By Steven Norris
It wasn’t until I came to my current church that I discovered one of my mentors had once served here as Associate Pastor. Imagine my delight to hear a story from a Griffin-area realtor about this man who was so influential in my conception of the role of pastor. This realtor was showing the Sayles family a house that really checked all of their boxes, including the all-important price point.
The agent looked at Dr. Sayles and said, “Well, I guess you may need to pray on this. Just let me know when you make a decision.” Dr. Sayles replied, “You know, I am a praying man, to be sure. However, God also gave me a brain. I know a good a deal when I see it. I don’t think I need to pray about this. Let’s draw up the papers.”
It sounds a little like something Jesus would have said. When one of the religious leaders asked Jesus about the greatest commandment, he responded: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” (Mark 12:29-30)
It is interesting that Jesus adds the phrase “with all your mind” to the original language in Deuteronomy. Intellectual integrity is certainly not absent from the Jewish tradition. The Proverbs are full of references to the importance of wisdom and effective use of the mind. However, Jesus reminds his followers that walking the life of faith is about using the tools that God has given you — presenting every part of us to God’s service, especially our minds.
I don’t really think that God is all that concerned about whether you buy the blue or red sweater, drink Folgers or Maxwell House coffee, or whether you style your hair with mousse or gel. We need not spiritualize or spend an inordinate amount of time in prayer over such questions. Rather, we seek conversion and transformation — that our heart may beat in rhythm with the heart of God, that our mind may think in light of God’s truth — such that prudence and wisdom may guide us.
I wonder how many of our day-to-day problems might have relatively easy answers if we would employ such common sense. When decisions come across my path, I regularly ask: Would this help me love God more? Will it help my neighbor experience God’s love? Is it a wise use of my resources? Has God commanded against it? Does it make my little community better reflect the kingdom of God? Does it lead to the “abundant life” Jesus described? There are exceptions that require a little prayer and discernment, but most of my concerns can be solved with honesty, wisdom, and little common sense.
I imagine my mentor saying to us all, “Live by faith, yes, but use your brain.”