Three More (Ethical) Hot Potatoes

Living an ethical life for the Christian means living up to Biblical standards, not down to worldly standards. When you stop and think about it, a Christian would actually have lower his standards to be ethical according to the world’s definition of “ethical.” This, of course, presupposes that Christians want to live up to Biblical standards. In the modern arena of life, sometimes it’s very difficult to spot a Christian in the crowd!

It’s unfortunate that so many believers have such limited knowledge of Scripture that they are unable to think critically about important issues of the day. Such is the case with the last three hot (ethical) potatoes in our series. We Christians refer to non-Christians as “the lost.” We call them “lost” for a couple of reasons. First, they are lost because they are “lost in their sins.” When you are lost in your sins, your destination is Hell. That’s not politically correct, but it’s a fact. Second, we call the non-Christian “lost” because they are ignorant. That is, they literally don’t know right from wrong; their minds are corrupt and they are unable to come to a correct conclusion on many issues. This is why you, Mr and Mrs Christian, need to live as ethically as you can! You can show these lost folks a better way. It is your witness; it is your testimony; it is your obligation to both God and the lost.

1. Hot potato: Sanctity of life

(a) Humans—a very special creation, Genesis 9:6; Psalm 139:13—16

From an abortion clinic's pathology lab. Each container houses an aborted baby.

You don’t have to watch, listen to, or read American media to discover that Americans have a very (to me) strange, sick obsession with abortion. How obsessed are we? In 2010, there were approximately 3,500 per day. Now, that’s sick. What makes it even worse is that many of those abortions were performed on Christian women. Christians have a perplexing notion regarding abortion. Christian parents preach pro-life loudly and clearly until their little princess breaks the bad news to them. Then it’s usually up to Dad to sneak her over the county line to have an abortion on the QT.

How do Christians live ethically in a culture that has such a cheap and selfish view of life? It all begins with what the Bible teaches regarding when life begins. It is NOT up to the courts to decide when life begins. God creates it, so He is the ONLY authority on the issue of when life begins.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13—16)

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the author of Psalm 139 wrote about God’s participation in the development of a life within the womb. It may well be “a woman’s body,” but the new life in her womb is a life carefully crafted by God, and nobody has a right to interfere with His work. These are powerful verses for the Christian to ponder. For the unbeliever, who does not recognize the authority of the Bible, they are meaningless. These verses are for believers; believers are to base their ethic on the sanctity of life on these verses and verses like them. Let the world engage court battles and political decisions in their fruitless quest to justify their slaughter of 3,500 innocent lives a day.

God takes the taking of life seriously, by the way. Consider Genesis 9:6—

Whoever sheds human blood, by human beings shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made humankind.

Here you have verse that settles three things. First, if a fetus is a living person as the Bible says it is, then having an abortion is the shedding of human life. For the unbeliever, that person who had the abortion is ignorant, her mind corrupt, and already on her way to Hell unless she finds Jesus. But the believer who has an abortion has a lot to answer for. Second, this verse clearly teaches that God believes in what we call “capital punishment.” There’s no other way to interpret “by human beings shall their blood be shed.” And third, God holds human life sacred because every human being is created by God in His image.

(b) God’s set time, Ecclesiastes 3:1—2; Psalm 116:15

Human life is in God’s hands. We take pills, have operations, and practice all kinds of “healthy eating” in hopes of eking out an extra year or two of life, but the fact is, life and death are in God’s hands. Christians generally know when life begins, abortion statistics notwithstanding. But things get a little muddled for us at the end of life. When a loved one dies, we say ridiculous things like, “She died too soon.” Or, “He was taken from us at such a young age.” In light of what the Bible says, those statements are ridiculous and meaningless:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot. (Ecclesiastes 3:1—2)

God has a plan for every human being. Their beginning was determined by God and their end will be determined by God. There is nothing a mere human being can do to add one second to their life when when their time is up. Since God has a plan for every life and a span for every life, who has a right disrupt that plan or shorten that span by murder of any kind? No wonder God takes life so seriously!

For the Christian, the sanctity of life must always be of primary concern before all others. Whether the child is wanted or not. Whether that child has a disability or not. Whether that senior citizen is on life support or not. Convenience, cost, the courts, and quality of life do not determine the Christian’s ethic concerning the sanctity of life. The Word of God does.

2. Ethnic discrimination

Here is another obsession of Americans. We are absolutely obsessed with a person’s race, color, ethnicity, and so on. Even our national census has questions about race. Race determines who gets into some colleges and who gets some jobs. All this in a country that claims to be “colorblind.” As Christians, we need to know what the Bible says about this issue.

(a) The principle, Leviticus 19:33, 34

When foreigners reside among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigners residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

That principle sounds reasonable, but when we consider the context in which God gave it, it becomes quite stunning in its implications. The Israelites were God’s chosen people. They were given a piece of land to live on by God Himself. They were the recipients of tremendous blessings from God just by virtue of their special covenant relationship with Him. Yet here we have God laying down a principle for all time: treat a stranger as if they were not. Love the stranger as you love yourself.

It is God’s declaration that God’s people should not discriminate against any person who is from a race or ethnic group different from themselves. Rather than treating someone differently because they are from a different ethnic group, Christians are to consider them no different (no better or no worse) than themselves.

Naturally, we as believers don’t carry that to a ridiculous extreme. Leviticus does not teach “moral” or “cultural relativism.” We balance this teaching of acceptance with other teachings about being separate from the world and not allowing the world into the Body of Christ. There is a world of difference between multiculturalism and multi-ethnicity. The former is highly destructive to society, but the latter is wholly Biblical. All of us, “red and yellow, black and white,” stand equal before our Creator.

(b) The problem, Luke 10:29—37

One day, a lawyer wanted to test Jesus and justify himself. The question he asked our Lord had to do with going to heaven. Jesus’ answer was simple. If you want to go to heaven, all you have to do is obey the law of God and love your neighbor as yourself.

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In answer to the second question, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the story, an unfortunate man was robbed and beaten up and left for dead on a the side of a road and all kinds of people just walked by him, not offering to help him. They all had a good excuse for not helping this poor guy. While we don’t know his ethnicity, we do know who eventually stopped to offer aid: a Samaritan.

This Samaritan, a half-breed really, went out of his way to help a stranger. He put into work the principle outlined in Leviticus. What’s the point of the story? That a half-breed is more ethical than a priest? No! Jesus’ point in the parable is that we believers ought to be willing to extend a helping hand regardless of the other person’s ethnicity.

3. Addictive behaviors

(a) Money, 1 Timothy 6:10; Proverbs 13:11; 28:19, 20

There is nothing wrong with wealth or money. There is nothing unethical about being wealthy or having a lot of money. There is no virtue in being poor. As you read the Old Testament, wealth is seen as a reward for obedience in the lives of such people as Abraham, Job, and David. The more they obeyed the Word of God, the more wealth God gave them. Over in the New Testament, the ministries of Paul and Jesus would have been non-existent had it not been for the support of wealthy people. Wealthy individuals made missionary endeavors possible. We give the Holy Spirit credit for the rapid expansion of the Church in Acts, but let’s not forget how much wealthy believers did to help spread the Good News!

The ethical issue surrounding money isn’t that Christians shouldn’t have much of it, but that they shouldn’t be in love with it. Loving money is unethical because it leads to unethical behavior that touches virtually every aspect of your life.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10)

Indeed, loving money opens the door to all kinds of grief and trouble! When we “love” money, we become addicted to it; we find ways to accumulate it, often to our detriment. If you have ever watched the zombie-like senior citizen yanking the slot-machine lever in Las Vegas, gambling away his pension and working on his Social Security check, you have a good picture of what Paul meant by “piercing themselves with man griefs.” When you are in love with money, you lose all perspective. You’ll do things you thought you would never do to get more money and get it as fast as you can. Proverbs gives us some excellent wisdom about this:

Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow. (13:11)

A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished. (28:20)

(b) Sexual addiction, Matthew 5:28; Psalm 101:3, 4

Addiction to things like pornography prove to be a snare; it is unethical behavior for the Christian because, like loving money, it distorts your view of the world around you and leads on a path that will destroy your life.

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)

Jesus sure sets the ethical bar high! But remember, as Christians, we are to live up that His bar, not the world’s bar.

I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it. The perverse of heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with what is evil. (Psalm 101:3, 4)

The power of your choice! You can choose to turn away for things like pornography. It is our responsibility to “turn it off” in order to not do what “faithless people do.” There are times when we can’t help but see things we shouldn’t. But when we can, it is our duty to take responsibility for what we see. It’s good to remember the old Sunday School song:

Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little eyes, what you see.

Be careful little ears what you hear
Be careful little mouth what you say…
Be careful little hands, what you touch…
Be careful little feet, where you go…

We have barely scratched the surface in the study of Christian ethics. The most important thing to remember is that as a Christian, you are called to a higher standard of living than those who are not believers. This in no way makes you superior to them; it makes you an obedient Christian. Christian ethics is really all about our consecration and dedication to the teachings of the Word of God.

Christianity is different than all other “belief systems” because they all have strict rules and regulations their followers are expected to respect. Not so with Christianity. We recognize that we are created in God’s image. We have an intellect. We have ambition. We have the ability to reason. We have talents and abilities to create wonderful things, and wicked things. We have been given something precious: the ability to think and choose for ourselves. The key for the Biblical ethicist is summed up by Paul:

I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)

Don’t lose control of your life! Don’t let the things of this world get a hold of you! Take control of your life; be obedient to the Word of God, rise above this world, and become the ethical person God has called you to be.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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