Ep.215: Baby Bottle or a Steak Knife?

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.

Hebrews 5 says,
Though by this time you ought to be teachers,
    you need someone to teach you
            the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.
    You need milk, not solid food!
  Anyone who lives on milk,
    is still a baby,
            and is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.
  But solid food is for the mature,
    who by constant use have trained themselves
            to distinguish good from evil. (vv. 11-14). 

After introducing us to baby food and grown up food, the author of Hebrews goes off in a strange direction. He doesn’t tell us to start eating adult food to make us grow up. Instead, he tells us to get into a training program, in which we constantly distinguish good from evil. What makes us grow is not adult teaching, but adult practice in discerning good and evil. 

It’s easy for teachers to get a bit defensive about this passage, saying, “Oh, yes, it is  important to practice discernment, but the foundation for good practice is good teaching. You have to start with the milk of Christian basics–how to be born again, etc.; then you proceed to some meaty teaching that will guide your discernment of right and wrong.” 

Good argument, maybe, except it completely misses the point Hebrews is making. The author doesn’t emphasize teaching and knowledge as the foundation for maturity. On the contrary, he says that people can’t even understand advanced teaching until “by constant practice [they] have trained themselves to discern good from evil” (v. 14). 

So what does training in discernment look like? Some would say, “That’s easy. Just read your Bible and do what it says! It tells you everything you need to know about good and evil.” 

I say it’s not quite that simple. Scripture provides lists of things not to do because they are evil, but you can’t grow up just by staying home and doing nothing

Because God wants us to grow by discerning and doing what is right. I must replace bad attitudes with love. I must replace neutral behavior with activity that builds community. I must replace  foolish opinions with wisdom. When I am solidly engaged in the project of transforming my heart into a heart of love, and my neighborhood into a community, then I am ready to stop sucking milk from my baby bottle, and start eating a bit of solid food.

Solzhenitsyn said, “If only it were all so simple!. . . But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” (The Gulag Archipelago, Part I). Discernment, training in good and evil, starts with seeing my own heart problems and destroying the evil there. 

Let’s pray. 

Our father, it’s time for us milk-drinkers to move up to solid food. Help us to discern the good and evil in our hearts and in our actions. Give us a vision of true righteousness. 

– Help us discern where our obsession with news and social media and entertainment obstructs our ability to hear you and obey.

– Help us discern which is more important to you: Should we be politically active in helping church and government adopt the right policies on abortion and gender and sexuality? Or does our activity there simply contribute to fragmentation and divisiveness in society?

– Help us discern where our hearts are wayward and careless and unruly, that we may bring them fully into your kingdom. 

Our father, we feel the line between good and evil that runs through our hearts and our attitudes and our actions. Help us to practice discerning good and evil in our hearts, in our relationships, in our world.


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.