MARCH 21, 2023
RON'S THREE TESTS
When I was a teenager attending the local Christian school many years ago, I remember having endless debates with our teachers and parents on whether certain activities were morally “right” or “wrong” for Christians to participate in. Often, the “activities” in question were things the scriptures didn’t specifically address (otherwise known as “gray areas”). Most of the time, I’m not sure we came up with any real answers, but we sure talked about it a lot! And it often seemed that our parents and teachers had very different ideas than we did about what constituted “good” activities and “bad” activities.
As adults, we still find ourselves asking if certain activities are “right” or “wrong” for Christians to engage in. And, all too often, we don’t have any better answers than we did back in our teenage years. When we lived in Wichita, Kansas, many years ago, we had a good Christian friend named Ron who happened to have three teenagers at the time who were asking many of those same questions as we had way back when: Should I go here? Can I do that? Can I watch this show or movie? Can I hang out with that person? Can I drink this? Ron gave his kids some shrewd (and I think Biblically-based) advice. He outlined three tests they could perform on each activity they had questions about to determine if they should participate in it or not:
Test 1: Is it edifying?
Test 2: Is it potentially enslaving?
Test 3: Could it become a stumbling block to other Christians?
Ron claimed (and I think rightly so) that his kids could filter any questionable activity through these three tests and come up with the right answer as to whether they should take part or not.
I think the godly wisdom of Ron’s tests can be backed up by a number of scripture passages. For instance, the biblical basis for Test 1 could included verses like Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” For Test 2, 2 Timothy 2:22 might come to mind: “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Finally, for Test 3, the classic passage is 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. The key verse of this passage (verse 9) says: “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.”
For the past 25 years I’ve sought to apply these three tests to situations that I’ve found myself in where I needed guidance whether to engage in a so-called “gray” activity or not. Applying these tests help me to stop and assess the situation before I “plunge in.” And I’m convinced they’ve saved me a lot of grief all these many years.
So, why not give Ron’s three tests a try? The integrity of your Christian walk and testimony may depend on it someday soon!
About the Author
Tim Carman is a semi-retired aerospace engineer and native Iowan who has been married to Sandra for 37+ years. He and his wife have two grown children and one grandchild and live in rural Clark County, Missouri.