Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
Mark 5:35-43; 1 Corinthians 13; Psalm 91; Judges 16
Many people, Christian or not, are somewhat familiar with the story of Samson and Delilah. Her treacherous seductiveness and his arrogant strength appear in many tragedies. Yet familiarity with this story can hide the ethical complexity embedded within it. Why did God continue to strengthen Samson in the midst of his amorous teasing and deceptive trickery? Why did God remove his power after a hair-cut, but not after Samson’s blatantly immoral behaviour? Why did God honour Samson’s request to strengthen him one last time, while knowing that this would cause his death?
Part of the answer lies in realising that the Bible claims that God is the source of all our talents and abilities. As we read in 1 Corinthians 12, Christians have also been given spiritual gifts. The responsibility to exercise those gifts and natural talents lies with us. God will not take away those abilities if we start to use them selfishly or inappropriately. Someone who mixes well with people and easily engages people in talking about Jesus Christ will not turn into a social klutz if she uses those same abilities to scam people. A charismatic teacher of the Bible will not become a babbling fool if his sermons become heretical.
So with Samson. His life dramatically exemplifies how a gifted man of God can waste his talents. He could have powerfully led the Israelites, yet he spent his time playing tricks and messing around. Someone should not be followed solely because of their gifting, training or talents. How they use those abilities is crucial—character matters. Part of Samson’s tragedy is that the Philistines were seeking to know the source of his strength, yet he did not tell them that this came from God. The tragedy lies in what might have been accomplished had God’s abilities been used for God’s purpose.
Psalm 91 instead shows us how a true man of God trusts in God. Yet even these promises can be taken wrongly and assumed to mean that God will protect us from all harm. Satan quoted verses 11-12 of Psalm 91 to Jesus as part of his temptation (Luke 4:9-12). He wanted Jesus to put God to the test by demanding his protection. Such protection is not guaranteed when we put ourselves in foolish situations or misuse our gifts, as Samson did. Just as with our talents and gifts, we must use the promises of God rightly to avoid tragedy and bring glory to God.