Searching for the Bible Principles
“DECISIONS, decisions, decisions!” Have you recently uttered such words about the daily necessity of making decisions? Young or old, male or female, you regularly have to weigh the facts or factors in a situation and come to a conclusion, making a decision. Sometimes it is only a decision involving a minor adjustment in your speed or activity as you move down the road of life. At other times you face a major fork in the road and need to make a decision that will have a long-range effect on your life. In either case, on what is your decision based? Do you search out the Bible principles that apply and use these as a guide?
It is easy to see why many persons have difficulty when trying to make wise decisions. What do they have for a guide? They might try to employ a form of human logic, such as taking a human proverb or experience and using it as a guide to draw a conclusion about their particular problem. But how valid is the proverb? Or is the experience one that will really lead to a reliable conclusion in this situation? If such are faulty, then the decision is likely to be faulty too. When one’s decisions often lead to unhappy results, how understandable the refrain, “Decisions, decisions, decisions.”
Thankful we can be that Christians are not left in the lurch like that when it comes to making decisions. We have a guide. ‘Ah,’ you may think, ‘we have the Bible as a rule book, and all we have to do is to look up the rule or law that applies.’ Yes . . . and no. It is true that there are a number of laws in the Bible that apply to Christians, such as those against murder, stealing and idolatry. (1 Pet. 4:15; 1 Cor. 10:14) On decisions involving conduct that is plainly either right or wrong from a Biblical standpoint, the Bible is a useful rule book. But most of the decisions we face in daily life seemingly do not involve such clear-cut issues; they are not either black or white, as it were, but, rather, they fall into a gray area.
At such times Bible principles can come to our rescue. Usually Bible principles come to one’s rescue because one prepared oneself in advance by learning these eternal principles, as a swimmer might put on an inflatable life preserver. Thus principles learned in advance are ready for use when needed, when a decision is necessary.
The principles in God’s Word can be said to be eternal, since they do not pass away or become outdated. As English historian, Sir John Seeley, commented: “Principles last forever; but special rules pass away with the things and conditions to which they refer.” So, Jehovah does not require Christians to learn an endless Talmud of rules designed to cover every situation that might occur. Instead, he wisely provided a limited number of basic laws that Christians must obey, and gave some general principles that can be used for guidance in many situations, situations that occur in your daily life.—Ps. 119:129.
These principles are divine and perfect. They do not come from imperfect human reasoning, but from the all-wise and perfect Creator. As our Creator, is it not reasonable that he would know the best principles for the efficient and happy operation of the human mechanism? Of course! In addition, he has observed the experiences of thousands of millions of imperfect humans. So, obviously he is in the best position to supply principles for the proper guiding of our lives. It is just as the writer who received a gift of special wisdom from Jehovah wrote: “In all your ways take notice of [Jehovah], and he himself will make your paths straight.” (Prov. 3:6) Or as his father said: “I have placed Jehovah in front of me constantly. Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be made to totter.”—Ps. 16:8.
FINDING THE PRINCIPLES
But you may be wondering just how one goes about finding these valuable principles. They are in the Bible, so a knowledge of God’s Word is vital. A Bible principle is a settled guide for conduct; hence when reading the Bible we should be on the lookout for such principles, putting on the life preserver, as it were, that can be used in the future. The more of these we know, the more stable we will be and the less likely it is that we will make unwise decisions. A brief illustration of how to locate and apply such principles will be helpful.
In reading the restatement of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy, chapter five, we find these words in De 5 verse nine: “You must not bow down to [carved images] . . . , because I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion.” This law against idolatry is based on the general principle that Jehovah demands exclusive devotion. That is the principle we want to consider. But does it seem too general? Would you have a hard time knowing how and when to apply it?
Jesus illustrated an application of this general principle. As the last of three temptations, Satan said to Jesus Christ: “All these things [the kingdoms of the world and their glory] I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me.” In reply Jesus said: “Go away, Satan! For it is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.”’ (Matt. 4:9, 10) Now, there was no specific law in the Hebrew Scriptures saying, ‘If Satan tries to tempt you, you must not worship him.’ But by applying the principle of giving exclusive devotion to Jehovah, Jesus made a proper decision. Also, this protected him from actually breaking a law, since worshiping Satan would have been making him a god, and the Law said: “You must not have any other gods against my face.”—Ex. 20:3; Isa. 44:8.
This same general principle might be used in many situations today. For example, what if you were invited to attend some function at which there would be a false religious ceremony? There may be no Bible rule forbidding attendance at the function, so you would have to make a personal decision on the basis of principles that apply. Would you weigh this principle of giving exclusive devotion to Jehovah? Just being present when the false religious ceremony was going on would not necessarily make you a false worshiper, but would embarrassment at being different lead you to kneel before an image or a cross with the rest? That would be breaking the Biblical law forbidding idolatry. (1 John 5:21) Will the others attending conclude that your presence indicates that you have abandoned exclusive worship of Jehovah and started worshiping their trinitarian god? These are questions that the principle should suggest.
Another point that might be made in connection with this example is that usually quite a few principles might have a bearing on the decision. A Justice of the United States Supreme Court once said: “There is hardly a question of any real difficulty before the Court that does not entail more than one so-called principle. Anybody can decide a question if only a single principle is in controversy.” In this example associated principles might be: Do not stumble others needlessly. (Phil. 1:10) Do what is truly loving for your relatives and friends. (Matt. 22:39) If a wife or children are involved, there is the principle of subjection, to husband or to parents. (Col. 3:18, 20) Avoid bad associations; they spoil useful habits.—1 Cor. 15:33.
By searching for as many principles as might apply, you have a greater likelihood of making a decision that is truly in line with the guidance provided by God. The broad principles of loving God and neighbor do cover all situations (Rom. 13:8; Mark 12:29-31), but if you can find ones of more direct application to your problem, it should be easier to make a wise decision.
EFFECT OF PROGRESS TOWARD MATURITY
As a Christian increases in knowledge of God’s Word and advances toward spiritual maturity, he will know more principles that have a bearing on the decisions to be made. Also, he will let these have a greater influence on his life. Thus, with matters that must be decided personally, not all will reach the same conclusions, because Christians vary in the progress to maturity that they have made. The apostle Paul indicated that this was true in his day by writing, “Let us, . . . as many of us as are mature, be of this mental attitude,” and, “Let us press on to maturity.”—Phil. 3:15, 16; Heb. 6:1.
If one takes into consideration only a few Bible principles and allows these to have only a minor influence on his decisions, that does not mean that he is not a Christian. But an unwise decision could reflect a need for assistance in growing in spirituality and knowledge of Jehovah’s eternal principles.—Ps. 86:11.
While a mature Christian might help a newer one to locate Bible principles that bear on a decision the latter has to make,* usually a person must, in the end, make his own decision. The apostle Paul wrote: “Each one will carry his own load.” (Gal. 6:5) Hence, experience in looking for and applying Bible principles will make it easier for you to ‘carry your own load’ in making decisions that are your responsibility, ones no one else can make for you.
Would you like to have some practice in doing that? You will find below a list of situations or problems. Let us assume that you have to make the decision in each case, or that you are asked to help someone see the principles that apply so he can decide for himself. Read one of the problems, and then try to determine the principles involved. You may want to get out a piece of paper and list the principles that come to mind and the Bible verses where they can be found. Or you may want to select one problem each day and discuss it with your family after dinner. Possibly a group of Christians traveling together could discuss them; that would be most upbuilding conversation. (Mal. 3:16) With these as a pattern, some may want to propose other problems and then let the group search for related principles; this would be a beneficial activity at a Christian gathering.
In smaller type below the problems, are presented some principles that are involved. These are not all the principles that apply. You may be able to think of others. If so, fine! Remember, though, that these are just given for training; in such matters a personal decision must be made by those facing the issues. So do not try to determine the “answer,” as if you were deciding what others must do. If the practice helps you to see how you would make a wise decision if you were faced with such an issue, very good. Another person may not have made as much progress as you have, or he may have made more, so he might come to a different conclusion as to what he would do.
This practice in searching for Bible principles should help all Christians as they make decisions in life, as they are “filled with the accurate knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual discernment, in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him.”—Col. 1:9, 10.
1. Is it wise to join a school or office sports team?
Your associates can have a good or a bad effect on you. (Prov. 13:20) Will it involve time that should be spent with your family or in theocratic activity? (Eph. 5:15, 16) Physical training is of limited value. (1 Tim. 4:8) It is wise to avoid the fierce competitive spirit of the world. (Gal. 5:26) Could it involve one in nationalistic ceremonies? (1 Cor. 10:14; Dan. 3:18) Parents are to make the decisions for minor children. (Prov. 22:6; 23:22)
2. Would it be wise to accept a promotion on my secular job?
A husband is responsible to provide materially for those in his care. (1 Tim. 5:8) Materialistic desire for luxuries can lead one away from the faith. (1 Tim. 6:10; Mark 4:18, 19) Jehovah will provide the necessities for those trusting in him. (1 Tim. 6:8; Matt. 6:11, 31-34) Will it interfere with your service to God? (Col. 4:5; Heb. 11:24-26)
3. May a Christian go to the theater to see a popular motion picture?
God’s people shun entertainment that encourages immoral desires or a love of the world. (2 Tim. 2:22; 1 John 2:15-17; Rom. 12:9) We should seek association and entertainment that upbuild and encourage right conduct. (Phil. 4:8; Ps. 119:63) Will others who see you attend be stumbled? (Phil. 2:4; 1 Cor. 10:32, 33)
4. Should I permit my son or daughter to go out on a date with a person of another religion?
As head of the household, the husband is responsible to make the final decision. (Eph. 5:22; 6:4) Association with false worshipers should be avoided. (2 Cor. 6:16, 17; Ps. 106:35, 36) Might it lead to a marriage to an unbeliever? (Deut. 7:3, 4; Neh. 13:25, 26; 1 Cor. 7:39) Parents should protect the moral integrity of their children. (Gen. 34:1, 2; Prov. 5:1-4) Children can show respect for Jehovah’s arrangement of things by being obedient to their parents. (Eph. 6:1)
5. Is it all right to wear the short “miniskirts” that are currently in style?
Female adornment should be modest. (1 Tim. 2:9, 10) A Christian wife is to be in subjection to her husband; a minor daughter is to be obedient to her father. (Col. 3:18, 20) Christians do not seek to imitate the world, but set an example of goodness. (1 Pet. 4:4; Eph. 5:9-12; 1 Cor. 10:31) We need to shun anything that would cause stumbling or would detract from our ministry. (2 Cor. 6:3, 4; 1 Cor. 13:4, 5)
6. Is it compatible with Christian principles to go hunting or fishing?
Animals may be killed for food. (Gen. 9:3) True worshipers may obtain food by fishing. (John 21:6-13; Luke 24:42, 43) While man has dominion over animals, he should not deal cruelly with them. (Gen. 1:28; Prov. 12:10) We should avoid the bloodthirsty spirit of Nimrod, killing just for sport. (Gen. 10:9)
7. Is it proper for a Christian wife to go to a “nightclub” with her unbelieving husband?
Christian wives are to be in subjection to their husbands. (Titus 2:5) If a mature Christian visits a place with a bad reputation, it might wound the conscience of a weak one. (1 Cor. 8:10-13) Christians do not seek to be present where shameful conduct or speech is common. (Eph. 5:3-5) God’s servants seek to maintain a clear conscience before Jehovah. (1 Pet. 3:16, 21)
He might direct attention, for example, to the heading “Decisions” in “Make Sure of All Things; Hold Fast to What Is Fine.”