May 23

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

Introduction
Reading schedule

Mark 13:1-13; Galatians 2:11-21; Psalm 112; 2 Samuel 18-19

Psalm 112 is closely related to the one before it. Both are acrostic, with each line starting alphabetically with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Both have ten verses, with additional lines in the last verse to complete the 22 Hebrew letters. The psalms are closely linked in theme as well as structure. While Psalm 111 describes God’s attributes, it ends by declaring that those who fears the Lord and follow his instructions will have wisdom and understanding. Psalm 112 begins by stating that such people are ‘blessed’, or happy, when they delight in God’s commands.

These themes indicate that the two psalms belong to wisdom literature. In keeping with that, the godly person is described as prosperous and wealthy. This does not mean that following God always brings comfort and wealth, but that the godly life is the most pleasing and satisfying overall. It does not necessarily result in material wealth, but a life characterised by grace, compassion, justice and generosity – the same traits that describe God (verse 4 in both psalms). Just as God’s righteousness endures forever (Psalm 111:3), so too does that of those who follow Him (Psalm 112:3, 9). Just as God provides food for those who fear him, they distribute their gifts to the poor. They do not trust in their wealth, which brings insecurity, fears and anxious longings. Instead, they trust in the Lord, which brings confidence and security.

Trusting God dissolves the fear of bad news which can cripple people with fear and fretting, or feed callous clutching after control. Those who follow God in their heart are not immune from bad news. Instead, Jesus promises believers bad news (Mark 13). At times, Christians will be arrested and prosecuted. Even today, the news reports Christians being singled out and executed in parts of the world simply because they are Christians. Jesus promises the help of the Holy Spirit to give those arrested the words to say. There is no inclination that these are crafty words to win their freedom, but words of truth that allow them to witness clearly to the gospel (Mark 13:11).

Peter had exemplified the opposite way. He had lied about knowing Jesus on the night he was arrested, and he failed to stand on the truth of the gospel when the men from James arrived (Galatians 2:12). These men trusted in the law revealed to Moses (plus many other social conventions added later) for their salvation and continued acceptance by God. This is different to following God’s precepts and delighting in his law as described in Psalms 111 and 112. The psalmist trusted God to develop certain character traits in him as he delighted in God’s law. The men from James trusted in the law itself to win acceptance from God. But observing the law will never justify someone (Galatians 2:16). In a startling claim, Paul declares that if the law makes people righteous, Jesus died needlessly. Faith and trust in Jesus, not the law, brings forgiveness and acceptance from God. Faith in Jesus on an on-going basis allows the life of Christ to increasingly characterise people’s lives. Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit’s help when Christians are on trial is just one instance of how the Holy Spirit will empower people to develop and display godly virtues, including those mentioned in Psalm 112. Much of the rest of Galatians develops the practicalities of allowing the Holy Spirit to have ever increasing influence on Christians’ lives so that the life we live is Christ living in us.

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