Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
Mark 15:16-20; Ephesians 1:15-23; Psalm 119:9-16; 1 Kings 9-10
1 Kings 10 opens with an inspiring scene. Word has spread about the wisdom of Solomon. The queen of Sheba is impressed by all she has heard about him, but she also has many questions. Her visit probably had a practical side too, wanting to see if Solomon could be trusted as an ally or trading partner. She’s been told that all these good things are connected with Solomon’s God. How could this be? She comes to see for herself, and is blown away. Not only is everything better than she had heard; Solomon shows her how all of this relates to God.
Those committed to biblical Christianity often wish that something similar would happen in their day. We long for others to look at Christian life and wisdom with admiration and a desire to find out more. Yet answers to ethical questions that have a ‘religious’ connection are often dismissed. For example, some prominent ethicists reject the notion of human dignity because its origins are tied to the belief that humans are made in the image of God. They want to value humans, but only on secular terms.
In response, it is easy to become defensive or judgmental. Some take aggressive approaches to try to convince others. Today’s passages remind us that ethics needs to start with our own hearts and minds. In 1 Kings, Solomon is reminded of the importance of walking before the Lord with integrity of heart and uprightness (9:4). Our passage in Psalms notes that the key to living ethically start with our hearts (119:10; also 1 Kings 8:61).
When thinking about ethical issues and moral behaviour, it is easy to focus on the answers and what must be done. The Bible says that ethics starts by drawing close to the Lord and getting to know him. Walking with God implies extended time being in his presence. In today’s passage from Paul, he prays for wisdom for the Ephesians. This comes by having the eyes of our hearts enlightened to God’s goodness and all he wants to give us. Wisdom requires a willingness to listen to God because he is the ultimate source of wisdom. This involves getting to know the Bible, hiding God’s word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11).
Solomon had done this, but then he drifted. He achieved all his own desires (1 Kings 9:1, 19), and this can become a problem. Closeness with God cannot be presumed, but must be maintained diligently. Solomon also wrote, ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life’ (Proverbs 4:23). He appears not to have taken his own advice.
Problems start when we turn away from the Lord (1 Kings 9:6, 9). This can be a slow drift as we neglect to spend time with the Lord. We leave it to the weekend; then to the holidays. We’ll plan a special retreat some day. Then we get a rude awakening when we notice that our lifestyle or our relationships are no longer characterised by biblical values. Solomon was still able to impress the queen, who was really a stranger. She marvelled at how happy his men must have been around him. Reality, as the next chapter shows, become something different. Solomon let his success cloud his heart and he drifted away from God. If we are concerned about ethics in today’s world, we must start with our own hearts and walk close with the Lord. He will guide us as we seek to live ethically. If our lives reflect God’s wisdom, others may notice and bring up their questions.