“I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.” (Romans 16:19)
Piety and Circumspection
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.” (Ephesians 5:15).
I wish to write on this most neglected aspect of modern day Christian life and teaching called “piety.” Piety is a state of life in which one is deeply religious. This has a lot of connotations. In the Christian perspective, we know that piety is void of pretence. It is the true state of one’s life in which he has deep reverence for God and the fear of God, and these are not without an outward reflection. Being pious, as a Christian, entails holding the word of God in high esteem and fearing him deeply. It means being circumspect. Being circumspect means not taking risks or taking chances. It means you keep as far off as possible from what is perceived to be immoral according to biblical standards. It doesn’t have to be outrightly wrong nor does it have to be clearly spoken against in scriptures. The pious man would not go near what is even perceived as tending to be evil. This of course may be misinterpreted as being superstitious or exaggerating things out of proportion. Piety means minding each and every action we take, thought we think, places we go, associations we keep, information we imbibe, how we relate with others, etc and ensuring that they are according to God’s perfect will. And this is the life we are called to live as Christians when the Bible says, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.” (Ephesians 5:15).
The Extent Of Being Circumspect
“And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect.” (Exodus 23:13).
To what extent are we supposed to be circumspect? The above text says that we are to be circumspect in ALL things that God has commanded us to do. So far God has commanded it, we must be circumspect about it.
The Bible’s commandments touch almost every part of our lives and for this reason we are to be circumspect in almost everything we do. I know there are areas of our lives that we have no commandment from God, for example, whether we should take a cup of water before a meal or whether it should be after. But in almost every other thing we have a commandment from God. So in all these things of which we have a commandment, we must be circumspect.
“I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.” (Romans 16:19)
Paul said plainly, “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.” (Romans 16:19). What does it mean to be simple? To be simple means to be void of understanding. All through the book of proverbs we see the simple being disapprovingly spoken of as ignorant and is always likened to a fool. “A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing.” (Proverbs 9:13). “The simple inherit folly…” (Proverbs 14:18). So, quite funnily, the Bible advocates a form of ignorance here. This is the true blissful ignorance. This form of simplicity is an integral part of the pious Christian life and must be sought after both as individuals and collectively by the Christian brotherhood. It is sad that many amidst us are entirely the other way round. They are simple and very gullible concerning what is good, and very wise and rich in knowledge concerning what is evil. But we must strive to be innocent in respect to what is evil.
There is a difference between being virtuous and being simple. While being virtuous is choosing to do the right despite the knowledge of the evil and the supposed benefit of doing it, being simple is when you are ignorant of a thing. So the pious Christian life we ought to strive to attain to as prescribed by scriptures is not a pious life where we would always choose not to lie when the temptation arises, but rather we shouldn’t even know how to tell the lie. Not only should we not fornicate, but we shouldn’t even know about it, or how to go about it, nor should it come to mind. We should be simple in respect to evil.
In the absence of innocence, being virtuous is the only alternative to help in living a holy Christian life. We must know however that living a godly Christian life based on virtue requires painful struggle and discipline. The blissful ignorance of the innocent would make living a godly Christian life easier on our part. So we should understand that virtue is only a remedial element of the pious Christian life when innocence is lost. But the Lord delights in the simple. It is written, “The LORD preserveth the simple.” (Psalm 116:6).
“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)
Forgive my use of this foreign word. Not only would you not find it in your English dictionary, you’d also probably not find it in the dictionary of any other language spoken under the sun. But here is what I mean, it is possible after being conversant with all the evil inventions there are in sinning against God, one can still restore and return to his state of innocence. The process of restoring this innocence is what I refer to as “re-innocencialising.”
If per adventure one loses his innocence whether by chance or by choice, he ought to strive to gain back that innocence. This ought to be done by both individuals and as a body of the brotherhood of saints. The Bible makes it clear to us that this is possible. The Bible says, “put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:21 – 24). Despite being corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, the Bible still says that these can be put off and that the spirit of our minds can be renewed. So we can be re-innocencialised. This is also our calling, if in any way, by the information we’ve consumed, we have corrupted our minds, to renew the spirits of our mind and put on the new man, “which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”
People often assume that when people lose their innocence, they should just go on in it struggling with it. But we now know that there is cleansing of the mind and renewing of spirit with the Lord, through his blood.
We shouldn’t in the process of trying to help people cope in a world with many prevalent evils teach people what is evil. We must go about this business with the wisdom of trying to maintain the innocence in the innocent and restore innocent to those in need of it. In teaching young ones how to cope in this fallen world, we could just teach them judgment.
People argue, if you don’t teach young ones about the sinful inventions of the world in a godly setting, they’d learn it in a worldly setting which is more dangerous for them. The truth however is that both settings are equally dangerous and none is helpful if it would go about informing people of the sinful inventions of the world.
As a person willing to help the young in the right path, you don’t have to inform him on the invented methods of sinning against God, but you just have to teach him judgment. Knowledge is having an information about something, understanding is knowing the essence and the implications of this information, wisdom is the right application of knowledge, and judgment is the simple ability to arrive at a right and final conclusion about something in regards to good and evil, right or wrong. It is this judgment that we need.
How can we get judgment? The psalmist wrote plainly, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” (Psalm 119:9). He also went on to say, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Psalm 119:11). The word is all that the young need to stay pure. If truly we desire to help them, we must hand over the word of God to them in our teachings and leave it at that. We needn’t delve into all the dirty things done in the world under the pretext of analysing their evil impact in our lives.
We therefore must be cautious that we don’t, because of a prevalent evil, assume that there is no harm in speaking openly about them, but we must apply wisdom first in preserving the innocence in the innocent and restoring innocence in those who, by one way or the other, may have lost it.
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
Now, the summary of it all is, we have a calling to live a pious and circumspect life. We must strive as individuals and as a body to maintain piety in our individual selves and as a body in Christ. The Bible admonishes to live a life of innocence. A life void of the knowledge of evil. We shouldn’t in the process of trying to help people cope in a world with many prevalent evils teach people what is evil. We must go about this business with the wisdom of trying to maintain the innocence in the innocent and restore innocent to those in need of it.
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7). It should also be our sincere prayer that God should maintain innocence in our hearts and minds.
Thank you for making out time to read this article. I pray that God will help us to be pious, circumspect and innocent in the dear name of our Lord Jesus. Amen. God bless you.
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