Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon strip, has made a career of lampooning inept business management. Some time ago, he used his creativity in a new medium. Using the alias Ray Mebert, a false wig and mustache, and the permission of the company’s co-founder, he guided a group of computer hardware executives to draft a new “mission statement” for their company. From the managers’ own suggested words and ideas, the new statement read: “The [company] is to scout profitable growth opportunities in relationships, both internally and externally, in emerging, mission inclusive markets, and explore new paradigms and then filter and communicate and evangelize the findings.” After approving the bogus statement, “Mebert” drew them a picture of Dilbert, removed his wig and mustache and said, “You’ve all been had.”
You have to wonder, don’t you, how many of these leaders would have attempted to implement the new “vision” the next morning. For all the technological advances that we have made, it could be argued that there has been no appreciable advancement in discernment and wisdom.
One of the marks of the mature Christ-follower is this very attribute of being able to distinguish truth from error. He is able to see clearly what is foggy to others. It’s a critical ability, for it’s one thing to be called a business fool by Scott Adams, and another to be called a spiritual fool by God.
So what enables a believer to accurately evaluate the world around him? It is no secret formula or mystical endowment from God. Two attributes for discernment stand out in Hebrews 5:14. First, the wise man has matured beyond the elementary truths of the faith. He has studied deliberately and diligently to understand the eternal truth of God (Acts 17:11). He has not been content to remain a spiritual infant, choosing instead to grow into all the fullness that is in Christ (Eph. 3:19; 4:13). And secondly, equipped with the Word of truth, he practices it diligently. The Word does not stagnate within his soul from a lack of use, but is exercised and applied regularly. And as he uses Scripture to evaluate the world around him, he increasingly grows in ability to discern good and evil (cf. also 1 Jn. 4:1; 1 Tim. 4:6). Discernment is not about spiritual giftedness but about spiritual persistence.
So a discerning man is the product of time spent in the Word and then time spent practicing what is learned in the study of the Word. Or, we can say, discipline with the Word provides discernment in the world.