Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
Matthew 24:37-44; Romans 10; Psalm 69:1-12; Numbers 34-36
Romans 10 is one of those passages that makes the mission of the Christian life absolutely clear. People’s deepest needs will be met when they enter a right relationship with God. That is what will make them “righteous.”
It’s easy to think that the Christian life is about doing the right thing. This fits into the focus these days on ethics: figuring out what is right and wrong. While important, Paul points out something more fundamental here. In Romans 10:1-4 he contrasts two forms of righteousness: that based on one’s own effort and that based on faith. He critiquesIsraelfor trying to live the right life by its own efforts to keep the law. Instead, Christ makes righteousness available to everyone by faith. We can be made right with God by believing in our hearts and confessing with our lips that Jesus was raised from the dead and is Lord. This is the free gift made available to all (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Those who know this have a responsibility to share this good news (v. 15). Paul makes the logic impeccably clear: to call upon the Lord, people need to believe; to believe, they need to hear; to hear, someone needs to tell them; to be told, someone needs to go. Who should go? We are not told here. However, the passage called the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) suggests that it is part of the normal Christian life to tell others about Christ and help others become disciples of Christ. That, ultimately, is the best way we can help people.
The concept of missions and spreading the faith is not view positively by many today, and some would claim it is unethical. The politically correct approach is to accept all cultural and religious differences. In matters of faith, the idea is that different truths exist. But everyone has certain fundamental human rights because we all have certain basic needs. Romans 10 claims that we also have a common spiritual need and this is provided for by Christ.
Certainly, terrible things have been done in the guise of spreading the faith. Becoming a Christian does not require abandoning one’s culture. Individual Christians and the Church as a whole have, at times, done wrong in this area. They have been guilty of discrimination and racism. The Bible rejects such behaviour, as tomorrow’s passage makes clear (Deuteronomy 1:16-17). The great and the lowly were to be treated alike by the judges, and foreigners were entitled to the same justice. We are accustomed to this principle of justice, but it is distinctive of the Judeo-Christian ethic. This can be traced back to the idea that all humans are created in the image of God and should be treated impartially. Romans 10 puts it this way: “for there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all” (v. 12). Given that, how vital it is that we bring the good news to all people so that their fractured relationship with God can be put right through faith in Jesus Christ.