Err on the side of caution?

I’m writing as I am waiting. I’m sitting in a room at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis waiting for the doctor to finish operating on my sister, Berma. It is a fairly delicate surgery as they are fixing a leak in her skull and removing a small portion of her brain (I’ve already used all the jokes about a hole in her head, etc.). I’m certainly praying for Berma and I am praying for the surgeon as he works over the next several hours. I pray that he moves carefully and makes no mistakes!

That reminds me of a phrase that I had already been thinking a lot about this week. When people are forced to make tough decisions we often state that if we err, we would rather err on the side of caution. I appreciate that sentiment, and have used that phrase on more than one occasion; but truth be told, I don’t want this doctor to err at all! Too often we throw that phrase out when we are afraid to take a risk. It can sound almost noble when we claim it as the reason for our decisions or actions, but at the end of the day to err on the side of caution is still to err. Correct thinking and the resulting correct actions that result should be the goal of our life.

The Pharisees were guilty of this very action. They read the law and wanted to follow it, but always decided that caution was the safest route. They added more and more rules to their system of life and religion just to make sure that they nor others even came close to breaking the law. What resulted was not a good life, but one that would rather see people suffer than risk breaking a rule to help them. They came to hate the Lord because He broke their (not God’s) Sabbath laws in order to heal those who were suffering. They erred on the side of caution, but their errors caused them to miss the life that God had created for them to live. They and others suffered as a result.

The Lord told a story in Matthew 25 about a man who was going a long journey and he called his servants in and gave each one a certain amount of money. He gave one five talents (currency of the day), one two talents, and to the last servant he gave one talent. The first two invested what they were entrusted with and earned a proportional profit. The third man decided to play it safe and buried the one coin he had. When the master returned he blessed and rewarded the first two who had used what had been left in their care. When the master heard how the third servant had behaved he said, “Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:28-30 NIV).

Eve made a similar mistake when she was tempted by the serpent in the garden of Eden. He asked her if they were not allowed to eat of any of the trees of the garden, and she replied that they could eat of all but the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but then added that they were not even allowed to touch it! God had not said that – He simply prohibited them from eating of it. She erred on the side of caution, but that may have been part of the wrong thinking process that led her to be deceived and sin.

We will err, we will sin, we will fail. We are, after all, fallible creatures. When we fail we can always find forgiveness and restitution in Christ. That being said, when faced with life decisions let us study the Word, ask God for guidance, and do our best to follow the right course of action. As individuals and as a church we should attempt to avoid all error – even “erring on the side of caution!”

In Him,

Pastor Nord

P.S. My sister’s surgery went well.

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Wow, been a long time since I’ve written anything.  Tonight just wanted to direct you to a really great link about the way pastors are perceived. Dan Phillips over at Pyromaniacs compares the unreality of pornography to the expectations some people have for their pastor. It’s worth a read and you will find it here.