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Ethics: A Christian Viewpoint

Commandments, virtues, vices, employees and more.

What Is The Great Commandment?

There are three parts to the great commandment. The first part is: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart." The real you, the deepest part of your being, should love God. The next part of the commandment is, "with all your soul, with all your mind." This includes your ego--the mental processes that focus toward mankind, yet are in touch with your spirit. And then, the third part is to love God "with all your strength." That has to do with your body. Your physical being must reflect your love of God too (Mark 12:30).

In summary, a person must dedicate the totality of his being to a self-giving love for God. Every aspect of his nature must focus on loving God. To illustrate, a person would break the great commandment if his spirit was partially centered on making money to the exclusion of God; or his mind was centered on high fashion, pride, or revenue; or his body was centered on gluttony, alcohol, or nicotine. God demands every bit of all of us!

This is why no human being can satisfy the demands of God merely by going to church or observing external religious ceremonies. No one can say, "I am a good person." In fact, keeping God's commandments is impossible unless you have the Holy Spirit dwelling within through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ fulfilled the great commandment perfectly, and He is the only human being ever to do so. Through His blood and His Spirit within us, we can live in a way that pleases God. On our own it is impossible.


What Virtues and Vices Survive Death?

People usually think of virtue or vice in relation to sexual behavior, alcohol, money, or food. But when we die, gluttony, lust, greed, and other fleshly sins will die with those of us who are Christians. We will not carry these things into heaven.

The things we will take into heaven have to do with the values of the human spirit. The apostle Paul wrote, "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (I Corinthians 13:13). The love we have for each other and for God will survive the grave. The hope we have in God will survive the grave. The faith we have in God will survive the grave. These three inner qualities of the spirit of man will go into heaven.

On the other hand, people will take spiritual characteristics to hell with them too--things like pride, rebellion, envy, pettiness, and self-seeking. Hell goes on forever, so what starts out at forty or fifty years of age as a manageable tendency could be increased and magnified at the age of one million to an absolutely hideous characteristic. Imagine what pride, selfishness, cruelty, envy, or anger would be like if they were allowed to multiply for one million years!

This is why heaven must be reserved for those whose spiritual tendencies have been reborn and why rebellious sinners cannot be allowed to enter the place that God has prepared for those who serve Him.


What is Coveting?

Coveting is an inordinate desire to have something that someone else has, whether it is an automobile, house, employee, wife, husband, or anything else. Coveting is a condition of the heart--an inner condition which ultimately leads to an outer offense. If someone covets something that someone else has, it can lead to lying, to bearing false witness, to committing murder, to stealing, or to any number of other crimes, even war between nations.

There are a finite number of houses, lands, automobiles, wives, and husbands in this world, so we are not permitted to desire what already belongs to someone else. Coveting is followed ultimately by a clash of wills, painful unhappiness, or open conflict. But God Himself is infinite, and His supply for His people is infinite. We need not covet what belongs to another. Instead, we can ask God to supply, peaceably and freely, the desires of our hearts.

We are permitted, however, to covet God Himself, to long for Him, because there is enough of Him for everyone. God is not diminished if one person "takes" a great share of Him. An equally great share is available for you and for everyone else in the world. So you can let all your desire for fulfillment be devoted toward desiring God. As Jesus put it, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).

We must also guard against wanting to be another person. For instance, Billy Graham is a great man. But I am not Billy Graham and I cannot be. God did not choose me to do what Billy Graham does, nor did He choose Billy Graham to do what I do. I can do things he cannot do, and he can do things I cannot do. But if I desire to be him, and he wants to be me, then we both have serious trouble.

Some people are successful entertainers, some are businessmen, some are politicians, some are athletes, some are craftsmen. God gives talents, abilities, and situations that are suitable for each individual. We need to seek His perfect will for each one of us, not the career achievement of another.

To attempt to be someone else can set a person upon a false course which can lead to heartbreak, frustration, and even destruction.


What Do Employers and Employees Owe Each Other?

An employee owes his employers the duty of behaving as if he were working for Jesus Christ. The Bible says, "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God"

(I Corinthians 10:31). It also tells us that we are not to seek to please men but to serve the Lord Jesus Christ (see Galatians 1:10, I Thessalonians 2:4). Wherever you work--in an office, as a union member, in a factory, as a salesman, or in any other place--you are to act as if you are working for Jesus (see I Corinthians 10:31). Remember that our reward will come from Him. Whatever the nature of the person you are working for, you should love that person, be loyal to him, and serve him with all your heart.

An employer, on the other hand, is to be gentle and tender with his employees, especially if the employees are Christians. Such employees are to be treated as brothers in the Lord. The book of Philemon consists of a letter that Paul wrote about a runaway slave. Paul told Philemon that his runaway slave had become a Christian. Because of this, Onesimus was no longer just a slave, but was now a brother in Christ and should be treated as such. Modern employers must see their employees as precious creatures made in the image of God. They are not just numbers, or nameless faces on an assembly line. They are people for whom Christ died!

Together, employers and employees should respect each other, work in harmony, and remember the basic commandment of Jesus: "Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them" (Matthew 7:12). This golden rule should underlie all labor relationships. If you would not want to be put in a dust-filled room with poor light and no toilet facilities, and allowed only a fifteen-minute break for lunch, do not put your employees under those conditions.

Conversely, if you, as an employee, do not appreciate shoddy workmanship, constant bickering, and lack of respect for your personal property, remember that your employer has the same dislikes.

In short, employers and employees should acknowledge the claim of God on both, the God-given dignity of both, and the mutual consideration that each would want if roles were reversed.


Do People Have To Be Poor In Order To Be Holy?

It has been taught for many years that holiness and poverty go hand in hand. The apostle Paul said, "I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound." Then he added, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:12-13).

You can be just as holy when you are financially comfortable as you can be when you are poor. Perhaps it is easier to cry out to God for help when you are in need. But if Christians sanctify God in their hearts ahead of material concern, they should be able to live above their circumstances whether that includes prosperity or poverty.

Poverty is a curse, not a blessing. It is certainly not equated with righteousness. It comes sometimes because of the horrors of war, sometimes because of unjust or unwise government, sometimes because of oppression by the greedy and the ruthless, sometimes because of disobedience to God's commandments, and sometimes because of lack of knowledge of God's principles of blessing. Sometimes a transition from one of God's destinations to another brings temporary poverty. Sometimes temporary poverty follows a satanic attack or a serious and unexplainable calamity. Whatever its cause, poverty is not equated with holiness.

Some voluntarily take a vow of poverty so that they can give themselves totally to God. In that situation, poverty becomes a blessing for those people, because they have given up material riches for God. However, simply being poor is not a sign of holiness. Of course, neither is being wealthy. Godly people are those who are content wherever God has placed them and are serving Him to the best of their abilities, irrespective of material circumstances.


Is Money The Root Of All Evil?

Money is not the root of all evil. The Bible says, "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (I Timothy 6:10). The use of money can be very worthwhile. It can be used to build orphanages and hospitals, to feed the poor, to preach the gospel, to build universities, to educate people in righteousness, to establish churches, and to broadcast the gospel. It takes money to print Bibles, to publish religious books, and to advertise evangelistic meetings. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with money.

The question is, what is money being used for? Is it being used for God's glory, or is it being used only for pleasure? Is it being used for pride, to support dictators, and for the purchase of arms with which to kill people, or is it being used for a higher purpose?

The love of money is a root of evil, because some people love money more than they love God. Jesus said man cannot serve God and Mammon (the false god of riches and avarice) see

Matthew 6:24.

The wage earner must earn money to stay alive. We call it "earning a living." In earlier societies, if a man had no wages he faced literal starvation and death. A supply of food insulated him from the fear of death by starvation. Later, money became the substitute for supplies of food and clothing. Soon, those who had more forgot the reason they had accumulated so much wealth. The pursuit of money became an end in itself--a status symbol--a measure of achievement. The question, "How much is he worth?" almost always refers to money--not musical ability, athletic ability, or spirituality.

The rich man begins to feel superior to those who have to earn a living. He can enjoy a life of luxury that is not available to the average person. He is also given tremendous power and can use his money to control and dominate other people. Money has become so important that men will lie, cheat, bribe, defame, and kill to get it. The love of money becomes the ultimate idolatry. This is why Paul said, "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil."


Is Drinking Alcohol A Sin?

The Bible says that "wine is a mocker, intoxicating drink arouses brawling" (Proverbs 20:1). The Bible also says, "Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, pressing him to your bottle, even to make him drunk" (Habakkuk 2:15). Yet the Bible does not say that drinking a glass of wine or beer, or a cocktail with dinner, is a sin. Drunkenness is a sin, forbidden by the Bible, but having one drink may not be wrong.

Is drinking alcohol wrong? I do not drink alcoholic beverages for one major reason: My conduct might cause someone else, who is weak, to stumble. The apostle Paul established a rule of conduct that I think is very good. He said he would not eat meat or drink wine or do anything else which would cause a weaker brother to stumble (see Romans 14:14-21).

In a country where there are at least twenty million problem drinkers, and millions of others who use alcohol to excess, Christians just cannot stand by and say, "I can drink alcoholic beverages because the Bible does not say not to." My conduct should be governed by the law of love. If I love my brother, I will not cause him to stumble and be offended. I personally refrain from drinking alcohol for that reason.

There is another reason for not drinking. The believer's body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is hard to think that we could pour liquor into the temple of God without defiling it. Liquor destroys blood vessels and brain cells. Long-term consumption of alcoholic beverages can cause cirrhosis of the liver, lead to delirium tremens, and make for habitual alcoholism.

It is also very difficult to think that anyone could worship God with his mind befogged by drinking. Even one ounce of liquor can begin to bring on intoxication. Two or three ounces can make a person legally drunk. Half of all the traffic deaths in the United States are caused by people who have had at least one drink prior to driving.

To take our money, our lives, and our bodies, all of which belong to Jesus, and subject them to a state of intoxication can hardly be said to glorify the Lord or be an act of faith.

Some would raise the issue of what Jesus did when He changed water into wine. In ancient Israel there was almost no alcoholism, and there is little problem with it in Israel today. But in Jesus' day, wine was used at meals and in ceremonial functions or for special parties. As a national matter, wine was not a problem for them. Their wine was probably a low-alcohol-content grape derivative, and it was more of a refreshing beverage than it was an intoxicant. Jesus lived in a society in which alcoholism was not the problem that it is in our day. So, for Him, in the context of that culture, wine was all right. But for us in America today, alcohol is not all right.


How Can I Quit Drinking Or Depending On Drugs?

In both of these instances a person has to make up his mind to quit. I do not believe in gradually tapering off of cigarettes, narcotics, or alcohol. You need to make a total break. That means you should get rid of anything you have that might tempt you.

In my case, when I found Jesus, I poured some valuable Scotch down the drain, to the consternation of my wife, who had not yet made the same commitment. That was a definite break for me. From that moment on, I was not going to drink any more. I believe this is the case with any habit a person regards as sinful. He or she must say, "That's it. That's the last one. No more." And from that moment on, ask God to help you.

You must confess that you have been doing something you consider wrong, and that you have been defiling the temple of God. You must tell God that you want and need His forgiveness and deliverance. You must renounce your habit and cast the spirit of alcohol, the spirit of narcotics, or the spirit of nicotine from your body. Command it to leave you and resolve that, with God's help, you will never again smoke another cigarette, another joint of marijuana, or whatever it may be that you are giving up, again.

After that, do not consort with those who helped to get you into trouble or who would soon have you back where you used to be. It may be hard to do that, but it is necessary. Instead, you should try to find some others, preferably Christians, who have given up the same habit themselves, to support you during the first days of quitting. Alcoholics Anonymous is one such group that is very helpful.

It takes about thirty days to establish a habit. You have to get into the habit of not smoking or not drinking. It will take about the same length of time for your body to clean out the poisons and the chemical dependency. After that time period, the craving should be over, and in the case of cigarettes, you may discover that the smell of cigarettes and cigarette butts will actually become repugnant to you.


How Do I Forgive My Enemies?

The first step in forgiveness is to recognize your resentment against an enemy. You must understand who the enemy is and what he has done to hurt you. Then you must consciously say, "I forgive that person for the following wrongs against me." Then repent of your feelings against your enemy and ask God to forgive you, even as "we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us" (Luke 11:4).

After that, begin to pray actively for your enemy's good. Jesus told us to pray for our enemies and that doing this will help to fill us with love for them.

When you pray for your enemies, asking God to meet their needs and manifest Himself to them, you are overcoming evil with good. Instead of fighting negative thoughts in your mind, you are filling your mind with positive thoughts. You are now on the side of your enemy; you have a spiritual stake in his well-being. If God answers your prayer, which you want Him to do, the person prayed for will be blessed, and you will learn about redemption--the ultimate form of forgiveness.

Keep in mind that if you ask God to bless somebody, God will bring that person to a condition where blessing is possible. God will not bless an evildoer until he or she repents of sin, provides restitution where necessary, and gets right with God. So if you ask God to bless someone who has wronged you, the result may well be a repentant sinner and a new brother or sister in the Lord!


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