When making decisions that can have a longterm impact on your life it is helpful to create distinctions. I have found it of utility to look at these decisions from legal, ethical (2), and prudential distinctions. Furthermore, I have found it helpful to have a heuristic (i.e., a thumb-rule) to provide consistency in decision-making resolution.
I. Legal - Will it violate God's Law as delineated in the Ten Commandments? (1) Will it violate man's law (Romans 13:1-4)? (3)
If it is against the law, then do not do that thing!
II. Ethical - Will it violate my personnel ethics? Will it violate the ethics policy of my employer?
For our personal ethics, I like to remember WWJD! Christians began wearing bracelets with the acronym for "What would Jesus do?" (i.e., WWJD) in the 1990s as a reminder to attempt to act in a way that personifies Jesus' teachings from the Gospels. The implication was that you are to conscientiously determine, based on your study of the Holy Scriptures and aided by the Holy Spirit, what Jesus would do in your situation and do that thing!
If Jesus would not do it, then do not do that thing!
III. Prudential - Is it the wise thing to do? If my decision was on Twitter would it have the appearance of doing the right thing or cause others to stumble (Romans 14:1-23)
What about those decisions that pass the legal and WWJD test? What was the guiding heuristic for Jesus as He walked the Earth as the Son of Man? Jesus ever lives to bring glory to His and our Heavenly Father!
When Jesus had finished saying these things, he looked upward to heaven and said, "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that your Son may glorify you– (John 17:1 NET)
that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. (John 17:21 NET)
I knew that you always listen to me, but I said this for the sake of the crowd standing around here, that they may believe that you sent me." (John 11:42 NET)
So Jesus answered them, "I tell you the solemn truth, the Son can do nothing on his own initiative, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. (John 5:19 NET)
Then Jesus said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak just what the Father taught me. (John 8:28 NET)
I can do nothing on my own initiative. Just as I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of the one who sent me. (John 5:30 NET)
Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." (John 12:28 NET)
Therefore, I am proposing a new heuristic which is actually not new at all! What Does God Get (WDGG)? That is, what is in it for God? Again, What Does God Get out of it? Is Jesus glorified in our lives in the power of the Holy Spirit resulting in God the Father being glorified (1) as a result of my decision? (Philippians 1:9-11)
Realize one reason we stay on Earth after being saved is to show forth our Heavenly Father’s glory (1) (2 Corinthians 4:7). Our Heavenly Father is glorified by the revelation of His Son in our lives by the Holy Spirit (1) (Matthew 5:16. John 8:12). The revelation of Jesus shows the world that He was God’s Son who died and now lives resulting in their salvation (2 Corinthians 3:3). Our Heavenly Father is glorified through our verbal and nonverbal (i.e., our actions) confession of Jesus’ Lordship (Philippians 2:10). When the world sees Jesus, they will see the Heavenly Father (Hebrews 1:1. John 14:9). They will then realize that He is for them and not against them (Romans 8:33-39). That Satan has lied to them about God (John 8:44). That Jesus came to save the world (1) and not to condemn it (John 3:16-18).
If through the power of the Holy Spirit it does not bring glory to Jesus resulting in God our Father being glorified, then do not do that thing!
If we fail to distinguish between legal, ethical, and prudential dimensions it will result in confusing and complicated decision making. For example, we often characterize emotionally charged prudential decisions as ethical ones thus we inadvertently complicate the process of decision making. Furthermore, learning to hear from God (1) through His word, our spirit, and other seasoned Saints is vital to GOoD (4) decision making. If you earnestly seek His wisdom (1) you will find it. However, making the correct decision does not guarantee that all suffering (1) will be avoided.
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(1) Left-click on the underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.
(2) Ethics refers to behavior considered right or wrong according to our beliefs independent of the culture or society. Moral refers to behavior customary in our culture or society.
(3) With the caveat that if man's law violates God's law then we default to God's law. (Matthew 22:21. Acts 4:19. Acts 5:29)
(4) GOoD - the odd capitalization is used to remind that there is no one good but God alone (Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19).