Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
John 21:20-25; Revelation 22; Zechariah 13-14; Malachi 3-4
Many of our ethical dilemmas arise out of need. We get ourselves out of a tough spot with a little lie here, or fudge on the details there. We know we should do something to help those worse off, but our own needs loom large. We don’t have enough hospital resources for everyone, so who gets taken care of first? An unexpected pregnancy feels overwhelming and leaves people looking for ways to get out of the situation. When the suffering seems unbearable, it looks like bringing on death is the better option.
Facing ethical dilemmas as Christians, we must remember the final chapter of the biblical story. A time is coming when all need and want will be taken away. We are to take confidence that these are truthful and trustworthy accounts (Revelation 22:6; John 21:24). We can have hope that all pain and tears will be wiped away in the end.
Reflecting on the future should impact how we live in the present. Viewing ourselves primarily as unjust victims of others can lead to bitterness or retaliation. We may be tempted to take control of the situation and seek comfort in the wrong places, some of which are listed in Revelation 22:15 and Malachi 3:5. There is no compromise in the way these sins are described throughout the Bible, in spite of how they may seem valid at times. Viewing ourselves as future heirs of great blessings should lead to resilience in the face of temptation. We can be dignified in the present, even if the circumstances are undignifying. The river of life is visible in the new heaven and new earth, but its waters are already available in Christ. As we cultivate the experience of God’s presence with us, he will sustain us in the midst of our trials and sufferings.
These passages also contain the theme of judgment. This is not a popular idea these days, and yet it pervades Scripture. Just as heavenly comfort is not a myth, the Day of Judgment is not just a Hollywood blockbuster. Christ will return, and because of that we should be ready. Revelation 22:11 is not an encouragement to keep doing wrong, but a rhetorical comment often made by the prophets (e.g. Amos 4:4). Telling people to keep on sinning was intended to shake them out of their complacency. The hope was that they would see the error of their ways, and come to God for the free gift of the water of life. A day is coming when the gift will no longer be available, when our previous decisions will seal our fate either within the holy city or outside it.
Knowing that we have a future with Christ should encourage us to continue to do right. No matter what its cost, this pales in significance to the blessings available in Christ. Living ethically in the light of the Bible will not be easy at times, but it is ultimately the most satisfying. It is living according to the ways of the One who created us in the Beginning and will be with us in the End.