OPINION: The Bible is God’s instruction manual for life and its moral teaching is there for our good - David Butterfield

From time to time we all need to make decisions. Some are of little consequence, but others can be of great significance.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 4:49 pm
Waist-up shot of hesitant unsure attractive caucasian young man with bristle in glasses and blue shirt crossing hands on chest, pointing sideways as being doubtful what chose, looking right unsure.

It was the comedian Tommy Cooper who is said to have come out with the line, “I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure!”. So when we need to make an important decision, and especially one that has moral implications, what might we appeal to in order to justify our decision?

Some might say, “Everyone is doing it.” This is an appeal to culture and society in general. We might tell ourselves that if most people are doing it, it must be okay. However, there are enough examples from history where the passage of time has revealed that those who held the minority view were actually right.

Or we might say, “We’ve always done it.” This is an appeal to tradition. Yet before William Wilberforce’s slavery abolition act was passed by Parliament in 1833, slavery was a tradition! However, that didn’t make it right!

Or we might say, “It seemed the logical thing to do.” This is an appeal to reason which is obviously a far better guide than the previous two. Yet there are some decisions where two opposite courses of action could both be defended as being logical.

Or we might say, “It just felt right.” This is an appeal to emotion. People who have made a decision based on what they felt was right in the heat of the moment have often lived to regret it. We all know that our feelings can change dramatically over a short period of time.

So what about this one: “I followed the manufacturer’s instructions”.

When we buy a new piece of equipment, in our excitement to plug it in and see it work, we often don’t consult the instructions. I recall a former colleague of mine who would sometimes say in jest, “If all else fails, read the instruction manual!”.

Many people who would not call themselves Christians would agree that Jesus taught some very wise and sensible things about making decisions.

For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, he endorsed what is called the Golden Rule when he quoted from the Old Testament: “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” Or there’s his advice not to opt for the best seats at a wedding reception in case the host asks you to give up your seat for a more important guest!

Christians would, no doubt, agree that the Bible is God’s instruction manual for life and that the moral teaching it contains is there for our well-being and our good. So, next time we have to make a decision that has a moral implication we could follow the teaching of Scripture and justify our actions by saying, “I followed the maker’s instructions!” - and there’s no higher authority we can appeal to than that!