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Bible Answers for: Decision-Making
One of the benefits of studying the Bible is helping us make godly choices—particularly when it comes to our spiritual lives. But the wise principles given in the Bible can help us in making good decisions in every area of life. Some decisions have a clear right and wrong choice, but for those decisions with an array of options, understanding biblical principles can help us identify and choose the best ones.
Indecision and inaction can sometimes be worse than a less-than-perfect solution—as long as it does not violate biblical principles.
We hope this study will give you practical and helpful information you can use every day. We wish you the best in all your decision-making!
We face constant decisions
We face decisions every day. How can we determine the best choices to make—especially in the big decisions and those that seemingly have no clear answer?
It’s interesting to consider the decisions Abram (later called Abraham) and Lot made in a conflict situation and the outcomes of those decisions. The story is told in Genesis 13:5-15 (New Living Translation, 1996):
“Now Lot, who was traveling with Abram, was also very wealthy with sheep, cattle, and many tents. But the land could not support both Abram and Lot with all their flocks and herds living so close together. There were too many animals for the available pastureland. So an argument broke out between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot. At that time Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land.
“Then Abram talked it over with Lot. ‘This arguing between our herdsmen has got to stop,’ he said. ‘After all, we are close relatives! I’ll tell you what we’ll do. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want that area over there, then I’ll stay here. If you want to stay in this area, then I’ll move on to another place.’
“Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord or the beautiful land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)
“Lot chose that land for himself—the Jordan Valley to the east of them. He went there with his flocks and servants and parted company with his uncle Abram. So while Abram stayed in the land of Canaan, Lot moved his tents to a place near Sodom, among the cities of the plain. The people of this area were unusually wicked and sinned greatly against the Lord.
“After Lot was gone, the Lord said to Abram, ‘Look as far as you can see in every direction. I am going to give all this land to you and your offspring as a permanent possession.’”
There’s more to this story, of course. But it is interesting to note that God blessed Abram’s generous decision for peace. Lot, on the other hand, chose the fertile land around Sodom—apparently thinking he wouldn’t be influenced by the corrupt and sinful Sodom. But he was wrong.
What does the Bible say about decision-making?
The Bible is especially designed to help us make the most important decision—the decision to repent, change and follow Jesus Christ for the rest of our lives (Acts 2:38; 1 John 2:6). God tells us to put Him first, to obey Him and thus choose eternal life and blessings (Matthew 6:33; Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
All other decisions in life should contribute toward that ultimate decision and goal. We must avoid decisions that will detract from putting God and His righteousness first in our life.
But not every decision is a choice of good versus evil. Many of our daily decisions have multiple acceptable options. Some of our biggest decisions also have a variety of possible choices, like what career to pursue, whom to marry and where to live. But the Bible also gives us principles that can help us identify and choose the best options. Let’s explore biblical wisdom to find some of those keys.
What is the starting point in finding wisdom?
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).
“So that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:2-6).
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
When we understand how great God is and see how small we are, we will grow in a proper reverence and fear of God. That leads us to ask for His guidance and to study His Bible to grow not just in knowledge but in understanding of underlying principles. Meditating on and applying that biblical knowledge and understanding with God’s Spirit leads to godly wisdom.
So we seek wisdom when we fear God, pray for His help and study His Bible to find principles that apply to the decisions we face.
How else does the Bible tell us to seek wisdom?
“Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).
Trusted experts and wise individuals, especially those who are older and more experienced than us, can be a good source of advice. Other people may see our problem from a different angle than we would, allowing them to provide possible solutions we might not see.
How should we approach defining and understanding the problem—the decision we face?
“A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished” (Proverbs 22:3).
“He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13).
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
A wise person carefully looks ahead to the end, trying to foresee the likely long-term consequences, before making a decision on which course to follow.
For an important decision, we must invest the time to get the facts, to examine the situation more than superficially to clearly define the problem, and to consider the ramifications. When we are able to accurately state the problem or opportunity, we will be able to see the shape of the ideal solution more clearly.
But determining how to get to that ideal solution can still be challenging. Brainstorm for possible options and include the advice of the counselors you are consulting.
So we end this phase of decision-making with a clearly stated problem and a list of possible solutions to choose from.
How should we make our decision?
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’” (Luke 14:28-30).
If a possible solution requires disobeying a biblical instruction or principle, delete that option from your list. Then compare the remaining options with positive biblical principles and instructions, wise advice from others, the likelihood of success and the effects your decision will have on others. Carefully weigh the pros and cons and “count the cost.”
If the decision is still not clear, you may need to repeat some of the fact-finding, brainstorming and wisdom-seeking steps. In the end, if there are two or more options that seem equally good, you may have to—again asking God to guide you—just decide and then act on your decision. Indecision and inaction can sometimes be worse than a less-than-perfect solution (as long as it does not violate biblical principles).
When we strive to seek God’s wisdom and follow biblical principles, we can entrust our decisions and the worries that may accompany them to Him (Proverbs 3:5-6; Matthew 6:33-34).
Apply these steps to a decision you are facing now. Writing things out on paper can be helpful in clarifying issues when you face a complex or challenging problem. Put these steps into practice with every significant decision, and enjoy the peace of mind that follows!