“Oh, how I love your law!
It is my meditation all day long.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is always with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your decrees are my meditation.” – Psalm 119:97-99
Bad news, friend: you are not a rational person. Turns out most of your opinions and decisions are made up of an unsavory soup of prejudice, first impressions, old hurts, snap judgements, and fantasy, with some actual fact and reasoned thought thrown in for spice. In case it makes you feel better: same here. Same everywhere. We tend to think of humans as highly rational, but it just isn’t so. Google “are humans rational?” or “do facts change minds?” Dig one layer down past the fluff pieces and listicles and see what science actually has to say about our minds—not that I expect any of the information there to change yours, if you’re like the rest of us.
Seems like the psalmist knew this about us. No matter how smart we get, no matter how many facts or concepts we master, without a strong guide, most of us are going to spend our lives in a morass of idiosyncratic opinions and cockamamie decisions. You can fill yourself up to the eyeballs with good information (and for what it’s worth, I think you should), but it’s not going to be that helpful in living a life that is beautiful, harmonious, rational, or wise. So once you find something solid to help you make your decisions, it’s worth holding onto. That’s the understanding that the psalmist has acquired that makes them wiser than their enemies and smarter than their teachers. They’ve found a way to make decisions consistently, a measuring stick that can be trusted, a rubric older and deeper and better-tested than their own weird opinions: the law of God.
I know you want to rely on your own powers of reason; me too. And that will be fine if you don’t care much about outcomes. But if what you want is a life marked by wisdom, loving kindness, generosity, and consistency, then you’re going to need a little help, a few boundaries, a solid measuring stick. And where facts and smarts fail you, says the psalmist, the Law may just be the answer.
God, your law may not be sophisticated, but it’s better than relying on myself. Thank you. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.