How to make godly decisions on gray-area issues

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Bible was neatly indexed to the issues of your life? It’d be great if you could turn to the right page and find out exactly what you’re supposed to do in every circumstance.

Some things are black-and-white issues. Murder, adultery, and idolatry are always bad. Loving others, honoring authority, and praising God are always good. Other issues aren’t so black and white. And the Bible doesn’t always have clear-cut answers to those sorts of things. We might call them gray-area issues. I’ve found that when faced with gray-area issues, it’s important to not look for the easy answer or the answer I want. It’s also important to look at all the different guidance the Bible gives that pertains to that issue. Letting all biblical guidance shape gray-area decisions is the best way to make them godly decisions.

I’ll give you an example from the Bible. You know Joseph, Mary’s husband? One day his fiancée tells him she’s pregnant. (They were technically married in their culture but weren’t living together yet.) The baby is definitely not his. He’s devastated. What should he do? Move forward with marriage plans? Divorce her? Tell the authorities (adultery was a crime in their country) and have her stoned to death? Try to cover it up?

Joseph loved God and wanted to make a careful, godly decision that would honor his Lord. So he weighed all the biblical guidance. Love Mary. Recognize adultery as wrong. Protect her reputation. Stand up for God’s Word and the truth. Then “because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19). Joseph tried to let all biblical truth guide him as he made his decision to divorce Mary quietly.

I’ll give you an example of something people often wrestle with today: family planning. Should you have kids? How many? How long should you wait before trying for the first child? Should you use birth control?

Well, the Bible doesn’t give specific answers to those questions, but it does give a lot of guidance on the matter, and all the guidance is important in making the decision. Children are some of the greatest blessings from God. God wants us to trust in him and not worry about money and providing for our relatives. God also wants us to be serious about being able to provide for our families. Human life begins at conception, and to end the life of the unborn is murder. Husbands ought to be concerned about the health and well-being of their wives.

When we love God, we want to make careful, godly decisions that will honor him.  What God wants to see more than anything is that we take his Word seriously and think more about him than ourselves when weighing our options. It’s not just finances. It’s not just that children are a precious gift. It’s not just the parents’ mental and physical health. It’s everything the Bible says about parenting, finances, and family.

Joseph considered all the guidance God offers. Then “after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him [to tell him it was a miraculous conception and Mary really had been faithful to him] (Matthew 1:20). If God told him what to do ahead of time, he would have missed out on the process of wrestling with all the Bible says as he tried to make a decision that would honor God the most.

Maybe there’s a reason we don’t have Bibles neatly indexed to all the issues of our lives so we can quickly get the answers we want. Even more important than the decision is the way we wrestle with the issues. It forces us to get back into the Bible—all of it—and say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” It gives God the most glory when we listen to everything he says and consider it all before moving forward. It’s much harder this way, and it sometimes leads genuine believers to come to different conclusions in their own lives. But the process is so worth it. Whether it’s deciding if you should take the promotion, attend a less-than-God-pleasing wedding, or accept yet another volunteer position, letting all biblical guidance shape gray-area decisions is the best way to make them godly decisions.

Kurt Wetzel is a pastor at Cross of Christ Church in Boise, Idaho. He, his wife, and their three children enjoy hiking, the zoo, puzzles, and music. They’re excited to be starting a multisite congregation and reaching new people with the wonderful grace of Jesus.