What It Means to Discern

Give thy servant therefore an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between
good and evil; for who is able to judge this
thy great people?

1 Kings 3:9

At times, we have a “gut feeling” about something. It cannot be put into words. There is just a sense which develops in our heart telling us something is right or wrong.

Such a sense is called upon every day to help us make decisions in areas of life which will either diminish or enrich our character. Every decision is challenging, and for that reason, it becomes important that our sense be exercised “to discern between good and evil.” Solomon knew the value in good sense as a leader of a nation. He felt responsible. He knew the decisions he made affected all men. He was not going to let those decisions be left to chance.

Every decision in life cannot be made with the fallacy of chance. Not only chance, but great care need to be given to what source we use. Traditions are not accurate (Matthew 15:9). Sincerity is helpful, but not adequate by itself (Matthew 7:21). Emotions often skew proper judgment (2 Kings 5:10-13; Proverbs 14:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). Just because the majority of people do it doesn’t mean it is the best choice (John 6:66).

Hebrews 5:12-14 describes those who should be teachers, but are not. They need to be taught instead of doing the teaching. Their senses are such that they have trouble distinguishing between good and evil. This immature conditions was due to the fact that they were “without experience of the word of righteousness.” It makes “sense,” does it not? Those who are without the knowledge of the principles of right and wrong fail in making proper judgments. Not to say every decision we make will be the right one, but those made without knowledge of God’s will and prayer for his guidance have a greater chance of ruining our reputations and influences for good.

Common sense says knowledge is essential to making good decisions. We need to train our senses to discern good and evil. Paul prayed for the Philippians “that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent” (Philippians 1:9-10). The more we expose ourselves to the principles of righteousness, the better prepared our senses become to handle the rough and tough, real-life circumstances.

People can talk about what they would do given a certain situation. John says some do the same with the truth. They give it lip service (1 John 3:18). We should endeavor to “not love in word...but in deed and truth.” When our hearts are educated in righteousness, we will have the sense to know where to draw the line between good and evil.