Faith…and Common Sense
Question: Where does faith leave off and common sense take over?
When does a true Christ-follower come to grips with reality and make decisions based upon common sense rather than on a “leap of faith” into the unknown, or a “wild shot in the dark”, hoping to somehow hit the will of God?
I suspect that question has long been an enigma for anyone who struggles with walking with the Lord on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis. I know it has for me.
Many years ago, while still in seminary, I was faced with a decision which forced me to answer that initial question right from the start.
One of the requirements for my major was to spend one summer working in a “real” church setting, to get outside of the classroom and spend time with real people doing real things in a real church and gaining all sorts of practical experience in the “real” world of actual ministry.
In the springtime of my next-to-last year of school, I went through the interview process with several churches, much like the process I would go through again a year later when examining where we would move to and minister permanently.
After interviewing with a pastor about being an intern in a church 300 miles away from our home near the seminary, we were offered a summer position there, along with a salary package, which by all accounts was not enough to pay for the expected summer expenses, let alone the expenses for even one semester of my final year in seminary.
That is when I called up a trusted adviser and friend and dealt with the question with which I began this article.
You see, common sense told me that the pay for this internship was not enough to justify giving up our jobs (for me a part-time, but well-paying, position as a computer analyst; for my wife, a full-time position which she dearly loved), sub-leasing our apartment, moving to a strange city where we could not predict the costs for renting an apartment, let alone the expenses of just “living”, and then hoping to earn enough through the summer to pay for at least one of the two semesters of my final year in seminary.
I had always felt that God had given me a brain to use and that I should indeed use it for our good and His glory. Using my brain in thinking through the pros and cons of this internship left me with one giant con: THE PAY PACKAGE WAS NOT ENOUGH!
Common sense told me that I should turn my back on that internship and look for another, which would be more lucrative, and which would still give me the much-needed experience.
My friend asked me the question. I did not ask him. Where does faith leave off and common sense take over? Or to ask it another way – where does common sense leave off and faith take over?
I must admit that way back then I did not have a good answer to either of those questions, but in the years since, I have spent the majority of my life seeking and proclaiming the answer which I have found.
As I stand on the threshold of entering my eighth decade on this earth, I am convinced that most people would place a high value on the role of common sense in the decision-making process. Philosophers down through the ages have attempted to answer that question and have come up with a variety of answers.
Take for example, the Dalai Lama, a respected religious leader on the world scene. Lauding him as one of the world’s 100 most influential leaders, author Deepak Chopra wrote in Time magazine, back in 2008: “The most inspiring thing [the Dalai Lama] ever told me was to ignore all organized faiths and keep to the road of higher consciousness. ‘Without relying on religion, we look to common sense, common experience and the findings of science for understanding,’ he said.”
Other philosophers and, yes, even religious leaders, make similar statements about the role of common sense and science in our decision-making process.
The Dalai Lama sounds wise, and his words certainly fit the mood of our culture. But make no mistake, the gentle-looking man in the maroon robe is offering advice that will lead you far from the only way of salvation, the way of faith.
But think about it. What does his advice mean?
It means you ignore Christianity and the church of Jesus Christ, and the gospel of Jesus Christ — the Son of God in the flesh, crucified for our sins, raised from the dead — because the gospel flies in the face of all common sense, human experience, and science.
When my friend asked me the original question, he asked me to locate a passage in Scripture where the Bible tells us to live by common sense. He then challenged me to find a passage in Scripture that tells us to live by faith!
Over and over again in the Bible, we are exhorted to live by faith, that without faith it is impossible to please God in any way. And not once are we ever exhorted to live by common sense.
To live a life of faith simply means to make the decisions of life based upon God, His Word, and His character.
I decided to take the summer internship with the reduced salary, by faith trusting God to supply our needs. And don’t you know it? He did just that!
By the time the internship had even begun, we had already saved enough to take care of the summer and the first semester in the fall.
And even though, my bride had resigned her job, her supervisor hired her back in the fall, with no break in seniority or salary!
“The just shall live by faith.” Where does faith leave off and common sense take over?
How would YOU answer that question?
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.