Whether we are talking about our finances or any other decision, how do we discern the will of God?
In the Compass Catholic classes and seminars, I teach the art of discerning how to make good and healthy decisions. There are 2,500 Scriptures that deal with money, wealth, and finances, but here is a “general” principle against which one can measure whether the wisdom is coming from God or from somewhere else.
In the Book of James, St. James says that people should be wise:
Are there any of you who are wise and understanding? You are to prove it by your good life, by your good deeds performed with humility and wisdom. But if in your heart you are jealous, bitter, and selfish, don’t sin against the truth by boasting of your wisdom. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven; it belongs to the world, it is unspiritual and demonic. Where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is also disorder and every kind of evil. But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy. And goodness is the harvest that is produced from the seeds the peacemakers plant in peace — James 3:13-18.
Let’s unpack this and see what God is telling us through our teacher, St. James. First, James says that if we are wise and understanding people, our lifestyle is proof of that. When he refers to the “good life,” he’s not talking about the worldly euphemism, “living the good life.” He is talking about a life lived in righteous living. Righteous living means we are seeking God’s will in our lives. So God is happy to provide understanding to us. He tells us our “good deeds” will be performed with humility and wisdom, not that we will be walking around telling people how good we are or how holy. But people will notice. Mother Teresa never had to toot her own horn. I also like Will Roger’s advice, “Live your life in such a way that you would not be afraid to sell your pet parrot to the town gossip.”
When we see rancor and arguing among politicians or others, we can compare that behavior against James’ teaching and see pretty clearly that it is selfish ambition. People who are continuingly telling you how good they are or how much they have done for the world, are really insecure persons trying to enhance themselves by boasting of their good deeds. A humble person’s deeds are usually told about by someone other than the person doing them.
James tells us how to discern if it is God talking to us through another person. He says God’s wisdom (that from above) is first pure. There is not self seeking involved, God can’t do that.
James also says the wisdom from God is peaceful, gentle, and friendly. Listen to what is being said to you. Do you feel peaceful about it? Is it gentle advice (not “you should” do this or that). Is it friendly? God is love. Love does not dictate; love cultivates.
Next, we see that God’s wisdom is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds. What do you know about your advisor’s reputation from others? Is this a person who loves people and uses things? Or one who loves things and uses people?
Next, we see godly wisdom is free of prejudice and hypocrisy. Jesus hated the hypocrisy he saw in the Pharisees. They told people to do one thing and did something else themselves. That is not integrity. One of the reasons for the success of so many 12 Step Programs is that they are simple, not based on people teaching other people, but on people talking heart to heart. “We share our experience, hope, and recovery…”
James gives us the consequences of this type of discernment: “ And goodness is the harvest that is produced from the seeds the peacemakers plant in peace.”
Next time you are approached by someone who wants you to make a decision, use these standards to make your decision. It will be a good one.
I use this verse often to make decisions, both personal and business. I celebrated my 50th Anniversary as a financial advisor this month, and by God’s grace, I have never been sued, reported to the Minnesota Insurance Department, or had my license challenged. Obedience is the key to a happy life.
“The best is yet to come…”