read somewhere about wisdom being “skill at living life”.  Also sounds useful, but perhaps vague and worldly feeling.  Even later in life, I started thinking of it as “being able to make decisions based on facts, instead of wishful thinking.”  This has been even more useful, but which facts do you follow?  How do you choose between two “true” options?

Now I have a new definition: Wisdom is the ability to choose between the path of righteousness and the path of the wicked.  Reading the Psalms and Proverbs specifically, there is a contrast between these “paths”, and an idea that moral decisions are like a route between places.  You can be on one path or the other, and with wisdom, “you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path”[4]

You may be thinking: “that sounds like a moral compass!”  I’ll respond with: “you need to upgrade your technology.  We use GPS now!”  Let me explain.

A compass is too simple a metaphor.  Wisdom is usually not like a clear sign pointing the way, although God can use whatever means He chooses.  In our experience, wisdom is more like one voice among many on a broken Moral GPS system, that speaks about all “political, social, cultural, personal, moral, religious and spiritual”[5] factors in our environment and from our experience.  It tells us to go places we shouldn’t and not to go places we should, weighing pros and cons in multiple voices.

A pre-Christian GPS considers all these factors, and a person makes decisions as they see fit to prioritize among them.  Salvation requires realizing the GPS is broken, trusting someone who knows how to fix it, and then striving to follow the new instructions.  When this happens, a Christian gets an added feature in their Moral GPS, a “Holy Spirit download” that adds one more (heavenly, loving) voice to the cacophony.  The Spirit speaks of the justice and righteousness referred to in both Proverbs 2:9 and in Isaiah 28:17. The Spirit speaks with the wisdom needed to measure from the cornerstone and fulfill our purpose as individuals in God’s image.

As we make decisions in the world, they reflect an inner decision, as we consult our Moral GPS, but remembering that it’s still a broken system.  Proverbs 1 contains an interesting parable.  As we walk down the streets of our inner map, Wisdom calls out and raises her voice in the markets (Pr. 1:20): “If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you” (Pr. 1:23).  But the streets are noisy (also Pr. 1:20) and you continue down the wrong street (perhaps to take shelter from the voices in your head).  Wisdom refuses to answer when you discover your mistake too late.  If you respond to wisdom, you get more wisdom.

A funnier example is in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, where Lancelot is rescuing Galahad from the Castle Anthrax.  The women of the castle live alone without men and when the knights stumble by (fooled by a false Holy Grail), the women try to seduce them into staying.  Galahad should know the right thing to do, because 1) he is nicknamed “the Chaste”, and 2) the castle is named Anthrax. However, the lure of Zoot and the other women is so strong that Lancelot must forcefully drag him away.  They argue: “Can’t I have just a little peril?”  “No, it’s too perilous”.

Sometimes we have the grace of a Lancelot to save us from falling into the trap set by the wrong voices in our moral GPS.  Sometimes we’re alone.  Sometimes we’re among people who want us to do wrong.  In these cases, the strength to choose wisely must come from inside.  Back in Proverbs 1:29, wisdom says people go on the wrong path because “they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord”, suggesting that’s the deciding factor.

Absent Lancelot dragging us away, it is the fear of the Lord that makes us listen to, and act in, wisdom instead of going any which way.  It is the fear of the Lord that makes us listen to the correct voice in the broken GPS, to weigh that voice above the others.  The Holy Spirit may or may not add facts to the conversation, but it adds God’s heavenly perspective, influencing us to choose what is eternally valuable.  God does not want to drag us kicking and screaming into righteousness; He wants us to be thankful for His love and trust Him to know what’s best for us.  He knows about, and cares deeply about, every possible consequence of our actions to us and to others, not just the ones we see, or even want.

Wisdom is about taking the right action, not about accumulating facts.  Facts matter, but any voice can have facts.  In context of the Great Commandments[6], wisdom is what tells us how to love God and others actively, but in a way based on obedience that leaves the results to God.  In the book of Acts, Ananias didn’t minister to Saul, the notorious persecutor of Christians, because he thought it would end up well for Ananias[7], he did it because God told him to, and God knew that future Saul was Paul, the author of much of the New Testament.  Ananias didn’t decide based on the facts as he knew them, but he adjusted the facts in light of revelation from God.  Also, wisdom might sometimes tell you the best action is to do nothing.  Sometimes wisdom flashes a red light while others are flashing green.  “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” – Pr. 14:12 and 16:25.

Wisdom is why the Way, the Truth and the Life must be a person, not a set of rules or philosophy.   Truly, only you, in relationship with God through the Holy Spirit, can figure out what your purpose and identity in the body of Christ are.  Wisdom is proactive and specific to you.  Nobody else’s situation is your situation, and nobody else has the same relationships, abilities, and resources.  Books, advice, and experience can be helpful, but you need to “taste and see” the Holy Spirit in you, working at your very core where only He can reach.

Wisdom will put you on a path that provides you, and this world, a taste of heaven.  It is informed by a justice and righteousness – God’s law and Christ’s character – that is not of this world.  With wisdom you can build and create on the cornerstone of Christ.  The world might not like it, but the world is not your Creator.

Fulfilling our purpose requires Wisdom and Grace, motivated by Godly fear – perhaps even the boldness of Caleb in the wilderness to face giants despite the majority opinion[8].  The next post, God willing, will be about combating the other voices in the Moral GPS.

Future Topics: Mind Your Own Business, Learning from Chaos, Walking on Water, some song analysis, recycled posts from my old, defunct blog, and hopefully much more!

Thanks for reading – comment below and/or share if you want.  What was meaningful to you?  What did you disagree with?  How do you define wisdom?  How does the world?


[1] Proverbs 8:22-31
[2] Proverbs 9:10a
[3] Romans 8:26-27
[4] Proverbs 2:9
[5] See last post.  These are some arenas of opposition defeated by Christ on the cross, and that He wants His people to influence.
[6] Matthew 22:37-39.  In short, love God and love your neighbor.
[7] Acts 9:13
[8] Numbers 13:30