Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
Matthew 14:1-21; Acts 21:1-26; Psalm 38; Exodus 27-29
Bad things happen in the world. No matter how much ethics is taught or promoted, people will still choose to do the wrong thing. Sometimes we even do something wrong while trying to do the right thing. Such was the case with Herod, who refused to break his promise (which is ethical). But in doing so, he gave permission for John the Baptist to be murdered (Matthew 14:1-11). While keeping promises is important, we must be careful about our motivations. Are we doing the right thing, or are we concerned about what we think others will think of us? Herod’s distress arose because he was afraid of what his guests would think if he did not keep his promise, even though that was now going to lead to murder. This story should also remind us not to promise to do whatever someone asks without first knowing what we’ll be asked to do.
We learn much about the heart of Jesus when we read of his response to the news of his cousin’s murder. We are told that “he went off by himself in a boat to a remote area to be alone” (Matthew 14:13, NLT). This simple sentence gives us insight into the sort of man Jesus was, and the sort of God we worship. He took some time to be alone, to process his feelings, maybe to remember his cousin. Did he sit silently before his Father in grief? Or did he vent his feelings before God? We are not sure here, but we see him open up before his Father in other prayers. Jesus shows us that there is nothing wrong with taking time alone to grief and pray when we receive bad news or hear about humanity’s inhumanity to humanity.
But then the tumultuous throngs find Jesus. Oblivious to his grief, they come with their noisy needs. Jesus looks on them and feels compassion. He doesn’t insist on having his own time to process his feelings, but sees their needs and brings them healing, food, and drink. There is a time to process our thoughts and feelings, but there also comes a time for action. Bad things continue to happen. People continue to act badly, but we cannot just sit and grieve over the ethical state of the land. We cannot just complain about the lack of ethics today. We must feel the pain and grief, go before God for guidance and strength, and seek to make a difference. That’s what led to the disciples feeding the five thousand.