Category Archives: Ethics

How Can We Love our Neighbor as Our Self, as Jesus Commanded?

Loving other people as oneself is a difficult goal. But Jesus clearly made it fundamental to Christian living. On one occasion, an expert in the Jewish law challenged Jesus with the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Luke 10:27 NKJV).

Although the goal of loving one’s neighbor as oneself is difficult, it isn’t impossible.  In Luke 6:36-38, Jesus gives some basic principles that help us understand what it involves:

Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you (NKJV).

This passage contains two principles. One principle is that our expectations of our neighbors are directly related to the expectations that will be placed on us. As Jesus said, “With the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” The expectations we have of others will be required by them (and God) of us. But even subjectively, we already love—or hate—our neighbors as ourselves. We subconsciously project our own attitudes and values upon other people, expecting them to perceive us as we perceive them. If we are impatient and judgmental towards others, we assume others will be impatient and judgmental towards us. If we are compassionate and patient towards others, we won’t have to deal with the pressures that come from assuming that others view us with hostility and impatience. Love or hatred directed outwards is always matched by love or hatred directed inwards.

The second principle is that love for one’s neighbor should never be confused with indulgence. A father who gives his children anything they want spoils them. If we love our neighbor as our self, we must be as careful in setting standards and goals for him as we do for ourselves. If God were a genie in a lamp who gave us anything we wanted, would we ever be satisfied? Of course not! Love for our neighbor involves the same principle. While love always seeks to promote the other person’s well-being, at times it is manifested in acts of charity and at other times in firm confrontation.

Our neighbor is just like us. At times he needs mercy, at times he needs correction, but he always needs our love.

 

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Are the Ten Commandments for Christians?

The Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments, was given to the people of Israel (Exodus 20:1-17), not Gentiles. It included both moral principles and ceremonial laws and regulations. It was intended to bring awareness of sin and guilt (Romans 3:19-20; 7:7-13; 1 Timothy 1:7-11), not to be a way of earning salvation. (Hebrews 11 explains how Abraham was saved by faith long before the law was given through Moses.)

The Jews referred to the Ten Commandments as “the ten words” (Deuteronomy 4:13). They were the basis of the entire Mosaic system, and as such they contain principles that remain the foundation of Christian ethics.

Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law (Romans 5:5; 8:1-4), so that Christians are no longer under the external Law of Moses (Galatians 3:1-14; Colossians 2:8-17). The Ten Commandments contain elements of ceremonial law. Christians aren’t required to follow these. Yet, when obedient to the Holy Spirit, Christians manifest God’s love and righteousness in harmony with the Ten Commandments’ moral principles (Romans 13:8-10).1

  1. The works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit listed by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5 demonstrate clearly how impossible it would be to live a Spirit-filled life while violating the moral principles within the Ten Commandments. Back To Article
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Does God Hold Me Responsible For What I Do In My Dreams?

It’s unlikely God holds us much more accountable for the fantasies that appear in our dreams than He does for the predispositions to sin that we all share, including temptations or evil thoughts that drift into our minds. In fact, some of the things that happen in the theater of our dreams may help us be more aware of our deepest longings, conflicts, and fears.

Sexual fantasy, rage, and violence often occur abruptly and seemingly uncontrollably in dreams. We don’t know how much we are capable of regulating behavior in dreams. Some of the ascetic church fathers thought we are responsible for what we do in dreams, but Scripture nowhere indicates that this is true.1

Dreams are generally things that “happen to us,” not things we consciously choose to do. To the extent that our dreams are “lucid”—that is under the control of our conscious mind—we may find we encounter some genuine temptation. (See What should I think of what I experience in dreams? and Is it possible that some dreams contain important symbolic meaning—or even a message from God?)

If troubled by dreams, we should commit them to the Lord, asking for protection as we sleep. We should also ask Him to instruct us as we sleep and strengthen our ability to resist both conscious and unconscious temptation.

  1. Furthermore, Scripture nowhere implies that we adopt the other extreme forms of self-discipline the ascetics embraced, such as living in isolation, eating starvation diets, tormenting themselves with hair shirts that constantly itched, remaining unbathed so that lice could multiply, and so on. Back To Article

 

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Is it wrong to ask God to provide financial gain?

Jesus made it clear that the measure of a person’s value has nothing to do with their material possessions. In fact, He declared that “mammon” (Syriac for wealth or riches) is one of the most common obstacles to having a right relationship with God (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:9-13).

If we pray for improvements in our finances, we are like a child asking his father for a new bicycle. There is nothing wrong with asking, as long as we are willing to accept “no” as a possible response.

Just as a father may realize that his child isn’t mature enough to ride a bicycle on busy streets, God may realize that we aren’t ready for a financial windfall. He may know that we still need to learn discipline and self-control in order to achieve financial gain and handle it when we have achieved it. Or he may know that would be better for the development of our character if we never gained it.

If we pray for financial gain, it should be worded something like this:

“Heavenly Father, if it is Your will for me at this time, please help me financially. I have (list them) serious concerns, and don’t know how to deal with them. Please give me guidance and wisdom.”

 

 

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Isn’t Investing Money Just Another Form of Avarice, Like Gambling?

Investment seldom seems like a good idea in the midst of a bad economic downturn. This doesn’t mean that investment is always wrong. There are times when a farmer will invest a lot of time and money in seed and soil preparation and planting of crops, only to see crops destroyed by a drought, flood, or hailstorm.

Scripture doesn’t teach that we should avoid money, but that we should keep it in proper perspective. It is a tool that should be used wisely, not an idol at the center of our life.

In his parable of the unworthy servant, Jesus made it clear that one of the indications of bad faith is an unwillingness to take appropriate risks with the assets God has given us (Matthew 25:24-30).

In our present-day culture, careful investment of money is no different than it would have been for an Israelite to provide for his family through the purchase of property or other marketable items. Life involved risks in ancient Palestine, just as it does today. Droughts or disease could destroy crops, thieves could steal wealth, and war or disease could deprive a person of everything they labored to accumulate.

In a simple “iron age” culture, such as the culture in which the Israelites lived, many of their circumstances were different from ours. Nevertheless, the Israelite farmer would have to plant his seed, trusting God to provide the proper amount of sun and rain to nourish his crop. Most of us don’t make our living through agriculture, but we must wisely invest our time, skills, and our financial assets to provide for our families, the work of the church, and the care of the needy.

The fact that the master was angered by the servant who did not gain interest with his mina (Luke 19:20-24) implies that God expects us be wise in handling everything He gives us—abilities, opportunities, and finances. This can be applied to individuals and to Christian organizations. All of us must handle money as a sacred trust—not letting it “be idle” but using it to do the utmost for the glory of God. This doesn’t mean recklessly gambling or giving it all away—something we might do to avoid the responsibility of managing it properly—but using it wisely so that it can be a source of blessing not only to our family, but to others in need.

The principle from Scripture that is most applicable is that we should not be enslaved by mammon.1 There are many passages that make it clear that God expects us to be good stewards of the assets He has given us, and this principle would undoubtedly include our financial assets.

  1. The New Bible Dictionary offers a concise definition of mammon: “This word occurs in the Bible only in Mt. 6:24 and Lk. 16:9, 11, 13, and is a transliteration of Aramaic mamona. It means simply wealth or profit, but Christ sees in it an egocentric covetousness which claims man’s heart and thereby estranges him from God (Mt. 6:19ff.); when a man ‘owns’ anything, in reality it owns him” (p. 730). Back To Article
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