We come to the last of the six principles of social ethics for this series. If you have not read from the beginning, let me encourage you to go back to the first post in the series. It will help you understand when to apply these principles. The most important thing to note about these principles is that they are only applied after you have determined from studying the Bible that God has not put a prohibition on the activity.
Expediency Principle: Defined
Of the many good choices in life that we are given, God desires that we select the best of those choices. This has nothing to do with the unbiblical teaching that God wants you to be happy, healthy and wealthy. However, when you are given a choice between two options you need to decide which one is the best, or most appropriate one you should choose. This isn’t always the easiest decision. There are times that the best choice, based on the other principles, is the one that is going to cost you more money, or even cause you to lose friends in the process.
The Expediency Principle is based on the word used in the Bible which is translated expedient. The word is συμφέρω (sympherō or süm-fe’-rō). This comes from the two words σύν which means with and φέρω which means to carry, bear or endure (as if carrying a burden). The word translated expedient means to bear or bring together. The idea is that the burden is carried by more than one person. Another way to think about this is to be helpful or to be profitable. In other places in the Bible the word is translated as profit, to be profitable or to bring together.
This is important to discuss because the current definition of the word expedient is the idea of accomplishing a task in the easiest possible way without regard to ethics. It is to achieve ones goals in the end, not necessarily concerned about what is right. If you think of the phrase “the end justifies the means” you get an idea of what the modern definition of expediency is. This is certainly not what God is teaching in the verses which use the word expedient.
Expediency Principle: Clarifying Question
What is the best choice I can make in this situation?
When we have to make a decision it is because we have more than one option, even if options are are to do, or not to do the activity. Often there are multiple choices. Sometimes they are all good options. You are looking for which one is your best choice within all the options you have.
Jesus has an encounter with the two sisters Mary and Martha in Luke 10. At the end of the chapter (v. 38-42), Jesus visits Mary and Martha in their home. Martha is busy trying to serve the Lord by getting the house prepared and putting food on the table. She was full of busyness. In the activity she began to build an attitude of, “I’m the only one doing any work around here.” She even went as far as to ask Jesus to reprimand her sister Mary. Jesus’ response was that Mary had made the better choice. Both serving Jesus and worshiping Jesus are good activities, but Jesus encouraged the sisters to make the best of their many good choices.
Expediency Principle: Biblical Basis
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23 that there are many things that are permissible and good, but not all things are expedient. Not everything is the best choice we can make. In 1 Corinthians 12:31 the Bible says that we should covet the best gifts and choices of all the many good ones we have. Immediately following that verse Paul launches into chapter 13 where he says that it doesn’t matter what your abilities are—you must serve with love.
Expediency Principle: Application
As a teenager I knew that God wanted me to attend a Bible college to prepare for the ministry. Like most teens trying to make the choice of which school to attend, I struggled a little bit with the decision. I primarily had my eyes on one school, but wanted to stay open to the Lord’s leading. The college I was most interested in held my attention from the 10th grade until graduation from high school.
Intentionally I kept an open mind about where I should go to school, even though I had already announced to everyone I was going to Oklahoma. Then, with about four weeks before school began I started to feel the Lord leading me to a different school in Florida. Both were very good schools. At the time it would have been hard to say that one was a better choice than the other. However, I felt the Lord nudging me to the school in Florida. It was humbling to have to tell everyone that I was going to a different school than the one I had decided on two years previously. The easy route would have been to go to the school I originally intended to go to. But using this principle, I had to choose the better of the two choices. In this case the only thing that made one school better than the other is that I felt the Lord leading me down the path to the second school. I had two very good choices, but I had to choose the better one to stay in God’s will.
I pray that these posts have helped you think through different issues. If you have a question that you think the Bible doesn’t address directly, then use these six principles to help you decide what you should do. If you are still not able to decide, then leave a comment and we can apply the principles together.