September 17

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

Introduction
Reading schedule

Luke 22:39-46; Hebrews 9:11-22; Proverbs 25:1-14; Isaiah 45-46

A popular belief today is that we are the measure of all things. We proclaim that we have made our lives what they are, and therefore that they are ours to do with as we wish. We believe we know best what we should do and can make up our own minds about what is right and wrong. But if we look around us at current controversies, or back over human history, we should question this. Down through history, various rulers, philosophers and scientists have insisted that they have discovered the truth and that people should follow them. As we face current challenges in economics, healthcare, ethics, humans starting from human ideas offer a plethora of opinions. Many of them contradict one another. Some find favour for a time and then fizzle and die.

An underlying issue in many debates is the question of authority. Who gets to say that their opinion is right? Why should we submit to any authority? God says that because of who he is, he speaks the truth and declares what is right (Isaiah 45:19). On the other hand, all humans fall short of his goodness and righteousness, and are stubborn-hearted (46:12). Since our conception, God has sustained and carried us, and he will continue to do so into our old age (46:3-4). He made us, so he knows what is best for us. And there is no other like him (45:5-6, 18, 22; 46:9). All other gods have to be carried by us (46:7). No wonder they consume and exhaust us rather than nurture and empower us.

Such bold declarations do not sit well with many people today. They never have. We struggle with what to do in specific situations. We want to do what is right, but how do we know what is right? Today, the world claims that we should figure it out for ourselves. Do what is right for us. What a burden to have to carry. No wonder we exhaust ourselves trying to figure everything out, or just go with what feels right. Doing what seems right for me has become a virtue. Putting the needs of others ahead of our own seems strange. I regularly ask my undergraduate students if there is anything or anyone they would be willing to die for. Rarely does anyone say there is. Believing there is no absolute truth, no standard for right and wrong, has very practical effects. In contrast, Jesus did not want to suffer, but he submitted to God’s will. He did not insist on getting his way, but accepted that God’s way was the right way (Luke 22:42). He trusted God, his knowledge and his goodness, which is living by faith.

This doesn’t mean that every question has an obvious answer. We struggle in our search for answers (Proverbs 25:2). God has revealed some things clearly and repeatedly in the Bible. We should love him and our neighbours. We should care for the weak and vulnerable. We should not devote our lives to pursuing material wealth. How we apply his principles to specific situations and new issues requires trust in him and dependence on his Holy Spirit. As we trust in God’s will and his promises, he will transform us and we will become more like him: more righteous than we were in our ways.

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