Judgment in Our Goings

Michael Beck Michael Beck

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We love making good decisions which have positive outcomes.

It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth. (Proverbs 20:14)

We are pained when others critically question the wisdom or rightness of our actions.

And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so? and he also was a very goodly man; and his mother bare him after Absalom. (1 Kings 1:6)

We hate having made a bad decision which resulted in a negative outcome. We “kick ourselves” for our poor choices. Others also reproach us, shaking their heads, and saying: “I told you so!” or asking: “How could you be so stupid?”

And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required. (Genesis 42:21,22)

We can become angry at others for their bad decisions; but our harshest anger can be directed toward ourselves for our own “stupidity.”

And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. (Genesis 45:4,5)

God certainly understands regret. He Himself was “grieved” over the consequences of His decision to create man.

And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. (Genesis 6::5,6)

Judas is a prime example of regret. Regret is closely connected to shame. It does not necessarily lead men to true repentance. It can swallow them up in such self-hatred and grief that it drives them to suicide.

Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)

Correction to the fallen must be administered in meekness, wisdom, and love; otherwise, Satan is given an advantage, (2 Cor. 2:11) and “damage” can be done through shame and regret.

For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. (2 Corinthians 7:8-11)

Reproach follows on the heels of shame (i.e., “ignominy.”) Failure leads to criticism.

When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach. (Proverbs 18:3)

We fear being reproached for having exercised poor judgment.

Turn away my reproach which I fear: for thy judgments are good. (Psalm 119:39)

David could have fallen apart under the weight of his bad decision-making which earned him the anger of his men. But he made a decision to seek God afresh and get wisdom for his next move.

And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God. (1 Samuel 30:6)

We don’t want others to be angry with us, and we don’t want to be angry at ourselves. In order to avoid the pain of reproach and the suffering of regret we often make even worse decisions.

We may take unwise risks, (“rolling the dice,”) hoping for the best, so as to erase past shame, and win present praise.

The pride of life underlies much unwise decision making. The proud want to be applauded for their superior judgment. They are willing to take risks to prove themselves to others.

Though while he lived he blessed his soul: and men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself. (Psalm 49:18)

And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered. (Mal. 3:15)

Pride can also take the form of fear, where we are paralyzed because we don’t want to be scorned for making a poor choice.

The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe. (Proverbs 29:25)

Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. (Matthew 25:24,25)

The attempt to bless ourselves always backfires, resulting in self-inflicted misery and regret. Only when the blessing of the Lord is upon us will we have good things in our possession without sorrow or regrets.

The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it. (Proverbs 10:22)

Hell is a prison-house of perpetual regret.

The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:41,42)

Regret is unavoidable when we move according to our own mind, fears, or passions, and God is left out of our decision making.

And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me! I was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation and assembly. (Proverbs 5:11-14)

All who move forward without seeking God for counsel end up eating the bitter fruit of their own way.

They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. (Proverbs 1:30-32)

But if we ask for and get God’s wisdom we will make wise decisions and be “quiet” from the fear of regret.

But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil. (Proverbs 1:33)

When we are getting His guidance, God tells us not to fear what men have to say about our decisions.

Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. (Isaiah 51:7)

Michael Beck is a pastor in the Dallas, TX area and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.