Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
Luke 7:1-10; Colossians 3:1-4; Psalm 134; 2 Chronicles 1-2
In Colossians 3, before getting into a section on Christian ethics, Paul gives two instructions. He calls on Christians to set their hearts on godly things and to set their minds on godly things. We are to do this instead of focusing on earthly things. We are greatly tempted to jump to the next few verses: what must we do and what must we stop doing? Paul reminds us here to first step back. We must first reflect on who we are. We no longer have the same identity as we had before we became Christians. We were dead in our sins and our sinful nature; now we are alive with Christ (Col2:13).
Christ has changed who we are, and we should now live according to our new nature. We are to set our hearts and our minds on things above. These terms capture the essence of our being. This is more than just thinking about Christ and heaven. In the Bible, the heart includes our will, our desires, our emotions and our attitudes; the mind includes our thinking, our imagination and our feelings. These components of our being are not easily distinguished, but together they capture the essence of who we are. The heart is the command centre of our being, which interacts with our mind and strongly influences our actions. Our heart is remade in us by Christ. But we must direct our heart in particular ways if we are to lead lives pleasing to the Lord.
In 1 Chronicles 1 we learn more about the heart. God comes to Solomon and tells him to ask for anything he wants. Our deepest desires arise out of our heart. We may say we want to serve the poor. But then we may notice that every time an opportunity arises to address poverty, we find something else to do. In that case, our heart is not really into serving the poor.
Solomon had the opportunity to ask God for anything, and he chose wisdom and knowledge. God praised him that this was his heart’s desire. This implies that we have a choice about where to set our heart. Solomon could have asked God for wealth, honour, a long life or vengeance on his enemies. Instead, he set his heart on godly things. His mind was involved too, because he remembered who he was. God had made him king, for which he would need wisdom and knowledge. Solomon was grateful for God’s grace in making him king, and wanted to use God’s gifts to serve others well.
However, Solomon is soon accumulating wealth. He gathered many horses and chariots – in direct violation of God’s command toIsrael’s kings (Deu 17:16). He even sent to Egypt for the horses, exactly where God told the kings not to get them. Wealth itself is not the problem, as God said he would give Solomon riches. But riches easily lead the heart astray (Deu 17:18).
We must let Christ change our hearts, but we must also set our hearts on Christ. ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life’ (Proverbs 4:21). Colossians 3 directs us to attend to our hearts before we get into the details of what we should or should not be doing.