How do you decide if a thing is right or good? I was thinking of ways I’ve heard people reason on this whole topic and what led them to a decision. I’ve heard folks say many times and may even have said it myself along the way that something must be right since it is such a great success. Other variations of this same idea is that if something is growing it must be right and God must be blessing it. This is especially true if one is talking about a church, or church ministry or even a preacher. I’ve even heard folks justify that reasoning by saying if a thing is fruitful, it must be something God is happy with and is blessing since God is the one who gives the increase. I’ve heard many say that the way they know a thing is right or good is by how it makes them feel. It is the old song of this can’t be wrong since it feels so right. So, how do you make such a decision?
May I suggest first of all that success doesn’t prove a thing is right at all. Some of the most successful endeavors in all societies have been ones that sell or promote pornography, drug abuse or even prostitution. As certain as the Bible is true and can be trusted all these things are immoral, ungodly and just plain wrong. Yet they are successful and prosperous. Think of Jesus’ assessment of people finding the right way to live for God in Matthew 7:13-14. He said to strive to enter the narrow gate, for narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life and there are few who find it, but wide is the gate and easy is the way that leads to condemnation and many go in that way. Jesus knew all along that Christianity wasn’t going to be the majority way of life. Most have never been willing to put their faith in God and live the life He demands of us. If the majority or the size of the crowd had been the way to judge the effectiveness of Noah’s work he would have failed miserably. He, in a 120 year span of time was only able to reach his wife, three sons and their wives. He certainly didn’t have a mega-church to preach to each Sunday but he was a preacher of righteousness who saved his house and was described by God as one of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. For the Christian and the church we should be more concerned with God’s opinion of our work than in how many people is drawn to it.
What about determining whether a thing is right and good by how it makes us feel? Can a thing feel right and be completely wrong? Jeremiah certainly thought that one can feel good about a thing and it be completely wrong and that one might feel bad about a thing and it be completely right. The people of Judah were happy with themselves and their worship to God because they had the temple of God and didn’t believe that God would allow them to go into captivity when they had the temple of the Lord. To them it felt right to be there and to worship in the temple. In their minds they were doing right even though they were worshiping idols and committing all kinds of immorality. They looked at it in the way that they were, even in their most sinful behavior better than any of the nations around them that didn’t believe in God at all. By comparison they were good. They were convinced that God was accepting them and they had nothing to be ashamed of. Yet God sent Jeremiah to them to tell them they needed to “Stand in the ways and to see and ask for the old paths where is the good way and walk in it.” But their cry was “We will not walk in it.”
Right deeds can become wrong when done from wrong motives and wrong attitudes. But wrong deeds don’t become right even when our motives are pure and our attitude is wonderful. So how do we decide if a thing is good or bad, right or wrong, godly or godless? Here are some questions that should help one decide. What does the Bible say on the subject? If it doesn’t mention the particular thing at all, then ask, are there Biblical principles that apply to this situation or question? What will doing this particular thing do to my influence or reputation? How will my actions affect the weaker person who might be watching what I do. How will this action affect my family? I’ve had many people try to justify an affair by how right it seemed to them and how much they felt God was blessing it. But it usually means tremendous harm to the marriage and the children who watch their family and security come unglued. When a person can’t see beyond their personal satisfaction to think of their own children and what something will do to them you can bet that selfishness has taken over and their children will suffer.
It is vital that we develop right standards by which to determine what is good and right and pleasing to God and what isn’t. If we don’t we will constantly jump from one bandwagon to the next and never be sure we are right with the Lord.