From the beginning of human life, people have been required to make decisions. The Bible records that the first humans were created and placed in a garden in which were two trees representing two possible approaches to life. The garden itself exemplified what God’s way of life would produce, but the Creator simply gave instructions regarding the two trees and left it to Adam and Eve to choose from which one they would eat.
God could have imposed His will on them, simply creating them to do the right thing automatically in every circumstance. There is no question that He had that power and could still make that change today if He so chose. However, decision-making is at the heart of His purpose for humanity. Each individual must exercise the faculty of choice in life. The two paths with which the first man and woman were confronted are still the only options: life in congruity with God, or life that seems right without any godly input.
Humans were made in the image of God but without the nature or perfect character of God. A person’s character is formed by the choices he or she makes every day. Moses summarized the two fundamental choices to ancient Israel: “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes and His judgments. . . . Therefore choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:15–16, 19, emphasis added). This choice cannot be made collectively; living by God’s standards must be an individual, personal choice.
Making decisions may be easy or difficult, depending on what’s at stake. But especially in the case of a moral issue, it requires discernment, the ability to recognize and distinguish between options and make a wise choice. When the author of the book of Ecclesiastes asked, “Who is like a wise man?” his answer included the use of discernment: “A wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgment” (Ecclesiastes 8:1, 5). Confronted with a moral choice, a wise person is able to judge well and then decide between right and wrong.
The apostle Paul clearly understood this aspect of character development when he wrote to the New Testament Church that members should proceed spiritually from milk to solid food. His instruction was that “solid food belongs to those who are of full age [mature], that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).
To live a godly or righteous life is to accept personal responsibility to make decisions based on right and wrong. Proper decision-making develops godly character; it effectively demonstrates the nature and mind of God. Paul’s charge to the church at Philippi—“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5)—is an appeal to the individual decision-making process. He encouraged them to grow “still more and more in knowledge and discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent” (Philippians 1:9–10).
Our minds are ours to control. At no point can we abdicate personal responsibility and leave the decisions affecting our lives to others. God has set before each of us two ways of life, and it is up to us to choose which we will follow.