December 24

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible

Reading schedule

John 20:1-9; Revelation 18; Job 42; Micah 6-7

The man of Micah 6:6-7 wants to bargain with God. Given all he is willing to offer to save his soul, he must be wealthy. He thinks he can buy God’s forgiveness and acceptance. But God will not forget if riches are ill-gotten, obtained through unfair trade practices. Wealth itself is not bad, but it can corrupt our heart (1 Timothy 6:9-10). The love of money can lead to violence and injustice (Micah 6:11-12). This is not limited to gangs and violent dictators, but goes on whenever individuals or corporate boards place profit above people, or egos over ethics. This happens when corners are cut or safe standards ignored, and when we fail to question if lower prices come at the expense of workers or the environment.

The judgment of Babylon makes it clear that God holds society’s corporately responsible for their injustices and abuses (Revelation 18). Christians are called to come out of Babylon lest they share in her sins and punishments. Such involvement included those who traded with and earned comfortable livings from the unjust system. John’s original denunciation was addressed to Rome, but our global economic system has similar characteristics. Rich nations earn lavish wealth off the backs of the poor in many parts of the world. This is not right.

In calling God’s people out of Babylon, the voice from heaven wants Christians to reject the values and priorities of the world system. We must resist desiring comfort and relying on wealth. All that will disappear some day (Revelation 18:14-19) and besides, with our stomachs filled, we can still be unsatisfied (Micah 6:14). Instead, we are called to holiness and character formation. God wants us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with him.

To act justly means that when we have power and influence, we use it fairly to help those who have less or to ensure wrong-doers are brought to justice. When we supervise others, we should not use them to make our lives easier, but honour everyone’s dignity and contribution. When we see others break the law or undermine the team’s work, we should address the wrong-doing, not just turn a blind eye to avoid controversy or keep the peace.

To love mercy addressees our underlying heart attitude when helping others. The opposite is to assist reluctantly and begrudgingly. To love mercy is to see it as a privilege to help someone. Out of gratitude for the opportunities, talents or resources we have been given, we use these for the good of others. We see the person in need as someone equal in value and dignity to ourselves, and we are grateful for the chance to help. We are not thinking about how we will be repaid, but we are happy to extend grace to others because of the grace we have been shown.

The precise meaning of walking humbly with God is not as clear-cut as the others because the Hebrew phrase is rarely used. Humility is a secondary meaning, with the term primarily being about living carefully in conformity with God’s will. Rather than relying on their own insight, those who walk this way first examine God’s perspective on an issue as revealed in his Word. As a result, they learn to discern between right and wrong, and have a practical wisdom that leads to sensible decisions (Hebrews 5:14).

Such a life may not win popularity contests or bring great wealth, but it is a life lived with a God of forgiveness, mercy and compassion (Micah 7:18-20). Such a life is one of true wealth.


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