By Bob Owen
Repeatedly we are called upon to make decisions. Many of these are routine, physical actions such as stopping for a red light or eating when we are hungry. Some of our decisions are judgment calls on matters of significant importance: selecting a mate for marriage, choosing a vocation, investing money for future security, voting for a political candidate. All of us recognize the importance of the decisions in these matters and we also know there is no absolute direction. Each must “make up his own mind” on these issues. The freedom (and responsibility) we have in these areas is often “assumed” in religious matters. Many feel that each of us is at liberty to decide what is right or wrong on moral issues or for religious practices. A study of the Scriptures (Bible) indicates this is not man’s right – God has given us the direction and we are to recognize his regulations.
How are we to decide moral issues? Is it right or is it wrong to lie? to steal? to punish lawbreakers? to execute those guilty of murder? What process do you usually hear used to decide these maters? “It seems to me. . . ” or “I think. . . ” are common expressions in such discussions. Using this process, changes can result in standards of morality. Within the past generation a classic example of this process has occurred.
Thirty years ago, “everybody” condemned homosexuality. Any person who practiced homosexual relations was considered “queer.” The very term shows a variation from the norm. The practice was so generally condemned that violators were discharged from the army, removed from government posts, fired from businesses, and otherwise rejected by society. Although some of this rejection still exists, we see the practice defended now as “an alternate lifestyle.” Practitioners have “come out of the closet” and openly parade for gay rights. Many churches have given open acceptance for the practice and gay churches exist in many cities.
What standard should we use to govern our lives in religious or moral issues? A look at the Bible shows that the inspired writers recognized “the Scriptures” as the standard. In Romans I and 2 Paul reasons that both the Gentiles and the Jews stood condemned because they had left God and his word. No appeal was made to Paul’s own feelings or to how society felt about these issues. (Actually, “society” would have approved the common practices which Paul condemned.)
On another occasion Paul reflects the attitude toward God’s revelation which should characterize all of us. In 1 Timothy 5:18, while discussing the support of elders who gave their time and efforts to the teaching of the word, he says, “For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn. And, the laborer is worthy of his hire.” Note the appeal made by the inspired apostle: “For the scripture saith . . .”
The reference to the ox and the corn is from Deuteronomy 25:4, a part of the law given through Moses. It was a law from God and Paul recognized it as Scripture. “The laborer is worthy of his hire” is not a direct quotation of the Old Testament but a statement of Jesus (Luke 10:7). By the time Paul was writing to Timothy, Luke’s letter recounting the life of James would have been written. Apparently it had been copied and circulated and Paul acknowledges it as Scripture.
What should we recognize as authority today for our moral code or for our religious practices? God’s word, the Scriptures, are the proper source and we should be careful not to substitute the judgments of men. How I feel or how you feel may be of interest, but what God says is right!
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 1, pp. 1, 21
January 7, 1988