Word Wednesday Nugget

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Dr. Rebekah McCloud 

The Bible is clear about meddling, gossiping, and being a busybody. Be sure there is no mistake there are times when Christians need to intervene in a situation. Usually, this is in the case of safety or well-being. The decision to get involved should only proceed after prayer and leading by the Holy Spirit via discernment. Exercising discernment is very different from minding other people’s business. 

The Oxford Dictionary says discernment is perception in the absence of judgment with a view of obtaining spiritual direction and understanding. It offers several synonyms for the word. The list includes insight, discrimination, enlightenment, perceptiveness, perception, astuteness, awareness, and wisdom.

Discernment appears 64 times in the Bible. Usually, it is paired with understanding, knowledge, insight, and wisdom. 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11 lists it as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says that things are discerned only through the spirit. In Philippians 1:10, Paul talks about discerning what is best. And Hosea 14:9 says in part, “Who is discerning? Let him understand.” The Lord will let us know when to speak and what to say. We should not lean to our understanding and should say as David did, “I am your servant; give me discernment,” (Psalm 119:125). Discernment is from God and not a gift given to all.

Several people in the Bible used discernment. Solomon asked God for a discerning heart (1 Kings 3:9),Peter discerned the deception of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3), the Samarian woman discerns that Jesus is more than a man (John 4:19, 42), David praised Abigail for her discernment (1 Samuel 25:32-33),Jeremiah discerned that the false prophet’s message is not from God (Jeremiah 23:16-22), Mary discerned the importance of listening to Jesus (Luke 10: 38-42), the Shunammite woman discerns that Elisha is a prophet from God (2 Kings 4:9), and Micaiah discerns the false prophesy of a lying spirit (1 Kings 22:19–23 and 2 Chronicles 18:18–22).

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The book of Proverbs includes several key scriptures about discernment.

  • “For if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God,” (Proverbs 2:3-5).
  • “My child, do not lose sight of common sense and discernment. Hang on to them, for they will refresh your soul. They are like jewels on a necklace. They keep you safe on your way, and your feet will not stumble,” (Proverbs 3:21–23).
  • “On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding,” (Proverbs 10:13).
  • “The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly,” (Proverbs 15:14).
  • “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out,” (Proverbs 18:15).
  • “Teach me good discernment and knowledge for I believe in your commandments,” (Proverbs 119:66).

Sinclair Ferguson in his article noted that discernment is “the ability to make discriminating judgments, to distinguish between, and recognize the moral implications of, different situations and courses of action. It includes the ability to “weigh up” and assess the moral and spiritual status of individuals, groups, and even movements. Thus, while warning us against judgmentalism, Jesus urges us to be discerning and discriminating, lest we cast our pearls before pigs,” (Matthew 7: 1-6).

A colleague (who is a minister) had this insight to share about discernment. “It is important to use discretion and consider the context before deciding to get involved in someone else’s affairs. However, it is crucial to recognize that there are times when it is necessary to step outside of our comfort zones and involve ourselves in matters that may initially seem unrelated to us. In certain situations, remaining silent or turning a blind eye can perpetuate injustice or contribute to the suffering of others. As Christians, we have a responsibility to be vocal and take action on issues that align with our values and principles. Just as Moses intervened to lead his people out of slavery and Jesus spoke out against injustice and inequality, we too have the power to make a positive impact in the lives of others by actively engaging in difficult conversations and working towards solutions. By doing so, we can fulfill our purpose and contribute to the greater good. Please note that while it is important to be engaged and compassionate, it is still essential to exercise discernment and respect the boundaries and autonomy of others.” 

There are many things we should be vocal about. The world needs to hear us loud and clear. Let us not be distracted by the constant barrage of stuff that surrounds and sometimes encompasses us. Getting stuck in the weeds may stifle our voices. Let us use discernment and avoid meddling, gossiping, and being a busybody. We must have clean hands and pure hearts. If we move like the world, we cannot expect them to see the move of God.

Ferguson, S. (2023). What is discernment? 


Dr. Rebekah McCloud

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30 years of service in education. Authored more than 50 publications , made more than 150 presentations, designed workshops, and facilitated training  On the C-SPAN Networks:

Rebekah McCloud is a Director for Minority Programs in the University of Central Florida with one video in the C-SPAN Video Library; the first appearance was a 1999 Forum.

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