Biblical principles to determine right actions from wrong

Direct commands

The following are examples of direct commands. These are the things we don’t even need to pray about or ask whether it would please God because God has made it very clear in His word.

(1 Th 5:16-18 NIV)  Be joyful always; {17} pray continually; {18} give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

(Exo 20:3-17 NIV)  “You shall have no other gods before me. {4} “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. {5} You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, {6} but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. {7} “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. {8} “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. {9} Six days you shall labor and do all your work, {10} but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. {11} For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. {12} “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. {13} “You shall not murder. {14} “You shall not commit adultery. {15} “You shall not steal. {16} “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. {17} “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Apply biblical principles

Some cases are not as clear-cut. For example, should I take on this job? Should I marry this person? Should I enter into a business relationship with this person? In such cases, we do not have direct Bible verses but we do have biblical principles to help us to come to a conclusion.

Is it beneficial to you?

(1 Cor 6:12 NIV)  “Everything is permissible for me”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything.

Something may not be a sin in itself but if you do it, it will not please God if it is not beneficial to you.

For example, you may be contemplating going for higher studies. If such an action is not beneficial for you, it will not please God if you do it.

Does it exert control over you?

(1 Cor 6:12 NIV)  “Everything is permissible for me”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything.

This same verse teaches us a second principle. If something masters or exerts controls over us, that thing does not please God. This is because only God should have mastery over us. Anything else other than God that masters us becomes an idol in our life.

For example, playing tennis in itself is not wrong. But if you are so engrossed by the sport that you cannot not play, or you indulge in it excessively, it has already mastered you. In this case, it does not please God.

Is it in the best interest of others?

(1 Cor 8:9-13 NIV)  Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. {10} For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? …{13} Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

Eating meat offered to idols in itself is not a sin. However, if someone sees you doing that and his faith is stumbled, it becomes wrong for you to do it in his presence.

It is important that what we do does not cause others to stumble but we can go beyond that. Is what we are doing in the best interest of others?

(1 Cor 10:23-24 NIV)  “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive. {24} Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

Perhaps you are considering taking up a new hobby? Is what you are doing in the best interest of your family? Will what you do cause you to have too little time for them?

Are godly people in agreement with what you are doing?

(Prov 12:15 NIV)  The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.

(Prov 19:20 NIV)  Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.

When the Bible does not give specific advise on a particular situation, God may use other godly people to give you advice. If you decide to do something but it is met with much negativism from other godly people, you should reconsider your decision.

Do you have the peace of God?

(John 16:8 NIV)  When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.

One of the functions of the Holy Spirit is that He will convict us of wrong things we have done. If we have done something that is not in accordance with God’s will, the Holy Spirit will convict us and create a sense of “uneasiness” in us. That is one way we can know whether what are doing is right or not.

Is it done with the right motives?

(Psa 139:23-24 NIV)  Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. {24} See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

It is possible to do the right thing with wrong motives. For example, you may apprehend a Christian brother and point out an area of wrong in his life. Is what you are doing right?

It depends on what your motives are. If you want to point out his wrong to tear him down, then it is wrong. But if your intention is to build him up and help him to correct his weakness, then it is the right thing to do.