Is It Helpful?
As a Christian, viewing the evil that persists in the world today is a reminder of Lot, who is said to have “tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds” (2 Peter 2:8). The wickedness of this worldseems ever-present before our eyes. It is even more obvious, as we listen to friends confess the hardships they face—some because of the color of their skin.
Unfortunately, instead of empathy and compassion, many are made to feel as if their existence can be narrowed down to statistics that do not fit their reality. Those who use statics in such a way are seeking to win an argument and not win a brother. This type of argumentation is not fruitful in the Christian’s ultimate goal of seeking the lost and promoting unity within the body of Christ. Do not misunderstand: truth is essential but so is our relationship with other people.
Paul says his ultimate goal was to seek the profit of all men by helping them “be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:33); in the same way, our ultimate goal is to help those lost in sin take hold of the promise of salvation. Likewise, as Christians, we are to promoteunity and peace within the body of Christ (Romans 15:19). Can we truly believe that arguing will ultimately help win the lost and encourage unity? Not so, when we are causing our brothers and sisters to feel as if they are nothing more than a statistic. Seeking to win the argument is an unfruitful way to win the soul and build unity. Instead, Paul provides us with some helpful ways to consider our words during this season of distress.
First, we must always ask, “Is what I am about to say or share helpful.” When writing to the church in Corinth, Paul gives a glimpse into his mind saying, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful…” (1 Corinthians 10:23).Paul’s ultimate goal in life was to be helpful, not so much in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense. Paul wanted to help every person he came in contact with to come to the knowledge of the truth. Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus to use their speech in a way that “is good for necessary edification”(Ephesians 4:29). Does this statement mean Paul perverted the truth of the Gospel? Far from it! Instead, he sought words that would help convert the lost and promote growth within the body. He even went so far as to say he would never eat meat again if it would cause his brother to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:13). Are wewilling to be helpful to someone to the extent that we would never eat meat again?
Second, Paul’s actions and words had the singular purpose of glorifying God. Again, to the church in Corinth, Paul says, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). The strife, conflict, and hurt that arises when individuals ignore the real-life experiences of others stand in opposition to the wisdom of the Proverbs. The wise Solomon says of those who cause strife and conflict, “It is honorable for a man to stop striving (avoid strife) since any fool can start a quarrel”(Proverbs 20:3). God receives no glory when we pursue that which causes strife. Instead of seeking to push our point of view, Solomon says wisdom comes from “seeking advice” (Proverbs 13:10). It is always productive to listen; and where disagreementoccurs, our response must seek to glorify God.
Third, Paul says we as Christians are to “give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Gentiles, or to the Church of God” (1 Corinthians 10:32). This word “offense” speaks of “not causing to stumble” or acting as “a smooth road” (Thayer, 2531). Yes, it is true, each person will be held accountable for his own sin (Ezekiel 18:20), but it is also true that each Christian has the command to act as “a smooth road” to salvation for the rest of the world. We must take into consideration the question, “Will this comment negatively affect my ability to evangelize the person I am speaking with?” before we hit “post” on our keyboards. If we are not careful, our failure to show emphathywill act as a stumbling block in our evangelistic efforts. Paul’swords in Romans 12:18 are applicable today: “as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Whatever webring to a conversation must have peace as its ultimate goal.
Yes, there is unrest all over the world, but the last thing this world needs is for those who should be empathetic and humble to act in a way that causes more heartache and strife. Surely Paul, our ultimate example (1 Corinthians 11:1), felt frustrated with the world around him. Nevertheless, throughout this frustration, he was able to accomplish his ultimate goal of calling the lost and seeking unity in the body of Christ through the simple mantra, “Is it helpful?” It is possible today, by imitating Paul, to accomplish this same incredible goal. Wisdom dictates that we should stop and ask if what we are doing willhelp promote the Gospel call of salvation?