(3) Character through morals

F.  The test of one’s hero:

Almost everyone has someone they admire, look up to, follow, seek counsel from, or are mentored by. When we are in a situation to make a decision concerning right or wrong, it is sometimes good to ask oneself what his hero would do if he were faced with the same decision.

Jesus is our hero. “You call Me Teacher and Lord. And you are right, for so I am” (Jn 13:13). On the occasion when Jesus made this statement, He continued, “If I then, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (Jn 13:14). The reason we should follow Jesus as our hero is what He said to conclude the impact of His example of washing the disciples’ feet: For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you (Jn 13:15). Jesus gave an example of humble servitude. If we are to be His disciples, then we should be looking for his footprints in order to follow His example. We need to be looking for dirty feet.

Now the challenge is to choose the correct heroes we should be following. If we idolize those who are wicked, then we are working against ourselves. Peter wrote that Jesus left us an example that we should follow in His steps (1 Pt 2:21). But if we choose to follow in the steps of the unrighteous, then we will end up with their final destination. One must be cautious, therefore, to choose those individuals who would lead us in the right direction.

The Holy Spirit gave the apostle Paul the right to be followed as an example: “The things that you have both learned and received and heard and seen in me, do these things and the God of peace will be with you” (Ph 4:9). Therefore, Paul wrote of himself, “Be imitators of me even as I also am of Christ (1 Co 11:1).   The condition for which one can be a hero for the Christian is that the one we would seek to follow must be a Christian. We would follow Paul, therefore, in so much as he followed Christ.

G.  The test of influence:

Sometimes when seeking to determine if something is either morally right or wrong, we must ask ourselves if the action would either benefit society or cause disruption in society if everyone behaved in the same manner. This principle is reflected in Paul’s exhortations to the Corinthians in reference to the eating of meat that had been sacrificed to idols (1 Co 8).

The context of eating meat was in reference to older Christians who had long grown out of any scruples concerning the eating of meats that were sacrificed to idols. The strong disciples knew that there was no religious significance to any meat. But some new converts, who had just been born out of idolatry, still associated with idols the meats that had been sacrificed in respect of the idols (1 Co 8:7). If the strong brother had no consideration for the weak brother in these matters, then he could possibly encourage the weak brother to eat such meats in violation of his conscience. If the strong brother thus ate to encourage the young Christian to eat against his conscience, then he caused the weak brother to eat the meats, and thus sin against his own conscience (Rm 14:23). So Paul said to the strong brethren, “And so by sinning against the brethren, and wounding their weak conscience, you sin against Christ” (1 Co 8:12).

The church is a society of believers. Doing some things may be right in and of themselves, as the eating of meat sacrificed to idols. But if participating in such encourages the new converts to behave contrary to their conscience, then the strong have sinned by encouraging the weak to sin against their conscience. Paul’s instructions concerning such situations is to forgo one’s rights in order to accommodate the weak until such a time when the weak have grown out of their scruples. “Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Co 8:13).

In order to determine whether some things are either right or wrong, one should look around and determine if doing what one intends to do will cause another to stumble. In those things in which we have the freedom to participate—such as the eating of any foods—the one who has the freedom to do certain things must be patient until the weak brother grows out of any scruples he has in doing such.   We must keep in mind that it is assumed that the weak brother will grow out of his scruples in reference to those things wherein all Christians have freedom. No brother has a right to bring into bondage another brother with scruples he should have grown out of years ago.

When we move beyond the fellowship of the disciples, we must also be considerate of the society in which we live. For example, if the eating of meats that were sacrificed to idols led the unbelievers to believe that the Christian was also a believer in idols, then it would be common sense that the Christian should refrain from doing that which would encourage the unbeliever to continue in his error. One should be careful about doing those things that would either condone or encourage the unbeliever to continue in the error of his way. Christians should manifest a character of truth and godliness before the world. Because the Christian does not participate in those things that identify worldly living, he becomes a light to the world for righteous living (See Mt 5:16).

H.  The test of reaping:

Galatians 6:7,8 states a principle in reference to our present behavior.

 Be not deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption. But he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap eternal life.

Some forgotten poet rightly stated,

You never can tell when you do an act,

Just what the result will be;

But with every deed you are sowing a seed,

Though the harvest you cannot see.

Before one participates in any deed, he must realize that he will have to take ownership of the consequences of what he would do. If he does not suffer the consequences of his own bad decisions, others may.

We grew up on a farm in the central part of the state of Kansas in America. Our mother always reminded us children that in life we should consider our future before we engage in any questionable activities in the present. She gave the example of a young teenager whom she had known, but never told us his name. For some reason, this young teenager became angry with a neighboring farmer. In his youthful retaliation, he went out by night and planted some Johnson grass in the neighboring farmer’s field. In those days before herbicides, it was difficult to kill Johnson grass. It was introduced into the United States in 1840 and is classified as one of the top ten most persistent weeds in the world.

Eventually, the young man grew up, our mother said, and became the victim of reaping what he had sown. When he was in his early twenties, he noticed that the neighboring farmer, in whose field he had planted the Johnson grass, had a very beautiful young daughter. As time went by, he eventually fell in love with the fair maiden. His love affair eventually ended in his marriage to the delight of his eyes.

After fulfilling his years on earth, the father of the maiden he had married passed away. You can guess the rest of this story. The retaliatory young man inherited the farm of his wife’s deceased father, with all that Johnson grass included. Before you make a decision to do something, it would be wise to first run it through the test of possibly reaping what you will sow. You may literally reap what you sow.

I.  The test of finances:

 Before one involves himself in some financial dealing, it would be good to consider what effect his financial involvement in the dealing will have on others if all goes wrong. For example, there is no statement in Scripture that says, “Thou shalt not gamble.” But one must remember that gambling casinos become rich because there are only a few winners. The vast majority of the gamblers lose, and thus, the losers make the management of the casino rich. The few winners, unfortunately, inspire the masses to keep on betting …. and losing.

We once had a friend who had involved himself in gambling. He once said to me, “Others say that I have a good poker face.” But it must not have been all that good for he was continually burdened in paying off his gambling debts. His habit of gambling brought suffering to his family. We are reminded of Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 5:8: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Before one would involve himself in anything that would endanger his financial responsibility toward his family, he should be warned. In the case of the Thessalonians, some had quit their jobs. They were not willing to work when there was work to be done.   So Paul rebuked these lazy brothers by instructing the rest of the Thessalonian disciples to “withdraw yourselves from every brother who walks disorderly …” (2 Th 3:6). This statement was made in the context of financial responsibility. If one deals foolishly with his finances, and subsequently must beg off the church, then he has given up his right to be in fellowship with the church. Paul was very specific and direct in reference to such freeloaders: “… if anyone is not willing to work, neither let him eat” (2 Th 3:10).

If one’s financial actions lead to the destitution of his family, or to his begging off his brothers and sisters in Christ, then he has shamed his family and given up his right to be in fellowship with the body of Christ. We must never forget that “the love of money is the root of all evils, by which some coveting after have strayed from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” (1 Tm 6:10).

J.  The test of family:

Having a good family name is a precious thing.   What a young person must remember is that what one does will reflect on the name of his family. If what one would do in the dark, is discovered by the community, then one’s family can be greatly shamed. Sometimes in determining one’s moral decisions on what he would do depends on how his behavior will reflect on his family name.

K.  The test of universality:

Our children often seek to justify their actions by saying, “Everybody is doing it.” But what is being done by everyone may be a detriment to society as a whole.   We must ask ourselves that if everyone in society behaved as we do, would society as a whole be improved?   The Christian seeks to let his light shine before all in order to encourage all to follow an example of Christian behavior. Christians are the salt of the earth because their behavior preserves society. But if one’s salt has lost its saltiness, and one’s light is dim, then there is little preservative and light for the world to follow.

We must always remember that societies do not become progressively better. Without the moral direction of the word of God, societies over time always digress to the moral state of what God said of the society that existed before the flood of Noah’s day: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gn 6:5). The world’s population was not born morally depraved as babies. It was the acceptance of wickedness by more and more individuals of society over centuries that brought the society of Noah’s day to the point of having no use for the purpose for which man was created.

The same moral degradation happened to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. “… the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinners before the Lord” (Gn 13:13). We know the rest of this story.   As the world population before the flood of Noah’s day, so also the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Moral degradation always begins with one accepted and commonly practiced sin. When the majority accept as culturally correct any sinful behavior, then one accepted sin after another will take the entire society into moral ruin. When different practices of sin become common, then the whole is spoiled. Before the first individual considers doing anything, he must imagine everyone doing the same thing. If one’s behavior does not add to the upliftment of society, then he should change.

[Next lecture tomorrow, September 24]



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