Ep. 153 You Don’t Need a Verse for Everything You Do

Shows Main Idea – One of the big misconceptions that some Christians have about the Bible is that you need a verse or passage to justify everything they do. The Bible does not teach this idea. Typically, the believers will say something like, “Show me a verse that supports your idea.”

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Show Notes

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It is not possible or even wise to think you need a verse or passage to give you explicit directives or permission for all your decision-making. That perspective is a burden we should never place on the Bible or each other. There is a more biblical way to make decisions.

But first, here are a few decisions that the Bible will not give you a verse so you can be free do what you want to do.

  • Where should I eat today?
  • Should I marry this girl?
  • What church should I attend?
  • When is a good time to change the oil in my vehicle?
  • Should I exercise three times or zero times per week?
  • Should I witness to that person at the cash register?

As you can see, there are many life situations, opportunities, and decisions that you make every day of your life that the Bible does not speak to specifically. Regularly, folks write to me, asking to give them a verse for a particular conclusion that I have come to, and I have no verse because the Bible does not teach a “one verse per one decision” formulaic biblical decision-making process.

That type of formula is unwieldy, and it would require the Bible to be an impossible book to accommodate billions of people over thousands of years with trillions of big and small decisions that they make. In fact, it would not be a book any longer, but an ever-growing library to accommodate the decisions and the new things we encounter because prior generations never had to think about those things, i.e., Internet, space flight, and so-called global warming.

It is those who believe in the “one verse per one decision” formula who are susceptible to stretch a verse beyond its intended meaning. Or they have an idea that they want to support, so they find a verse to support their desire, even though the context of the passage does not support what they want to do. This process is called “reading into Scripture” or eisegesis.

Perhaps you’ve heard it said of the preacher: “He had an idea and then he went to the Bible to find a text to support his idea.” In nearly every situation like this, the preacher will take the verse out of context to support his previously arrived at conclusions. The irony is that he did not have to find a verse to support his idea if he understood how to come to conclusions biblically.

I had a pastor say, “If you can’t give me a verse for what you’re doing, don’t bother me.” His perspective made an excellent repeatable cliche, but it also tempted his followers to find verses to support their ideas because he foisted a mandate that you had to attach a verse to all their conclusions or actions. For example,

  • They used Proverbs 23:10-11 about not removing the old landmarks to support their view that the King James Bible was the only Bible anyone should read. “Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong; he will plead their cause against you.”
  • They pulled Deuteronomy 22:5 out to teach that a woman should never wear a pair of pants. “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.”

And there is a long list of “scripture abuse” because the zealous fundamentalists needed a verse to support his beliefs. And the prosperity gospel preacher does a similar thing when they grab passages from all over the Bible to support getting rich.

Then there is the tele-evangelists who manipulates his constituency so he can get rich quick. Of course, there are the “fleece droppers” and the “door openers” as they put out their fleeces and look for opened and closed doors.

Biblical decision-making does not mandate that you must have a verse for every action. And it indeed does not permit you to pull scriptures out of your “Bible hat” for misapplication because you want to bolster your conclusions with God’s Word.

Without question, there are a few directives in the Bible that are clear and unarguable, i.e., you can’t steal, kill, or commit adultery, and a few more, but virtually everything else you do in life falls under the “big umbrella of wisdom issues.”

Out of the thousands of people who have come to our site asking questions, we have responded to most of them with wisdom rather than telling them “the Bible says you must do this” because we don’t have a verse for their unique situation, nor do we feel pressure to come up with one.

Of course, there were times when we would say that you can’t get a divorce or abuse your spouse, but most of our advice came from reasoning, common sense, inferences, and wisdom drawn from the Bible. The Dutch theologian, Herman Bavinck, said it well when he wrote,

Scripture was not given to us in order that we should merely repeat its exact words in parrot-like fashion but in order that we should digest it in our own minds and express it in our own words.

That use was made of Scripture by Jesus and the apostles, who not only quoted the exact words of Scripture, but also by a process of reasoning arrived at inferences and conclusions based upon these words.

The Bible is neither a statute book nor a dogmatics-text but it is the source of theology. As Word of God, not only its exact words have binding authority but so have all conclusions that are properly derived from it.

Furthermore, neither study of Scripture nor theological activity is at all possible unless one uses terms that do not occur in the Bible. – Reformed Dogmatics Volume 2: God and Creation, by Herman Bavinck, Baker Academic, 2006, p. 296

If the Bible gave every answer to every question that we had, we would have no need for God or each other in our decision-making process, and that reality would tear away at our relational communities.

Decision-making is a collective work where the inquirer engages God, the Bible, and the community to discern the best direction to go or decision to make. The way that I teach our Mastermind students is the four-legged stool of decision-making.

  1. Canon – (Bible) What does the Bible say?
  2. Comforter – (Spirit) How is the Spirit illuminating your mind?
  3. Community – (Competent, Courageous, and Compassionate Friends) What are your friends saying?
  4. Conscience – What do you think you should do?

Errors in Decision-Making

  1. The “Bible dominant” approach can lead to all sorts of errors, as we have seen in church history.
  2. The “Spirit dominant” approach can lead to weird subjectivism that neglects or distorts Scripture.
  3. The “Community dominant” approach is how we get our cliques and cults.
  4. The “Conscience dominant” approach leads to distortions based on the shaping influences of the conscience.

These four “legs of the stool” balance each other so you can make the best possible decision “in faith.” (Cf. Romans 14:23) You won’t have perfect, 100 percent faith, especially on the more significant decisions in life, but you should have “predominate faith” for moving forward before you take that step.

Call to Action

  1. How do you know you’ve made the right decision?
  2. Which leg of the decision-making stool gives you the most trouble?
  3. Have you been so determined to do what you want to do that you’ve neglected the appropriate steps to decision-making?
  4. Are you teachable, which is affirmed by your willingness to subject your desires to others?
  5. Have you fallen for the “one verse, one decision” formula for your conclusions? Do you understand the traps of that process?
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