The moment of decision is the wrong time to develop a value system. Our decisions reveal our values, they reflect our values, they don’t determine our values.
Not many of us sit around and think about the development of a value system. I know there are some who do. I admire these people. They also have a personal mission statement, specific and measurable goals for each season of their life, and a decision-making matrix that pivots on the axis of their clearly defined three-pronged value structure. Again, not many of us live there.
I think value systems develop more gradually for most people. Perhaps more passively as well. I’m not claiming that this is a good thing, but for most of us the values we operate by are a combination of a number of different factors. They are inherited from our parents, informed by our experiences (successes and failures), tempered and affirmed by our relationships, and shaped by the environment around us. Our value systems are also strongly influenced by our beliefs about life, God, ourselves, the world, Truth, sin, goodness, beauty, and meaning.
Why is this important?
Because the decisions we make, moment by moment, reveal our value systems. Every one of us wants to make good decisions. No one wakes up in the morning thinking “I’d love to have my life look like a train wreck today” or “Today I’m going to unfold my plan to sabotage every meaningful relationship I have” or “What a great day to be super greedy!” We want to make good decisions, and we regret it and grieve when we make stupid ones. But we often miss the reality that a system of values, stemming from our beliefs, is what determines our decisions.
And…the moment of decision is the wrong time to develop a value system.
The ultimate question which leads to the development of your value system is this:
What do you believe?
…About the Bible?
…About human nature?
…About the world?
…About the future?
Trying to make better decisions is not the answer. Decisions are symptoms of value systems. Value systems grow out of beliefs. The real question is: What do you believe?
The next question is: Do the decisions you are making in your life reflect what you claim to believe? If so, then you have an integrated value system. If not, then you may want to re-examine if you really believe what you say you believe.
And remember: ultimately your ability or my ability to make right decisions hinges on our relationship to our Creator. I wasn’t created to be accountable to myself, and neither were you. The good news is that our Creator didn’t leave us to fend for ourselves, but instead came to us to rescue us from our sin. When we follow Jesus he determines our value system (that’s why he commanded us to teach one another to obey all that He taught). Christ-centered decisions flow from belief in the gospel.
So instead of trying to make better decisions on my own, the answer is: believe the gospel. Believing the gospel makes me want to surround myself with people who know it, believe it, practice it, live it, and lead others to it. When I engage in this type of environment, my gospel-centered value system develops, strengthens, and gets more integrated in my life. Sounds like a recipe for good decision-making.