The Standard September 3, 2020
Have you ever observed part of an event or encounter where you drew a negative conclusion without knowing all the details? Have you ever seen circumstances line up which seemed impossible to be coincidental so you supposed a person or group intentionally tried to do something bad, only to find out that an unlikely chain of events indeed aligned and presented a false perception? It can be tempting to rush to judgment after seeing only a snapshot of a story. In a culture where speed is often a virtue, we can be pushed by voices around us to make hasty conclusions. We want fast delivery, fast service, fast food, fast results and fast facts. Waiting tries our patience. Again and again, we see leaders pressed for an immediate, public response to a situation well before most details have been ascertained. First impressions can be misleading, however. It is wise to avoid jumping to conclusions, and as James wrote, it is best not to speak in haste. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)
Discernment cautions us to wait for facts to emerge and then to assess them carefully. If we were not eyewitnesses to an event, we might never know what truly happened. Even eyewitnesses can give different impressions of what occurred and do not necessarily know someone’s motives. In the temple courts of Judea during the Feast of Tabernacles the Jewish crowd, some of whom were eyewitnesses to Jesus healing the sick, made false accusations against him. They obviously had a limited and faulty perspective. Jesus replied, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” (John 7:24)
The Book of Proverbs elaborates on life as a seeker of God’s wisdom. “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” (Proverbs 1:1-5)
“Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do no forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:5-7) “Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. ‘I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion.’” (Proverbs 8:10-12) “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10) “Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning. The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.” (Proverbs 10:13a, 14) “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18) May we be wise and circumspect in the way we draw conclusions and speak about the events and people around us.