In our last look, we learned that we have some clear patterns set by God’s prophets and Apostles in the Bible. These patterns help us steer our lives through the fog of the gray areas of decision making. By following their examples as they follow Christ, we can have the right light to make the godly decisions. We also learned that in our decision making, our purpose is ultimately to bring glory to God. We glorify Him by living an obedient life. Therefore, it is important to know what decisions are righteous according to God. In these next nine articles, we will be learning principles that can guide us into godly obedience.
We will first look at the Principle of Expedience. When thinking of its meaning, the thoughts of today’s quicker and faster inventions come to mind. By the time I set up my first checking account, I became aware of the check card. It was a new thing. It was my bank in my back pocket. Today, the check card is more popular and carrying around cash is almost extinct.
Other inventions may come to your mind when you think of expedience. With the increase of technology and rise of intelligence, our daily activities have become quicker and easier to maintain. Our check-out cashiers are being replaced by interactive computers. Our means of communication resides in a small handheld device so that anyone can reach us anywhere. And of course there is my personal favorite, pay your bills online! All of these things are helpful inventions that have made our lives more efficient. They speed up the mundane processes we have. They should serve to free us to have more time for things that really matter to God.
The Bible was written long before any of these things were invented. So you will not find Jesus teaching from the mountain about bad cell phone manners or microwave dangers. These are just illustrations of the choices and attitudes we deal with in our day and culture that can serve to be either helpful to us or hinder us. It all depends on how we use our “expedient” choices.
The first question that may come to your mind is this: “How are these things that stop us from bringing glory to God?” You may have never considered microwaves or self-checkouts to be a gray area, but they are. You are likely not going to find a Christian who believes that these inventions are sinful to use, but you are likely to dishonor God by choosing these things above Him.
A short example from my own life might prove the point. On my drive home, there is an intersection where almost everyday a homeless man will stand with a sign asking for help. The traffic just on the other side of this intersection is pretty heavy at this time and my stomach is growling for my wife’s cooking. She is waiting for me at home.
A thought comes to mind as I sit at the red light and watch this man beg others. “I can feed this man.” In fact, if I were honest, I can do much more than that. It would just require that I turn back around, pull through a fast food restaurant and return to the intersection with free food. I could park have dinner with this fellow. I can share God’s love by just listening.
Now, doing so would mean that I would be late getting home. The traffic only gets worse and the food at home will only get cold. What do I do? I pass the man and head home.
This is just one example. There are so many expedient things that cause us to choose ourselves above others. Helping this man and sharing the gospel with him would be a God honoring thing to do, but it would also make me late. Helping him would be an inconvenience.
Unfortunately, this is one of many things that we all do. And by doing so, we dishonor God. What does the Bible say about expedience?
Principle of Expedience
We will be gleaning from the Corinthian letters often during this series of articles. So it is important to remember the context. If we studied the background of this city it would resemble any modern, metropolitan and liberal thinking city of our day. As you may recall, the Corinthian church was under heavy rebuke from the Apostle Paul. He accuses them of acting like children (1 Corinthians 14:20) and being ignorant (1 Corinthians 12:1). Paul was telling them to “Grow up!” In fact, the Corinthians were going so far as to excuse their wicked behaviors.
Paul writes to them in his first letter saying, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but all things are not helpful” (1 Corinthians 6:12a). In this verse Paul quotes a commonly used phrase that was understood by the people of Corinth – “All things are lawful.” More thought-for-thought translations read, “All things are permitted.” The phrase might have been coined by Paul himself in an earlier teaching about Christian liberty (Galatians 5:1-15). Paul loved to teach on his liberty in Christ. It was a sharp contrast to his life as a Pharisee extremist. But at some point, the Corinthian people did what they do best. They twisted its meaning to excuse their sinful lusts. When caught in the act of sinning, they were making it casual by replying with the words of Paul “All things are permitted.”
So Paul exposed it for its real meaning. It meant that where the Bible is silent, Christians are free to do what pleases them, but only as governed by godly principles. In other words, we are not free to sin while we enjoy life in Christ.
Some of these expedient pleasures can be a terrible obstacle for us. Since they are so convenient, they tend to feed our impatience. They make us more prone to do what is best for us rather than God and others.
A good example can be found in 1 Samuel 13:1-15. It is important to know what exactly is happening here. So let me set the back drop. In those times, the Bible was not yet completed. So people relied on God’s prophets for their revelation. Samuel was one of these prophets. Just three chapters before, Samuel gave King Saul some explicit directions. He said “go down before me to Gilgal; and surely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, til I come to you and show you what you should do” (1 Samuel 10:8). It was an exclusive job of the priests to offer sacrifices to God. And Saul was aware of that. So let’s see how the story pans out. We continue where King Saul arrives at Gilgal.
Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years.
Saul chose three thousand men from Israel; two thousand were with him at Micmash and in the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. The rest of the men he sent back to their homes.
Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul had the trumpet blown throughout the land and said, “Let the Hebrews hear!” So all Israel heard the news: “Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel has become a stench to the Philistines.” And the people were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.
The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Micmash, east of Beth Aven. When the men of Israel saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.
Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.
“What have you done?” asked Samuel.
Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”
“You acted foolishly,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.”
Then Samuel left Gilgal and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him. They numbered about six hundred.
The king was wrong to be impatient. Rather than doing as God had commanded him through His prophet, Saul took things into his own hands. He was impatient and scared. Rather than honoring God, he dishonored God and defaulted the Lord’s blessing. His kingdom was not going to endure. God had found another.
It is certainly not a sin to take the easier or more convenient way. In fact, these ways can be very helpful in serving God. But how can we navigate through the fog of gray areas in our decision making? We must always consider God’s will and pleasure before our convenience. As believers, we should be eagerly seeking and willing to honor God in our lives. In our decision making, one question to ask then is this: “Am I doing this because it is convenient or is there another way that I can do this and bring glory to God?”