February 1

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

Reading schedule

Matthew 10:1-16; Acts 13:1-25; Psalm 25; Exodus 1-2

The book of Exodus drops us immediately into a complicated set of ethical dilemmas. The ruling authorities are cruelly demanding more and more from the Israelite workers. This aggressiveness is motivated by fear of Israelites. The Egyptians think there are acting wisely to prevent the Israelites from joining some future enemy. Ironically, they are actually making it less likely that the Israelites would help them if an enemy did attack. Our natural tendency when fearful of others can be to come across aggressively. On a smaller scale, if we feel threatened by a work colleague, or jealous of a neighbour, we may consider how to may conditions less tolerable for them or find ways to put them down – to put them in their place. Such is not the way of the Lord.

The Egyptians show their distain for Hebrew life by requiring the midwives to kill all the newborn Israelite boys. The midwives are now forced into a classic ethical dilemma: what should we do when two laws conflict? This dilemma is often presented in terms of whether it would be ethical to tell a lie to help people being hunted by Nazi soldiers. These midwives faced exactly the same dilemma. Should they obey the Egyptian authorities and kill the baby boys, or save the babies and lie about what happened? Some may claim that the midwives carefully crafted their words so that they didn’t really lie, but that just avoids the main issue: they refused to obey the law of the land.

We see clearly from God’s response that he wholeheartedly approved of what the midwives did. They saw clearly that following God meant not killing the baby boys. This would have gone against God’s plans for the nation of Israel, but it also reflected what they knew of God: he cares for the vulnerable and weak. Their decision was not based on God’s Law, which they had not yet received. Rather, it was based on their knowledge of God and his character. They knew him well enough to know his concern for vulnerable human life.

Technology has now made it possible for us to select some babies and get rid of others even before they are born. Various tests can be done on embryos and during pregnancy to identify which humans live and which should not. The methods are more sophisticated, but the outcome is the same. People face challenging dilemmas over whether to allow a particular embryo or child to live. Ending their life now might seem like the ‘best’ thing to do. Politics and race may not be the issue, but economics and ‘family balance.’ God still sees the pain and affliction of his children. Who will provide the wicker baskets and loving arms to rescue those being disposed of by our society?

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