Home > Living Well > Living Well 3: Wise Thoughts and Foolish Behavior

Living Well 3: Wise Thoughts and Foolish Behavior

We have an amazing ability to fool ourselves into thinking we’re a lot better than we actually are. I see it all the time, not just in others, but in myself. People generally know the right thing to do. Some situations can become pretty ethically complex, and figuring out just what is right becomes pretty difficult. But in the majority of situations people know what the right thing to do is. When it comes to following God, the Scriptures provide us with so many principles and exhortations to act in particular ways that are in accordance with the will of God (and so lead to life).

The problem is typically not that we don’t know, but that we don’t do. Most of us want to be good, and for those that claim Christ as Lord, they want to follow Him with their lives. Desire isn’t the problem either. When it comes to hypothetical situations, a good portion of people would say that they would act in a way that was honoring to God. If our Master Jesus Himself came to us and made a request of us, most of us would say “Yes” without hesitation; however, even when we have said, “yes” to God and know what we would do in a hypothetical situation, when reality hits and we are in the thick of life with a lot of conflicting wants and felt needs, we so often don’t do what we said and thought that we would do.

Jesus tells us an illustrative parable remarking on something quite similar.
“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. De went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

Isn’t it obvious? Picture yourself as the father. Although it would be disappointing to have your son reject you and speak disobediently, all would be easily relationally remedied if the son then showed his regret of his vocal disobedience by acting in obedience. The other son’s words would be welcome at first, but when it was found that the other son didn’t follow through, the words would be meaningless lies because of the disconnect between what the son said he would do and what he actually did. Actions speak sometimes what words alone cannot. Words are important, but have no foundation without a life that reflects those words.

Scripture often links loving God with obeying God. This is quite sensible. You don’t love someone by talking nice about them, nice to them, thanking them for what they’ve done, and then living a life that dishonors that person. That’s not love. You don’t love someone by telling them you care about them and having strong feelings for them, but then acting in ways that hurt them. That’s not love. Love toward God includes words and feelings, but is primarily founded on a life that reflects those words and feelings, driven by a heart that truly wants to actively love God.

Sometimes, like those that Jesus told his parable to, we think that because we know what the right thing to do is and because we, truly, most of the time want to do that right thing, that then we are good, healthy, wise, loving, and obedient people. Words and action are not the same though. Having a deep understanding of right and wrong, good and evil, God’s way and the way of sin, doesn’t mean a whole lot without a life lived according to these realities. James puts it this way: Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him or her show it by his/her good life; by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. He doesn’t say to show it by good advice, articulate thoughts, demonstrating knowledge, or reciting Scripture. Wise living proves wisdom. Righteous living proves right beliefs. Goodness proves that one understands what good is.

Join me. Let us never be content with having knowledge, wisdom, or understanding alone. Demonstrate your comprehension of these things with your behavior. Living well necessitates thinking well, but thinking well is not adequate. Live a life of love toward God and others. Let us get rid of any disconnect between our wise thoughts and our foolish behavior. Let what we would do in a hypothetical situation be what we actually do in a real life circumstance. The more we do this, the closer we become to being who we want to be: people that live well.

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  1. Anonymous
    July 9, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    I really appreciated this post.

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