When looking at the six principles discussed in this series, the one that seems to answer most questions for me is the Edification Principle. While I use this principle most often, it should not be used alone. Each of the principles should be used together to help us make biblically correct decisions. Though this principle often helps make the final decision on a matter.
Remember that when applying the principles of social ethics from a biblical perspective, you are only looking at items that God has not specifically banned in His Word. If something has already been prohibited in the Bible then you should not use these principles but simply obey God’s Word.
Edification Principle: Defined
God wants us to do that which will build us up as Christians. Many permissible things in life aren’t necessarily helpful to us as Christians. God does not prohibit us from listening to talk radio. But is what you are listening to helping you grow closer to Him? Or, is it possibly causing you to even question God’s Word and principles? The word edification means to improve a person morally or spiritually. You should look for activities that will build you up spiritually and morally.
Edification Principle: Clarifying Questions
- Does this activity help build me up as a Christian?
- Does this help my devotional life?
- Will my involvement in this activity help other Christians?
- Does this activity help my Christian testimony?
An activity may seem to be otherwise permissible, but is it helpful to your personal life? Will it be a help to other Christians? If not, then you should not be involved.
The questions are intentionally worded from a positive perspective. Obviously, if an activity will damage your testimony, or that of your church, then it is an inappropriate activity. These inquiries deal with the fact that the activity in question is obviously not wrong. The issue now is, is it the right thing to do? The Doubt Principle goes hand in hand with this one.
Occasionally I will find a book that captivates me (such as God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life). I will end up spending all my free time digging into the book. There may be nothing wrong with the book from a biblical standpoint. But, sometimes as I think about the previous few days I can’t remember when I last picked up my Bible to read it. I have traded my Bible reading time for the biography I am reading. This is when something that is certainly not wrong is also not edifying. It is not building me up as a Christian if it is keeping me from reading my Bible.
This can be true with any activity. Whenever you become obsessed with something to the point that it is begins to encroach on your godly habits and activities, it no longer passes the test of the Edification Principle.
Edification Principle: Biblical Basis
Romans 16:19 encourages us to be ignorant concerning evil things. God desires that we engage in activities that are spiritual and not even have an education in that which is wrong.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:23 that there are activities that may be permissible, but they don’t all edify. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should do it.
Edification Principle: Application
Try to think through your daily activities. Are they helping to build you up spiritually? If not, is there a way you can change the activity so that it can be edifying as a Christian? You may need to look at changing the activity.
One of my favorite activities is exercising. Particularly I like to run. Running and exercising are certainly beneficial to the body. But what about my spirit? There are things I can do while running to help build me up spiritually as well. Instead of listening to music or podcasts I could listen to preaching or an audio Bible. Do you always exercise with your music device? How about leaving it at home and spending time in prayer or memorizing Bible verses? You might be able to make your normal activities into spiritual ones.
The Edification Principle should be applied with any activity that you have already determined is permissible by using the other principles of social ethics.