Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
Mark 8:22-30; 2 Corinthians 3; Psalm 101; 1 Samuel 9-10
The author of Psalm 101 proclaims his commitment to living a moral and just life. He begins by focusing on the love and justice of the Lord. He learns what it means to live ethically from knowing God and his ways. The NIV has ‘I will be careful to lead a blameless life’ (verse 2), but the more literal meaning of the verb is to gaze upon or learn wisdom. Another translation has ‘I would study the way of the blameless.’ This fits better with learning the Lord’s way in verse 1, and the subsequent prayer: When will you (wisdom) come to me?
The psalmist thus acknowledges that ethical progress is gradual. We learn from God and others how to live well. The way Paul puts it is that we are being transformed into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). This begins by contemplating the glory of God, and occurs by God’s power. This is not gritting our teeth to force ourselves to become better, but a gradual transformation of our characters under the power and direction of the Holy Spirit.
At the same time, we are not passive observers of God’s work. We should be actively involved through the choices we make. The psalmist gives several examples, many of which involve everyday situations. While it would be easy to avoid serious crimes, like murder, rape or stealing, the psalmist commits himself to living ethically in the ordinary things of life. The NIV makes verses 3 and 4 sound like the psalmist rejects others who sin, but other translations show that he rejects sinfulness, including that which lurks in his own heart. We must turn away from sin so that ‘It shall not fasten its grip on me’ (verse 3b, NASB).
Thus, the psalmist refuses to look with approval on anything vile. We are surrounded by pornographic images and the glorification of selfishness. We may be tempted to be less than truthful on our taxes or insurance claims. Cutting a few corners can’t be all bad, we think. We may have a proud heart, feel full of ourselves, and look down on others. We may slander our neighbours in secret, or openly tell lies. Deceit leads to other forms of dishonesty. We must turn away from these temptations in our own hearts, and expose unethical and unjust practices that we encounter.