The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
Proverbs 18:10
Before we spend some time talking about holding fast to what is good, there is another important part of this verse, which is to test everything. The word “test” has several connotations. The first thing that comes to mind for most of us is the kind of test we take at school; to examine what knowledge we have on a certain subject. The second thing that comes to mind is a medical test, where we are examined to determine what kind of health we are in. Another kind of test is when we test equipment, to make sure that it will work. For instance, before doing a speech or a concert, participants will test the microphones to make sure that they work. They will make sure the volume is adequate, the batteries (if used) are fresh, and that their voice can be heard everywhere in the room. If there is something wrong, if the microphone is not going to work as it is needed, adjustments are made before the show goes on.
We make many decisions each day. And most of those decisions are inconsequential. For instance, if we have a chicken sandwich or a cheeseburger for lunch, it doesn’t really matter. However, many decisions we make have consequences. Some of those consequences won’t matter in a few days. For instance, the choice to stay up late watching a movie and not getting enough sleep will make one sluggish the next day, and that’s about it. Of course, watching a movie and not studying for a test and failing it could have more long-lasting consequences. And some choices might matter for the rest of your life. For instance, the choice to drink and drive could result in the driver’s death, the death of someone else, or an arrest for drunk driving.
It is important that we “test” things we are about to do; to see how they might play out. Here are some questions to consider:
1.      Is it safe? Meaning, is there the potential for me or for someone else to get hurt? Most of us have a survival instinct that kicks in to keep us safe. Peer pressure, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol and inadequate sleep can inhibit us from answering this question correctly. What many of us don’t think on enough is does a particular situation or decision make someone else unsafe. Most of us learned in pre-school that “hands are for helping,” and “hands are not for hitting.” Just as most of us have a survival instinct for ourselves that kicks in to keep us safe, we should also work at cultivating a survival instinct that keeps others safe as well. If we are in a situation where someone is hurting someone else, there should be an innate instinct that motivates us to stop it. Because of peer pressure, and as some would call it, a “Lord of the Flies” mentality, we are sometimes slow to step in to prevent someone else from getting hurt.
2.      Is it smart? There are certain things that are safe, in the sense they won’t physically hurt us, but they are not smart, such as staying up until 4:00 a.m. and thinking one can function properly the next day.
3.      Is it in line with my character? We spend our lives building a resume and a reputation, which are shaped by our character. Unfortunately, it is very easy for one’s character and reputation to be destroyed by one mistake. Getting caught in a lie is a great way to do this. So is committing a criminal offense. Because everything we do now is so public, we have to be even more careful and vigilant in what we do. A good rule of thumb is don’t do or say anything you wouldn’t want to read on the front page of a newspaper.
4.      Does it honor God? As we’ve said before, we should test things not according to if they are moral (accepted by society) but if they are righteous (if they are right and true in the eyes of God).
5.      Does it get me closer to my goals? Pornography doesn’t get one closer to the goal of having a stable family. Neither does working too many hours. Overeating doesn’t contribute to one’s overall health (though an occasional feast probably doesn’t hurt). Many people don’t spend enough time setting and achieving goals so they don’t necessarily think of this “test” question. When we make concrete goals and commit ourselves to achieving them, it becomes easier to use this question to keep us focused on doing the right thing.
Just as we wouldn’t go on stage to give a speech without testing whether the microphone works, we shouldn’t make important (or even small) decisions without testing whether they are a good idea.
Lord, thank You for the gift of this day, and for the many opportunities it will bring. Along with opportunities, this day will bring many choices to me. Help me choose what is safe, to not only stay safe myself but to help others stay safe. Help me to make choices that are smart, and think through my choices before I make decisions. Help me to not bend to pressure to be someone that I am not or to do something that is not in line with my values. Help me to make decisions that will bring me closer to my goals. Most important, help me to make decisions today that will honor You. Amen.
Evaluate your choices today using these five test questions: Is it safe? Is it smart? Is it in line with my character? Does it honor God? Does it get me closer to my goals?