Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
Mark 2:13-17; 1 Corinthians 7:17-24; Psalm 84; Joshua 22-23
Moses permitted some people of Israel to settle in Gilead before crossing the Jordan (Numbers 32). First they had to help the other tribes conquer the land. Task accomplished, our passage today has them heading home. Joshua takes this opportunity to remind them of what is central to living life as God desires. They are to love God and walk in all his ways, keeping all his commandments (Joshua 22:5). The same central message is presented by Moses (Deuteronomy 6:5) and Jesus (Matthew 22:37-40).
Living the life God offers involves two aspects, arranged in the same order in all these passages. Yet when people ask about what concerns God, we often think or talk about the second aspect first: we focus on what God want us to do or not do. Moses, Joshua and Jesus turn this order around. Joshua says we are “to cling to the Lord” (Joshua 23:8), “to hold fast to him” (Joshua 22:5), and to “be very careful to love the Lord your God” (Joshua 23:11). Living ethically flows out of our relationship with God and our love for him.
The writer of Psalm 84 has discovered this truth. He tells us that his soul yearns and his heart and flesh cry out to be with the Lord. His focus was on being in the presence of the Lord in the Temple, but we discussed a couple of days ago how every Christian is now a temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19). Every Christian can have this experience of the Lord at any time.
How many of us could honestly say we would prefer a day in the presence of God than a thousand without him? Sometimes it seems easier just to be told what to do and to get on with it. Be that as it may, God is not primarily concerned with our behaviour. He is concerned about our heart and who we long to be with. Today’s passages provide guidance on walking closely with him.
The first step is obvious: we must spend time with God, just as we would in any relationship. We must think about God and how he is like a sun and a shield, empowering, enlightening, and protecting. That requires reflecting on what God has done in our lives, like Joshua told the Israelites to do (Joshua 23:3-5). Similarly in Mark, Jesus tells Levi to come and be with him, and points out to the teachers that he is here to be with sinners, not those who appear righteous. Paul tells the Corinthians not to worry about their condition in this life, but to cherish the freedom God has won for them. Walking with God also requires knowing the Bible and putting its principles into practice (Joshua 23:6). Living life ethically should flow out of a loving relationship with God, and this will impact our attitudes and behaviour. Such a life differs from one focused on behaviour and the rules and regulations we think we must keep to be accepted.