Hats for Women in Worship?

Heads, Hats, and Hair

(questions about 1 Corinthians 11)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

Some teachings of the Bible are completely at odds with what we see being commonly accepted in our world today. The domestic roles God assigned to men and women are often the target of attack. At one extreme, male headship is perverted into dictatorship, and female subjection into slavery. At the other extreme, the idea of any kind of male headship in the home is rejected altogether.

The entire biblical family structure faces challenges that threaten our homes and loved ones. The aborting of our unborn children has been permitted by law in our country for several decades. Open sexual practices empty marriage of its once valued intimacy. Unmarried couples are led to believe that it is normal and healthy to engage in sexual activity without the bond of marriage. Some in same-gender relationships want to call what they have “marriage”. They are not content with just being tolerated. They want to force everyone else to accept their definitions and views, and to reject what the Bible says about marriage.

In warfare one of the basic goals is to disrupt the enemy’s command structure. If no one is effectively in charge, there can be no coordinated supplies, attacks, or defenses. The unifying principles that direct an army will be abandoned, and individual soldiers will begin to look out for themselves. They forget the larger reasons they are there.

It makes sense that the spiritual enemies of God would attack the organization of God’s Kingdom. The family structure is so basic that it becomes a natural target. The husband-wife roles are the foundation of the family. It is no surprise that the duties God assigns to men and women would be attacked.

There is a full-court press going on to make godliness appear to be a blight upon society. Those who believe what the Bible says about men, women, and marriage are portrayed as bigots and enemies of our culture.

These are not entirely new attacks. God’s ways have been the target of evil from the beginning of time. In the ancient city of Corinth a pagan culture and an influence of confused Judaism were clashing with Christian principles. There was confusion about how the new believers should adjust their lives to deal biblically with the way things were believed and done around them while living in a city dominated by unbelievers.

The Apostle Paul wrote his First letter to the Corinthians to explain God’s principles to them. He did not just teach detached ideas and theories. He was committed to clarifying God’s ways and how they lead us to live as lights to this sin darkened world day by day. In chapter 11 of 1 Corinthians he takes up one of these issues.

Paul set an example by personally
honoring and obeying the teachings of Jesus.

1 Corinthians 11:1, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”

Some put this verse as the conclusion to chapter 10. It is actually a nice transition. Paul’s point is that he has tried to be an example of the principles he taught.

Chapter 11 does not introduce a totally different idea. In chapter 10 he warned that believers should consider how others perceive their actions. He said there is nothing morally wrong with eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. However, clearly the worship of idols is evil. In situations where others consider the meat to be sacred in some Pagan sense, we should not eat it so that others would not think we are honoring their idols. In Chapter 11 he shows how this fundamental principle applies in another situation.

First, he reminded them how much
he appreciated their allegiance.

1 Corinthians 11:2, “Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.”

He was pleased that they continued to follow the traditions he taught them. The Bible mentions both good and bad traditions. A tradition is some accepted practice that is passed on to preserve some idea or principle. Good traditions help us to stay within God’s boundaries, and to remember God’s truths. Bad traditions create misleading boundaries, and promote false ideas.

There was a clash of traditions concerning
the principle of headship in the home.

1 Corinthians 11:3, “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”

God organized the family to teach about his nature and about the church he would redeem. In the Trinity, all three persons are perfectly equal in power and glory. Yet there is an orderliness in the Trinity. The Father sends the Son to redeem his people, and the Son is subject to the Father. Both the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit to carry out certain works. There is subordination without inferiority or superiority – equals who carry out different works.

God established a similar relationship for the family. He made the male to be head of the wife and of the home. He created the female to be in supportive subjection to the man’s headship, subordination without inferiority or superiority – equals who carry out different works.

Paul gives more detail about that home organization in Ephesians 5:22-33. There it says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,”

In that chapter it is clear that male headship is not to be self-serving. Male headship in the home is to represent Christ’s headship of the church. Therefore it is not to abuse the wife, to get his own way, or to be dictatorial. His role is to lead in a way that lovingly gives himself for his wife’s benefit and enrichment. His headship is to reflect Christ’s care of his church.

There is no superiority implied in male headship. Christ is equal with God the Father in substance and glory. Yet he was sent to carry out the work of redeeming his Father’s children. So also men and woman are equal in substance and worth. Yet the male is responsible for guiding the family, providing for it, and protecting it. He is to help his wife and family grow in Christ so they can enjoy God’s blessing to the fullest.

There was a danger that threatened this relationship in the Corinthian worship.

Male headship was represented in Corinth
by head coverings for the women.

1 Corinthians 11:4-7
4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head.
5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.
6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.
7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.

The situation here has to do with what goes on in the public worship of the church. This becomes more clear later in this letter when Paul explains what it is to pray and prophesy.

Evidently, there was a tradition in the Corinthian culture about head coverings. They had come to represent submission to some human authority. If men covered their heads while praying or prophesying in worship, they disgraced their headship by implying they were in subjection to those they should be leading. When women covered their heads it showed their respect of the authority of their husbands. If she prayed or prophesied with her head uncovered she disgraced her husband’s headship. It was as if she was rejecting God’s order. This was a good tradition to the degree that it promoted a biblical truth.

In that culture, the women may as well shave their heads, if they worship with their heads uncovered. Chrysostom, a first-century writer said that a woman caught committing adultery had her head shaved as to mark her as a prostitute for rejecting her husband’s headship.

The Bible does not mention this custom in any other place than here in this letter to Corinth. John Calvin warned that we should not be “so hide-bound” that people would condemn the Pastors in his time who wore skull caps when preaching. But he agreed that the principle it represented in Corinth is a good one. It should be respected when it shows a wife’s subjection to her husband while in worship.

The principle in this context is like not eating meat that was once sacrificed to idols in the previous chapter. God never commanded it as a universal moral tradition. However, in situations where our practices would generally communicate an unbiblical attitude, we should avoid offense and follow the good customs.

Paul’s reasoning in verse 7 is a little hard to follow because of the technical terms he uses. Mankind in general was made in the Image of God, both male and female. They both are to make good use of their abilities and resources. Together they produce families, and make up the church of God on earth. But that is not what Paul was referring to here. The Greek wording he uses here are a little different that that which is used in the more general context of bearing God’s image as his creatures.

He is saying in this context that the male was created to be a reflection of God’s authority in caring for us. The female was made to be a reflection of the authority God gave to her husband.

This basic principle of headship
was established at creation.

1 Corinthians 11:8-12
8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man.
9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.
10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
11 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord.
12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.

When God made the animals, he made them male and female at the same time. With humans he made only the man first, then made woman from him to be his helper. Unlike the animals, humans were made to specially represent God in the world. From the beginning, the differences in male and female would not be only for producing children. They were to reveal God’s grace and show his love for those he would redeem.

Before he made Eve, God let Adam come to realize that he was incomplete by himself. His wife was made to be a fit helper for him in carrying out his responsibilities in the garden.

There was no inequality or inferiority. They complemented one another, were needed by one another, and were mutually important to one another. However, they would have different roles in reflecting God’s glory, and in fulfilling his plan.

Verse 10 has some confusing expressions in it. literally it says: “Therefore, the woman ought to have authority on the head because of the angels”

In Corinth at that time, the head covering represented submission to her husband’s God-given authority over her. The part about the angels is harder to understand. God has not given us much information here. This particular issue never comes up in any other place in the Bible.

The word the Bible uses for “angels”, angelos (αγγελος), is the word that was commonly used at that time for all types of “messengers”. It was used for human messengers as well as for spirit beings. In war chronicles it often mentioned “angels” (messengers) carrying messages from the generals to the troops on the front lines.

One theory is that this refers to the spirit beings who serve God in various ways. The Bible says that God’s angels are observers of the church on earth. However, it is not clear how this is a reason for women to wear head coverings in Corinth during worship. It would not be helpful here to go over all the strange imagined theories about angels lusting for women.

Some think this means that uncovered female heads were somehow offensive to church Pastors as messengers of God to represent him to the church. However, that does not seem to fit with the message of this passage very well.

More likely it means that if the spirit messengers of God saw the woman rejecting this symbol of subjection, the angles would be the instruments to bring it before God for his judgment for confusing and obscuring creation’s authority structure.

Whatever it meant, the Corinthians would have understood this expression. Paul’s point is clear: The women members of the Corinthian church should show their respect for the authority God gave to their husbands. They were obligated to make sure their submission was communicated to others. This meant respecting what the traditions of their own culture meant.

Paul sets out the reasoning behind his warning:

1 Corinthians 11:13-16
13 Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?
14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?
15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.
16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

The Apostle repeats the moral issue and asks them to make a judgment based upon certain facts. They should consider nature itself which teaches that hair length implies something. The word for “nature” here refers to inherent properties that characterize something.

The Greek word Paul uses for “nature” is phusis (φυσις). The Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich Greek Lexicon defines it as, “a natural endowment or condition, natural characteristics or disposition, the natural order of things, a product of nature .. creature”.

There was a broad usage of the term at the time of Paul’s writing. It was often used for things that seem “natural” to people, their disposition toward things as commonly accepted. We use the term that way when we say, “that just doesn’t seem natural”. Paul could not mean God’s creation order. That would be contrary to both our observations, and other biblical mandates.

In cultures where the hair is never cut or removed, men tend to have much more hair covering their bodies than do women. Both grow very long hair on their heads. The average human hair growth rate on the head is 0.44 mm/day. It tends to slow down some as we get older and is a little faster in women than men. However, the slight differences in rate are hardly a compelling and obvious argument.

The context here and in chapter 10 has to do with traditions and what is natural in their culture. We know from coins and statues that men cut their hair short in that Greek-Roman culture. The women let their hair grow long showing their distinction as females. We need to be aware of cultural symbols that represent things to those who live in that setting.

Back in verse 9 Paul referred to the creation order. In the physical sense, male headship was established because God made Adam first. Here in verse 14 he seems to direct their attention to what is accepted as “natural” in their culture. The creation order of male headship was in a sense being preserved by a good Corinthian tradition. In most societies men and women have different hair styles that preserve their distinction. The idea that there should be no difference between the roles of men and women goes against what even pagan cultures have generally recognized by their practices. However society may depict it at the time, we should promote the role of male headship.

Paul adds that if someone wants to argue the point, they have no customary support.

We need to be careful here not to confuse Paul’s applications with the principles themselves. He is not teaching dietary laws for Christians in chapter 10, and he is not teaching dress codes and hair styles for Christians in chapter 11.

The point he is making continues the basic principle discussed in the previous chapter. There is nothing morally right or wrong about hair length in and of itself. God required men to let their hair grow uncut under certain vows (Numbers 6:5). Crowns on the heads of kings represented their authority, not submission to other men. The Old Testament Priests were required to wear special hats while performing acts of worship. God would not command such things it they were inherently immoral or decidedly feminine.

At this time in Corinth, hats in worship showed submission to human authority. Long hair also represented the feminine role of women among God’s people.

The point here is not to command certain outward symbolisms. It is to show the importance of what was represented by them.

Though the customs here are hard to clarify,
the principle taught is not confusing at all.

Our lives should reflect and communicate respect for the creation order of things. Our freedom in Christ is not only bound by God’s universal and direct commandments. It is also bound by what appears to support sinful ideas or unbiblical teachings. Extremes in style often represent rebellion against rightful authority.

To a limited degree, young people often like to show that they question some of the meaningless traditions to which people cling. They often adopt outrageous hair styles, trendy clothes, and their own kinds of slang expressions to develop their own culture and traditions. The next generations will probably question and replace those which are made popular today. In the 50’s there were leather jackets, long sideburns and ducktails, saddle shoes, and poodle skirts. Those who wore them were often thought of as in rebellion. For some, it was true. Most were just following trends. In the late 60’s there were tie-dyed fabrics, uncut hair, sandals, and granny dresses. In the 70’s it was bell bottoms, platform shoes and big afro hair styles. Today the extremes go from urban baggy clothes, to gothic black cassocks.

Christians of all ages need to be careful that while they accept or reject cultural traditions, that they are not giving the appearance of rejecting good principles which are based upon God’s priorities and ways. It is one thing to want to be stylish, but we should be aware of what our styles say to others.

For Corinthian women to worship with their heads uncovered, would have shown a rejection of one of God’s basic principles. For teens to dress outrageously intending to show rejection of their parent’s authority, or of God’s morality, would also be very wrong and sinful. For most today hats and hair length are just matters of style and personal preference.

It is important to maintain and promote biblical principles in our daily lives. We should never appear to reject them by adopting styles or practices that are perceived as contrary to them. We need to know what styles and customs communicate to other believers and to the watching world. While we know to watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing, we need to be careful that as sheep we don’t go around looking like the wolves.

How different our churches, homes, and communities would be if men cared for women as they ought — not to demean them but to respect them, and if women respected the responsibility God gives the men — not to covet their calling, or to take over headship in our homes, or in the ordained offices of our churches.

When we accept God’s order and our own place in it, and the responsibilities God gives others, the kingdom of Christ, our homes, and our communities would be far better places, and God’s truth would be better communicated to a confused and lost world.

As for the matter of women wearing hats in worship today, I would suggest that it is a practice generally understood in the proper biblical sense of 1 Corinthians 11. It is not required by that passage or by any other portion of God’s word. It is allowable as long as it does not become a distraction to worship by head-wear that would draw undue attention to itself, and as long as it does not become a matter of spiritual pride. There are no grounds in Scripture for judging those with or without hats as being more or less spiritual than the others who are there with humble hearts to honor our God.

(Note: The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Raising Hands in Worship and Praise?

Raising Hands in Worship and Praise?

by Bob Burridge ©2011

(This article is based upon our online discussion from November 17, 2011)

We have many kinds of worship styles all claiming to be biblical.

The elements of worship are limited by Scripture to those activities God prescribes. His revelation to us is the only way we could know what pleases him in our times of gathered worship. This is what we call the Prescriptive Regulative Principle of Worship. (For a more detailed study of this we direct you to the article, “The Regulative Principle of Worship” in our on-line Syllabus.)

How the prescribed elements of worship are implemented should always support the revealed focus of worship. Its primary purpose is to express our appreciation for the revealed nature and work of God as preserved for us in his inspired word. We honor him as our Creator, Redeemer, Comforter, and King.

There are some differences in how God deals with his people in different periods of redemptive history. What was expected in the time before the finished work of the Messiah is obviously going to be different after his work was completed. There is however a unity in the general tenor and purpose of what God prescribes for worship in ever era of human history.

Differences also arise because an expression of humble praise in one culture might have a different meaning in another cultural setting. God used the languages common to the cultures historically when he gave his inspired word. We would expect that God’s revelation through the elements of worship would likewise adjust to communicate to the people engaged in the worship.

The conduct of worshipers varies as cultural norms differ. Music is strongly influenced by our cultural upbringing and by our historical heritage. Some display their emotions differently and to different degrees. How we show honor toward someone differs too. There are different outward expressions of submission and respect in Monarchies with royal families, Republics, Democracies, and so forth.

Culture is a big influence upon what people see as acceptable in worship. That does not make what is acceptable to us to be right in the eyes of God. In this article we take up one of the practices which differs from church to church in our present era. The raising of hands in worship is a growingly accepted practice outside the traditional charismatic groups where in recent centuries it was commonly practiced with a particular meaning attached.

Several Scripture passages are often cited
to support the practice of raising hands in worship.

There are very few references to this practice in the biblical record prior to the times of the Kings of Israel. The hand [the Hebrew word caph (כף)] is often used figuratively of coming under the authority of some authority, as being given over into the hands of a certain nation or people (Judges 6:1). Abram in his comments to the king of Sodom said that he raised his hand to Jehovah.

Genesis 14:22, “But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth”

It is not clear what was meant here. We do not know if the raising of the hands by Abram was an expression of praise, supplication, submission, or simply a raising of the hand to express his faithfulness to God as we would today in making a solemn pledge. It was a gesture understood at that time by both Abram and the king of Sodom.

In the time of Moses the lifting up of hands seems to have been an expression of coming to God to ask for divine care and help. In the context it is associated with prayer, or an approach to God.

Exodus 9:27-29, “And Pharaoh sent and called for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘I have sinned this time. The LORD is righteous, and my people and I are wicked. Entreat the LORD, that there may be no more mighty thundering and hail, for it is enough. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.’ So Moses said to him, ‘As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands to the LORD; the thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, that you may know that the earth is the LORD’s.’ ”

Exodus 9:33, “So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh and spread out his hands to the LORD; then the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain was not poured on the earth.”

By the time of the Kings and Prophets hand raising is a more commonly mentioned practice. It is noted by several historians that hands were raised by pagan nations then as they approached their deities in prayer and supplication. It seems to have signified a reaching out to receive something requested. It appears to have that significance among God’s people as well. It is not a suggested practice in any instructive portion of the Bible, but it is reported as something acceptably practiced and understood in the particular cultures of that time.

1 Kings 8:22, “Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven;

2 Chronicles 6:12-13, “Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands (for Solomon had made a bronze platform five cubits long, five cubits wide, and three cubits high, and had set it in the midst of the court; and he stood on it, knelt down on his knees before all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven);”

Psalms 134:2, “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the LORD.”

Psalms 63:4, “Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.”

Isaiah 1:15,”When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.”

Lamentations 3:41, “Let us lift our hearts and hands To God in heaven.”

In the New Testament under the new form of the Covenant, and in the First Century culture of the Jews and early church, it is not mentioned often. There is one reference in Paul’s first letter to Timothy that is often quoted in relation to this practice. The mandate there is not to lift up hands, but that hands lifted up in prayer should be holy.

1 Timothy 2:8, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;”

Some Comments by Commentators

Several commentators cite references in pagan records of reaching out to God with outstretched hands. This is an understandable gesture based upon how people beg for things when they have a need. We see the universality of this when foreign envoys reach out their hands to God for mercy or surrender in Psalm 68:31, “Envoys will come out of Egypt; Ethiopia will quickly stretch out her hands to God.”

Several commentators and Jewish scholars interpret this practice as away of showing our purity to God by figuratively offering up hands which are washed so that no dirt or stains remain. The focus was upon presenting one’s self as innocent and undefiled to receive from the Lord. For those truly redeemed it was their profession of a righteousness that is not their own, but given them by grace through their hope in the coming promised Messiah.

The Rabbis had developed complex rules about raising hands in prayer and in worship. It was said that, “it is forbidden a man to lift up his hands above, except in prayer, and in blessings to his Lord, and supplications, …”

The highly respected medieval Jewish philosopher Moses ben Maimon (known as Maimonides) wrote, “cleanness of hands, how is it done? a man must wash his hands up to the elbow, and after that pray; if a man is on a journey, and the time of prayer is come, and he has no water, if there is between him and water four miles, which are eight thousand cubits, he may go to the place of water, and wash, and after that pray. If there is between him more than that, he may rub his hands, and pray. But if the place of water is behind him, he is not obliged to go back but a mile; but if he has passed from the water more than that, he is not obliged to return, but he rubs his hands and prays; they do not make clean for prayer but the hands only, in the rest of prayers, except the morning prayer; but before the morning prayer a man washes his face, his hands and feet, and after that prays.”

In John Gill’s commentary on 1 Timothy 2:8 he states, “The apostle alludes to a custom of the Jews, who always used to wash their hands before prayer;”

In the Notes of Albert Barnes he states that the lifting up holy hands means, “… hands that are not defiled by sin, and that have not been employed for any purpose of iniquity. The idea is, that when men approach God they should do it in a pure and holy manner.”

Adam Clarke reminds us that “it was a common custom, not only among the Jews, but also among the heathens, to lift up or spread out their arms and hands in prayer. It is properly the action of entreaty and request; and seems to be an effort to embrace the assistance requested.” He then adds an interesting conjecture that, “the apostle probably alludes to the Jewish custom of laying their hands on the head of the animal which they brought for a sin-offering, confessing their sins, and then giving up the life of the animal as an expiation for the sins thus confessed. … This shows us how Christians should pray. They should come to the altar; set God before their eyes; humble themselves for their sins; bring as a sacrifice the Lamb of God; lay their hands on this sacrifice; and by faith offer it to God in their souls’ behalf, expecting salvation through his meritorious death alone.”

Today, some see hand raising as evidence
of the moving of the Holy Spirit in the worshiper.

There is no passage of Scripture to support that interpretation. There is no question that the Holy Spirit works in our hearts to stir us to appreciate the awesome work of our Creator who is also our Redeemer and Good Shepherd. No where in the Bible is the raising of hands presented as an evidence of such a special work in an individual.

Outward displays of this sort, even when motivated by a sincere love for the Lord, should never stir us to see someone as spiritually more mature or blessed than others. On the other hand, we should not look upon those who raise their hands as spiritually immature or seekers of personal attention. Arrogance is a sin which can work on both sides of this issue.

What does this practice communicate
to people in various contexts?

What we do communicates things to those within a particular cultural setting. Not all common gestures or greetings mean the same to everybody. Raising hands in ancient times was to show attention to, submission to, and dependence upon some deity or authority figure. This was understood by pagans as well as by God’s people in those ancient settings. In our present array of cultures it is not a common expression of those same intentions. Within certain religious sub-cultures it continues to have that meaning. We need to be aware of how those around us understand our words and actions.

I remember going on a missions trip to the outer islands of the Bahamas back in the late 1960s. Before we had contact with the people who lived there we had orientation lessons to help us understand the way they interpreted gestures and idioms. Little things we do by our cultural up-bringing had offensive connotations to them. We had to be very careful that we didn’t miscommunicate unintentionally and insult the people we were there to help.

What is appropriate in some places my not convey what we are thinking to those around us. When our mission is to represent the truth God has communicated to us in his word, we need to know these distinctives.

While hand raising in prayer is obviously presented in a positive way in the Bible, it is no where commanded or recommended. It is an optional practice which should be used with great caution. It is not required and should not be practiced if this gesture does not express for us what it did in those ancient times.

In conclusion we suggest the following practical guidelines concerning hand-raising during worship:

  • Where it is practiced and understood in a humble God honoring way, it is an acceptable option.
  • Where it is not seen as a humble honoring of God, offense and confusion should be avoided.
  • Where it is perceived as a pagan practice, or understood as a sign of special spiritual sensitivity or status, it should be avoided.

(Note: The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Wrong Desires

Wrong Desires

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 79-81)
(watch our video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

In Question 79, the Westminster Shorter Catechism introduces the 10th Commandment by quoting Exodus 20:17, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

The Catechism explains the commandment in questions 80-81.

Question 80. What is required in the tenth commandment?
Answer. The tenth commandment requireth full contentment with our own condition, with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbor, and all that is his.

Question 81. What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?
Answer. The tenth commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbor, and all inordinate motions or affections to any thing that is his.

If you look carefully, you can see that this commandment does not forbid coveting. It tells us not to covet things God has given to someone else. The original Hebrew word translated “covet” here is khamad (חמד). This is a common word that means “to desire, or to take pleasure in something.” That can be a good thing.

The Bible itself often uses this same word in a good way. Psalm 19:10 tells us to covet God’s judgments and righteous. In those places it uses this same word, khamad (חמד). Psalm 68:16 uses this same word to describe God’s own desire toward his dwelling place. These desires are obviously a good things. If we are commanded to covet good things, and God covets his dwelling place, the 10th Commandment cannot be forbidding us to have a strong desire for things.

In the New Testament the Greek word that translates this commandment is epithumeo (επιθυμεω). It is also used in a very positive way at times. In Luke 17:22 we are told to covet or to long for the return of Jesus Christ. In 1 Timothy 3:1 men are told that desiring the church office of Elder is a good thing. 1 Peter 1:2 says that the angels covet or desire to see the work of the gospel in God’s people.

We have to be careful if we simply shorten this commandment to say, “Thou shalt not covet … .” It is never wrong to have a strong desire for good things, or to strive hard to advance ourselves in ways pleasing to God.

God’s people are passionate about doing all they can for God’s glory. They want to be managers and enjoyers of all they rightly get and own. There is no excuse here for laziness, apathy, or indifference about the things God calls them to be doing.

This commandment warns us not to covet things
God has assigned to the care of others.

Exodus 20:17 lists some of the common causes of discontent in the time of Moses. It says that it is wrong to covet someone else’s spouse. The 7th Commandment makes it clear that it is immoral to be unfaithful to the person you marry. It is important to desire a good husband or wife while you are single. Once you are married, you need to be content with the one with whom you are joined.

To look for physical gratification outside of marriage is a tragic offense against God. Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-28 that even the desire for a different partner is in itself sin, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

The commandment forbids coveting someone else’s servants, both male and female. In our culture most of us do not have the same kinds of servants they had then. In our economic system, this principle still applies as it applies to coveting another person’s hired helpers. Jealousy over someone else’s business deals or staff is morally evil.

It says that it is wrong to covet another person’s ox or donkey. I have never owned an ox or donkey. Few of us have today. Few of us want them. They were the tools for transportation, for clearing land, for construction, or for growing crops. Today you violate this moral principle when you covet your neighbors car, truck, lawnmower, cellphone, or computer. You should appreciate what they have, even work to be able to get one like it, but not to where you become upset that God gave it to them and not to you. You should be satisfied for the moment with what God gave you to use, and rejoice with your neighbor over his good blessings and without jealousy.

Then, to show how general this principle is, God adds that you should not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor. Each person’s only concern is what God entrusts to his own care. What God gives to someone else should not be jealously coveted.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained
the moral principles behind God’s Commandments.

It is nothing less than rebellion to want things to be other than the way God wisely decrees them to be. Wrong desires are immoral.

The 10 Commandments are not ten separate laws made up at Sinai. They are summaries of larger moral principles God built into Creation. Taken together they show how the created world was designed to be so that it honors it’s Creator. It is how God’s eternal nature shows itself in the world he made.

Those who covet a different God, one who can be seen by our eyes, or treated more casually, violate the first 3 Commandments. They are discontent with what God truly is.

Those who covet the time God sets aside for the Sabbath break the 4th Commandment. When creation was completed the Creator set aside one day in seven to remember his making of all that is. This was given before sin entered the world, before nations arose out of the seed of Adam. He represented us all when God consecrated that 24 hour period out of every week. Though many temporary Sabbaths were later set up for Israel to teach about redemption from sin’s bondage, this Creation Sabbath is the Lord’s Day. He is Lord of the Sabbath. To make that day your own day, or to neglect honoring him on that day, is coveting and theft of time that is not yours.

Children who covet their parent’s authority, or adults who rebel against rightful authority, want things their own way. If we rebel against the order God established for our homes, our work, our church, or state, we violate the 5th commandment. It begins with wrong desires.

Violence and murder begins with discontent with someone else. Coveting their death or harm in ways contrary to God’s law violates the 6th Commandment.

We have already shown that the 7th Commandment is violated by any lusting outside of marriage.

The 8th Commandment against stealing begins with the desire to take what is not yours. It is wrong to covet things or money which God has given to someone else.

Even the 9th Commandment which forbids bearing false testimony begins in the heart with coveting. It starts with wanting things to be true which are not, and replacing them with a lie.

Coveting things contrary to God’s word and providence shows discontent with God himself. Coveting also shows a lack of love and appreciation for other people’s blessings.

Coveting rejects God’s order of things, shows a low respect for God’s blessing on others, and foolishly imagines that its own way would be better than God’s ways. It is wrong to covet against God’s provisions and moral principles. James 3:16, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.”

Since discontent is such a common weakness
we need to know how to deal with it.

There will be wrong desires that well up inside us. We need to know how God tells us to overcome them. There are three character traits connected with overcoming the sin of the 10th Commandment. God enables these traits in us by his gracious provision in Christ.

The first of these traits is honesty. Part of that is honestly admitting our guilt. That is what the word confession means as it is used in the Bible. Whenever you realize you are not satisfied with God’s blessings, admit it immediately. Admit it to yourself with no excuses. Admit it to God in sincere and humble prayer.

You can pray the prayer of the Psalmist in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”

When a person is prone to be discontent with the way things are in God’s plan, when he makes excuses for his coveting, or wants to stay blissfully blind about it, if he isn’t concerned to repent sincerely of it, and come to the Savior to have his wrong desires forgiven and removed, then there is little confidence that he has been transformed by God’s grace.

Some say that desires alone are innocent, as long as you don’t act on them. God’s word tells us otherwise. Jesus corrected that excuse used by the Pharisees in his Sermon on the mount. The Pharisees allowed hatred in the heart, as long as it did not result in actual murder (Matthew 5:21). They allowed lust for another person’s wife, as long as it did not result in actual adultery (Matthew 5:27). In both cases, Jesus condemned the heart sin as being just as evil.

The heart and hand work together. We are whole persons not disconnected pieces. The hand is moved by the desires of the heart. The heart craves for a hand to do its bidding. This 10th Commandment condemns the wrong desire itself as being morally wrong.

Virtual sins, ones that are only in our minds, are still sins. This includes private fantasies, the use of pornography, computer or game simulations where sinful things are done by a person’s avatar, evil imaginations, unspoken jealousies, envy, and greed.

Those who truly love Christ should honestly admit how offensive discontent is toward God. Repentance is not simply regretting the consequences of your sins. It is about recognizing the depth of inward rebellion against God’s will.

Some excuse wrong secret inward desires because they do not do any real harm to anybody. However, harming someone is not what makes something a sin. God is offended. That is always morally unhealthy, and causes great harm to the offender, even if no other human ever finds out about it.

If you look to sinful thoughts for mental entertainment, then according to God’s word you’ve broken this 10th Commandment.

The Bible lists coveting among the most offensive sins against God. This is how it is treated in 1 Corinthians 6:10, Ephesians 5:5 and in other places.

Realizing the seriousness of inward discontent is God’s wake up call to the drowsy soul. In Romans 7:7 Paul said, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’ ”

It was coveting that helped convince the Apostle Paul that he was a sinner in need of forgiveness.

Repentance is that deep sorrow and grief that comes when we know we have offended God. It is when we sincerely determine to stop doing what’s wrong.

The next character trait for overcoming discontent is trust. Faith is that faculty of trust implanted by God into his children when he regenerates them. The redeemed person comes to Jesus Christ humbly by sincere faith. He understands that Jesus Christ paid for even the most wicked of sins for his people.

When you covet, you should come to the Savior trusting in his forgiveness. Rely upon God’s promise that by faith in the work of the Savior who died in your place, you will be restored and transformed so that you can overcome your coveting.

When restored to fellowship with God by the mercies of Christ, you have the power to get so busy counting the blessings, that you stop being taken in by thoughts of greed, envy, and jealousy.

That brings us to the third character trait in overcoming our discontent: gratitude. You should appreciate what God gives you, rather than being jealous about what he gives to others.

Some have abused this commandment to justify apathy, laziness, and irresponsibility. No one should be so content that they do nothing to both use and improve what God entrusts to his care. Complacency is not the same as practicing contentment with God’s blessings. Contentment with what God gives does not mean you can be apathetic about improving your situation.

While Paul was held in Roman custody he wrote in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”

The apostle did not covet the blessing of being free from prison. He did not complain that God was unfair in making him suffer while the wicked sat in palaces. He did not envy those living in their own comfortable homes back in Tarsus.

However, he did not just sit around apathetically accepting his imprisonment as an excuse to do nothing. He wrote elegant letters of inner peace and joy to encourage the churches. He knew that he should not be coveting the things God at the moment was withholding from him. His situation would not be improved by being envious and jealous of others. Instead, he made diligent use of the circumstances and blessings God had given him. He diligently prayed, he wrote letters, he testified to those in Rome about Christ.

There is a moral balance between contentment, and a desire to improve what God gives you. Some are so ambitiously driven that they hurt others to get what they want. We need to have contentment without laziness, and ambition without greed.

Overcoming covetousness includes active thankfulness for all of God’s blessings. It is important to remember that God is the source of all the good things we and others have. Never complain to him that you do not have all you want. Instead thank him for his promised comfort and presence even in times of want. Be glad for your brothers and sisters in the Lord, when your Father blesses them, even when they have things you do not have.

Thankfulness helps you develop throughout the day a more conscious awareness of God’s presence, goodness, and power.

It’s such a waste of life, when people are eaten up by covetousness. They spend their precious time regretting what they lack, being jealous, and envious of what others have. They miss out on making good use of what they do have.

Galatians 5:26, “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Discontent is a dangerous and unhappy rebellion. The discontented person finds little joy in seeing others advance above himself, in their having things he cannot afford, or in the talents, popularity, and skills he lacks.

Never be jealous of someone else’s great hair, healthy constitution, clear complexion, or that they were born into a different economic level, a better family, or in a different era. The best satisfaction comes from knowing that God wisely orders things in his world. He blesses all with what he wants them to have, even though no one really deserves any good thing.

God’s word gives us a simple exercise to build up this spiritual virtue. He tells us to center our minds on the good things of God. In Philippians 4:8, Paul wrote these words from his imprisonment in Rome, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

The mind busy with appreciating the things of God while being thankful for every blessing, and making the best of what God has given, will have little room for wishes that things were different than what God has decreed to take place.

The steps to overcome covetousness are not complicated.

1. Be honest with yourself about your guilt. Confess it. Admit it openly to God. Be honest about how offensive discontentment is to God. Sincerely repent of it.

2. Trust the wisdom and love of God your Heavenly Father in how he gives things. Have faith in his perfect wisdom that cares deeply for you as his redeemed child. Be confident in his promises that the guilt of every believer is fully paid for in Jesus Christ.

3. Be humbly thankful for all God entrusts to your care. Be grateful for your part in the advance of his Kingdom, and for how he uses others differently, entrusting them with different responsibilities, opportunities, and possessions.

Find ways to use what you have, rather than being jealous for what you do not have. Be actively thankful for all that God gives you, and for what he gives to others. Fill your mind with thoughts about the good things that please God.

Coveting looks in the wrong place for inner peace and contentment.

Satisfaction in life does not come from what car you own, or what clothes you have in your closet. It is not found in how much people envy you, or in how much entertainment you can afford. It is found in the blessing of God upon lives lived humbly trusting in his love and grace.

Psalm 23 begins with those familiar words, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” When you put what you have to use in the best way you can to please God, you will be coveting only the good things our Lord promises and gives you.

God is the source of every good thing. He has determined what is best for his glory, and for you as his child. There is no rational justification for greed, discontent, envy, or jealousy. Coveting what God has given others is a deceptive infection that hurts and never helps.

Instead of vainly trying to push out greed, or to promise away jealousy by your own efforts, turn your eyes to Jesus Christ, and to the work of grace that redeemed you from your guilt. Look so hard at God’s mercy and blessings, both in yourself and in others around you, that greed and its companion sins will die from lack of attention.

This good focus for your thoughts will crowd out the wrong desires and jealousies. It leaves those discontented attitudes no soil in which to take root. It plants a fertile garden of God honoring attitudes that make for a healthier and happier family of God.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

The Truth About Truth

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

The Truth About Truth

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q:76-78)
(watch our video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

One of the marks of our era is the lack of
confidence that there really is a thing called truth.

Many go so far as to treat concern about the truth as an annoying distraction. Of course what they refuse to admit to themselves is that all the while they deny truth, they are assuming certain things to be true. Current trends even in the churches avoid saying that anything is always true for everybody all the time.

Our period of history is often called the age of Post-Modernism. Modernism in the early 20th century attempted to explain away anything supernatural. It assumed that everything perceived as spiritual had either a natural scientific explanation, or was just the result of our psychological needs. To the Modernist, the Bible was a good book, but just a good book of myths and morality lessons. They said it was spliced together by deluded men and religious manipulators.

Modernism fails to fit the way we really are. It continues in many of the “main-line” denominations. However, as creatures of God we know by instinct that there is a real supernatural dimension to our lives.

In the latter part of the 20th Century and today in the 21st Century, unbelief favors another way to attack God’s truth. Truth is no longer considered to be important. The Post-modernist is more concerned about our feelings and doing what it assumes to be good. We don’t mean to imply that those are bad things. The real problem that what is thought of as good in the eyes of one group of people might be horribly rude, insensitive, and oppressive to another group. Without knowing what is true, our own feelings become the test for what is correct, and what should be believed about what God’s word says concerning morality, attitudes, and behavior. Propositional truth becomes at best a mere secondary curiosity.

In this Post-Modern era, truth is seen as whatever seems best for each situation. Post-Moderns reject the idea that lies and truth are black or white issues. They see truth as coming in many shades of gray.

The result is a world without absolute moral standards. What the Bible forbids as immoral might be recommended as the best thing in certain situations. Law becomes flexible, and should be always changing. It becomes based upon currently popular trends, rather than upon principles built into the world by its Creator. Feeling personally comfortable inwardly, and what we personally thinks should make others feel comfortable, become the tests of what should be done and believed. This is the main-stream belief expressed in popular music, movies, TV shows, and novels.

This movement is effecting the churches today too. It separates practice from belief. It does what feels right without concern for what God says is really good and right. They talk about living in love, but hate it when someone picks up a Bible and tries to define what God says love really is. They would rather have a dialog about things, than admit that somethings are not true. They want to re-think worship, not wanting to be tied down to patterns that emerge from the Bible They prefer patterns that emerge from our culture, rather then those that emerge from the study of Scripture. The idea that God calls some of his children to study and to teach the Bible authoritatively is being replaced by a denial of the ordained Eldership as described in Scripture.

This “emerging church” idea, emerges from a faulty concept of truth. Those embracing this paradigm truly believe that they are becoming more relevant by just being caring about others. They tend to bristle with contempt if someone questions whether God sees what they are doing as really caring for the people’s actual spiritual needs.

Satan’s false kingdom hates God’s message. It sees it as the enemy. Today, the only real heresy, the one thing the post-modernists cannot tolerate, is the belief that there is actual truth that should be accepted and honored always.

The fact is, there are things that are true,
and other things that are not.

In Question 76 the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “Which is the ninth commandment?” It answers by quoting Exodus 20:16, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

The next two questions help explain what this Commandment covers.

Question 77. What is required in the ninth commandment?
Answer. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness-bearing.
Question 78. What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?
Answer. The ninth commandment. forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbor’s good name.

This commandment is based upon a fundamental respect for truth. Truth is precious because it is the way things really are in the mind of God. What our Creator knows as true is what really is true, regardless of who else knows it or believes it. He defines what is true.

This is what makes lies so wrong, and truth so sacred and important. Dr. Charles Hodge once said: “Truth is at all times sacred, because it is one of the essential attributes of God. Truth is … the very substratum of Deity.” Titus 1:2 so simply tells us, “God … cannot lie”. Lies are contrary to his nature.

When you tell a lie, give false testimony, or promote things that are false, even little things, you obscure the way things are as God knows them, and you fail in your created duty to show the Creator’s nature at work in your heart.

The problem is that in our fallen estate we have lost our ability to love truth. It is only through Jesus Christ that our spiritual blindness can be taken away. He changes the hearts of his people, and enables them to see and to appreciate what God says. We should hunger to learn and to promote the truth of the way things are, even when it is not comfortable for us.

As we mature in Christ we should promote truth all the more. We want to be honest about things in our lives, and to be careful not to spread untruths about others.

Lies defy what God knows to be true.

There is a cosmic battle that has been going on since the moment of the first rebellion. Satan is the enemy of truth. In John 8:44 Jesus said, “… he is a liar, and the father of lies.” Evil wants to obscure God’s truth in every way possible. It attracts and enlists its followers with false promises, false testimony about God — lies. Those who stand against God are characterized by their love for lies.

When you lie, you align yourself with the enemy of your Creator. God is offended, and you fail to point your life toward the God of Truth. People’s lives and reputations are also damaged very seriously by lies and rumors.

    Bending the truth, just a little can seem to be a convenient way to excuse doing what God forbids:

  • People lie to avoid commitments or phone calls
  • Children might lie to their parents about what they’ve done, or where they’ve been
  • Workers sometimes lie to their bosses, or bosses to their workers
  • Businessmen lie to their clients. Advertisers lie to sell their products
  • Students sometimes lie about their homework
  • Some teachers bend the truth to shape the views and attitudes of their students
  • Some lie to avoid paying their taxes

It is very easy to make up stories that blame others, rather than to shoulder our own responsibilities. Often people rush to judgment about others rather than to take the time to find out what really happened and why.

There is no lie or dismissal of truth so minor that it does not offend our Heavenly Father. To misrepresent the truth is to rebel against God. Truth is important, and lies are morally wrong because God says so. God’s truth is the bedrock of morality and of all civility. Jesus Christ calls all of his children to be promoters of truth.

Specifically this commandment forbids bearing false witness against your neighbor. If you do, you sin grievously. That happens anytime you say something untrue about someone, or make a false promise.

One of the obvious ways this commandment is broken is in a court of law. False testimony and lies can get an innocent person convicted of a crime he did not commit, or it may set a guilty person free from paying for his crimes. It obstructs justice and defies the way God tells us to deal with criminals. God’s law for Israel was very harsh toward a perjurer who would give false testimony in court. We can see from this, just how offensive deception must be to God.

The larger principle summarized in the 9th commandment is that truth must always be upheld. Zechariah 8:16-17 says, “These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; And do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate, Says the LORD.”

When writing to the Ephesian church Paul used that verse from Zechariah. In Ephesians 4:25 he wrote, “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.”

Bearing false witness is not just something done in a court of law. Sometimes false witness comes in the form of gossip. When people say things against others without evidence or in the form of gossip they take part in a vicious, inhumane sin. It attacks this 9th commandment and the God whose morality it represents. Many lives, families, churches, and communities have been painfully destroyed by a few words spoken by idle busybodies or prideful fools.

We should never listen to or spread rumors and innuendos about someone. In the eyes of God, a person’s reputation is important. Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, Loving favor rather than silver and gold.” When you steal sliver or gold from someone it is obviously wrong. When you gossip, you steal his good name. The Bible says this is even more grievous.

Gossip shows a reckless disregard for the other person’s reputation. It can do a lot of damage to someone’s life. Proverbs 16:27 says, “An ungodly man digs up evil, And it is on his lips like a burning fire.” Rumors can destroy a person, his family, his church, or business.

Misunderstandings, assumptions, and outright lies can spread like wildfire. James 3:5 warns, “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!”

Dangerous gossip might not be about someone you know personally. Celebrities and well known political figures are often the target for gossip. Tabloids, opinion columns, blogs, and interview shows should be more responsible. Just because something is in print, on TV, radio, or the internet does not make it reliable.

Confirm that things are true before you repeat them. Never forward those juicy e-mails without doing some checking. Go to snopes.com or other similar fact-checking websites to research what is said in those e-mail reports. Usually you can find an analysis of the stories currently being circulated.

Gossip, true or untrue, is a symptom of a heart that is not right with God. It can be used to blackmail or to intimidate opponents. Sadly it is used commonly in political campaigns, in personal relationships, and in business.

The best cure for gossip is silence. Never speak of, or become audience to, private and unsubstantiated matters. When the loose tongue is controlled, the gossip dies. Proverbs 26:20, “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.”

You also break this commandment when you make a vow you do not intend to keep. Before you vow faithfulness in marriage, church membership, take on some office of trust, or sign a business deal, be sure you really mean all you vow to be and to do. Do not repeat creeds in church if you do not believe they are true.

By living with a low view of truth, by telling even little convenient lies, you show disregard for its sacredness before God, and you contribute to the darkness of the world. In such a world neighbors are not trusted, courts become bodies of misjudgment, leaders become those who are the most skilled in manipulation and deceit.

Thankfully God restrains sin to a degree even in the unsaved, otherwise there would be no trust or hope in our world at all. He tells us he does this for the sake of his people, and for the honor or his own name.

Our responsibility is to know and to show God’s truth.

In God’s eternal plan, Jesus Christ came into our world as its only Savior. He paid the penalty for the sins that separate his people from him. He re-enables his people to know and to love what is true. As those redeemed and taught by his word, we have an awesome responsibility. We are obligated to champion all that God reveals as true. We do it for his glory.

Jesus said the truth shall set you free. The truth of God’s redemptive promises show how we are set free from the deceptions of our fallen hearts through the work of the Savior. By telling the truth of the gospel to those you know and meet, you promote that freedom. By respecting truth and avoiding unseemly gossip, you can preserve reputations. By living obediently to the true ways God reveals in his word, you help people, maybe yourself, get back on the right track in life

Failing to tell the truth has its consequences. Lies promise things they can never deliver. By bending the truth now and then, people imagine they can get moments of peace, security, and satisfaction. This deception is tragic when what they are told does not take place. They become discouraged by distortions of what God has actually told us in his word. In contrast, the consequences of truth carry the promise of blessing from our unfailing God.

In a world where truth is seen as relative and uncertain we have a great message. When gossip covers our newspapers, fills our TV and radio programs, saturates the internet, fuels conversations over coffee or meals, spreads like wildfire through gullibly passed on stories, and drives a dirty and distasteful form of politics, believers will stand out if they handle truth responsibly.

One of the great attributes of the God who made and saves us is promoted when we are champions of truth. God promises rich blessings to those who love his word of truth, and who show the evidence of hearts changed by grace through our Savior Jesus Christ.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

The Sanctity of Marriage

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

The Sanctity of Marriage

(Westminster Shorter Catechism: Questions 70-72)
(watch our video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

It’s fun to look back through pictures of weddings. After a number of years go by it’s fun to see who all was there, and how everybody has changed. It’s good to remember that special moment when two became one and started a new family. Sometimes those carefully planned moments have embarrassingly unexpected turns of events. We laugh about it every time we look at the old photographs, or tell the stories to new friends.

But a marriage is a much more than just a romantic moment or even the start of a new family. God instituted marriage when he first created us and put is in Eden. In Genesis 2:24 God said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

From the beginning, marriage is that precious union of a man and a woman in the eyes of God. They are to be faithful to one another in all things, for the rest of their lives. Marriage is where we are to produce children, and raise them up to live godly lives.

God had special reasons why he designed marriage to be the way it is. He did not explain all the details of his reasons right away. As time went on, God told more about why he set up marriage the way he did.

In our marriages to one another, we are to show
the faithful union of God with his people.

When Marriage and Family are redefined into something other than what God meant for it, society crumbles away, lives become a confused mess, and God’s purpose is distorted. That is why marriage has always been a target of evil.

Today we see a growing distortion of what marriage is about.

To many, getting married is just a major step in a growing romance. It has been romanticized into just a beautiful ceremony where we expression our feelings of love. The words, “will you marry me” are simply meant to show the deep commitment of the moment. They are the next logical step in a traditional progression up through levels in a relationship. God tells us that marriage is more important and meaningful than that.

To some marriage is just a helpful legal contract. It means a willingness to share resources, time, and abilities so the partners can reach certain goals more easily. They see it as a legal arrangement for tax advantages, social benefits, and the more convenient and respected way to conceive and raise children. As with any legal contract, there is a legal way out. Divorce has become a simple, though emotionally painful, ending of the contract. Resources and children are divided up, and the former partners start over in the romantic cycle.

To others, marriage is just an antiquated tradition that no longer fits our contemporary culture. They see sex and having children as no longer limited to the marriage bond. There are some who want marriage to include unions between same sex partners.

In our promiscuous and sex oriented society the 7th Commandment is under attack. In a general romantic or legal sense most still say we should keep it as a basic tradition, but it has become so redefined and twisted around, that its real meaning has been lost.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism explains God’s plan for marriage in questions 70-72.

Question 70. Which is the seventh commandment?
Answer. The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery.

God set up marriage to explain the amazing union
he has with us as his redeemed people.

Revelation 19:7-9 tells about the wedding feast of the Lamb. It says, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.’ ”

The context of this passage shows that Jesus is the Lamb, the one sacrificed to redeem us. The bride of the Lamb is his church, those redeemed by the death of the Lamb. They come to him, not arrayed in their own good deeds, but clothed in his perfect obedience.

The union of God’s people with God the Creator is an eternal fact. Ephesians 1:4-6 tells us that this relationship was sealed irrevocably and eternally before creation. It says, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” In that sense, our union with Christ does not really begin when we become aware of it. It has been a reality forever.

Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, and all our ancient spiritual ancestors looked by faith to the fulfillment of God’s promise to pay for our sins by a perfect substitute. That Redeemer would take us to himself as his dearly beloved. Long before the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the fact of his atonement on the cross has been the only foundation for all fallen humans who are restored to union with God.

As the promise comes to each of us individually, we are joined with our Creator as his bride. There will come a day after the final resurrection, when our union will be perfected. We should not limit the message of this passage in Revelation 19 to just a future event. It is also our present reality as we await its completion in the resurrection.

Marriage was constituted to represent that irrevocable union of God with his redeemed people. That is why marriage is sacred and needs to be conserved as God instituted it. Our marriages are to show the eternal union we have with our Creator, who is also our Redeemer.

The 7th Commandment deals with this moral principle

Exodus 20:14, “You shall not commit adultery.”

To show our redeemer’s perfect faithfulness to us as his bride, and our faithful devotion to our One True God forever, we are joined to our one partner in marriage where we are to find the full physical satisfaction of all our intimate needs.

In the Old Testament the prophets spoke of Israel as the Bride of the Lord. References in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Hosea are among the familiar passages where marriage is used to show the love of God toward his often unfaithful people. Idolatry and apostasy are often called spiritual adultery in God’s word.

In the New Testament this same comparison is made with the church as the bride of Christ. Many of the parables of Jesus use marriage to explain the nature of God’s Kingdom. John the Baptist referred to Jesus as the bridegroom in John 3:28. The Apostle Paul used marriage to illustrate God’s headship over and union with the church. Romans 7 and Ephesians 5 make detailed comparisons between the church and marriage. Revelation 19:7 speaks of the eternal uniting of the Church with Christ as the marriage feast of the Lamb. Bible scholar Charles Hodge called the family, “the most perfect analogue of the love of God.”

A good marriage should work toward improving its representation of our union with our Redeemer. Like our Savior’s love for his bride which is the church, married partners should be faithful and self-sacrificing. The words in the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation” by Samuel J. Stone say it well, “From heav’n he came and sought her to be his holy bride; With his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.”

Jesus purified his bride by paying the infinitely horrible penalty of sin in her place. He prays for his bride, enables her spiritually by infusing spiritual life into her, and sets a perfect example of godliness for her toward which she should strive. Marriage unites a man and woman together to represent that self-sacrificing faithfulness of God.

Christ’s love for his church is also tender and caring. Ephesians 5 tells us that Jesus nourishes and cherishes his church as someone would his own body. Our marriages are designed by God to show this kind of care for one another. Even though we are married to imperfect people as Christ is to us, there is no excuse for self-serving attitudes or unfaithfulness in marriage. That is why breaking this commandment is a very serious matter. It obscures that important lesson of our God’s care and faithfulness to us.

Since we are imperfect, sins of infidelity will at times happen. When the pain and guilt of this sin eat at our hearts and tear at our relationships, we need on the one hand to treasure the immensity of the forgiveness we have in Christ, and on the other hand to appreciate the precious value of our God’s perfect faithfulness to us.

Like all the commandments, the moral principle
summarized here goes beyond just adultery.

Jesus made this very clear in his Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:27-28 he said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Jesus was saying that even the inner sins of the heart and our lustful thoughts violate the moral principle summed up in this commandment. The outward sins that destroy marriages, homes, and society begin with the inward corruption that grows hidden deep inside the mind. Whenever a person covets things beyond what God provides he has already begun the destructive process of sin.

Jesus warned against letting lust destroy us and our loved ones. No one should engage in sexual intimacy, physical or mental, outside the bond of marriage. God ordained sexual intimacy for husbands and wives only. His word makes it very clear that any other intimacy is a serious moral crime. In the Bible sexual intimacy is always tied to family and procreation. It represents the church.

Our Westminster Shorter Catechism explains in the answers to questions 71 and 72,

The seventh commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbor’s chastity, in heart, speech, and behavior. The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions.

The Bible is surprisingly open about our need for physical intimacy with the other gender.

1 Corinthians 7:2 “… because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.

1 Corinthians 7:9 “… if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:22 saying, “Flee also youthful lusts”. That means, Run from the temptations that might entrap you! Run away from impure movies, photographs, music, TV shows, magazines, and websites. Run from any inner thoughts and imaginations that violate this commandment. Singles, flee from dating situations that might become physically intimate.

Flee to Christ prayerfully. Ask him to give you strength and encouragement. Flee to other believers who will help you stay faithful to your spouse and maintain personal purity. If you abandon God’s ways, you also abandon his blessings. Intimacy outside of marriage cannot really be lastingly satisfying. It starts a tangled mess that grows out of control.

Today we see the consequences as our culture
moves more and more away from God’s ways.

There is an alarming rise in pornography, incest, rape, violence, child molestation, homosexuality and other things I’d rather not even mention.

Marriage is a vital part of the way God made the human race to live. We are all effected by the consequences of immorality in the lives of those around us.

God’s creation principles need to govern and guide our lives. Morality should not be dictated by the comments and beliefs of people we might envy for their material success. Do not let successful or controlling unbelievers shape your moral standards and attitudes.

The 2nd President of the United States, John Adams wisely said, “It is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. Religion and virtue are the only foundations … of all free governments.” “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. … Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Our nation’s founders never intended for us to be publicly free from religion and biblical morals. Those who say otherwise are either poorly educated or intentionally ignoring the facts of history. The founders understood that aside from God’s blessing, no nation can survive for long.

There is only one hope for the future of the family and of our nation. We must reshape it, reform it, back to the form God gives us in his word. It must rest upon the foundation it was designed to rise upon — God’s word.

Marriages need to be restored to what they were meant to represent here on earth: God’s perfect and irrevocable union with us as his beloved bride.

The main point of this 7th Commandment
is remaining faithful to one another.

God is always faithful to his promises and commitments. As those created in his image, that is what we are here to show in our lives. We need to be true to our word and promises, even when it becomes hard for us. Our commitments to our spouses, children, church, employers, and country should show the strong bond of our Savior with us as his eternal bride. People need to see in us this wonderful attribute of our Creator. It should specially be seen in our marriages and family relationships.

The gospel of Christ brings forgiveness
and restoration to broken lives.

Since we are imperfect, we need to know how to deal with our failures. When we sin by any kind of unfaithfulness or sexual impurity we need to come repentantly to our Savior. There we find the certainty of forgiveness in the full power of the Cross of Calvary. Every sin of his people was paid for in full by the death of the one who loved each of those known by him before the world was made (Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:29). This is God’s promise to all who come with sincere repentance to the Savior. He is always faithful to his word.

The sincerity of our repentance and trust is shown in our desire to reform our ways. We need to be reshaping our lives to fit the model God gives us in his word. We should prayerfully do all we can to remove and to avoid temptations and opportunities to sin.

God’s people should be known for their faithfulness to their faithful God in all things. The specially shows in their marriages which were designed as a representation of that special union with our Redeemer. Faithful and godly marriages can restore our communities and rescue our children. Good homes remind us everyday about God’s love for his church, and of the work of Christ. In love he gives us the model, and the power we need for rebuilding our families.

We have good news for families and marriages. There is a gospel which shows us how to restore our homes. It assures us of God’s blessing when we become committed to his ways. It is our duty not only to experience this wonderful forgiveness and restoration, but also to present it to the world around us by our word and example. Help the world you live in come to know our Faithful and Loving Lord.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Remembering 9/11

Remembering 9/11

by Bob Burridge ©2011

There are times when evil shows itself so boldly that even those who know no Savior are horrified. On that September day in 2001 we were all reminded about the depth of human moral corruption. We saw the ugly side of the fallen human nature. We saw what any of us could be and would be, were it not for the restraining hand of our Creator who rules over all things, shaping them to reveal his nature and glory. It is God’s power, mercy and grace which alone keep individuals from falling into the depths of such pure depravity.

The tragedy of America’s 9/11 was not the only time in history when the pawns of wickedness took the lives of thousands, and destroyed the illusion of our temporal peace and prosperity. There was the slaying of the infants of Bethlehem by the paranoid pride of Herod when hearing of the birth of Christ, the new born King. Roman troops surrounded Jerusalem in 70 AD slaughtering over a million Jews in the siege of Jerusalem. These are but a few of the many sad glimpses at how the simple eating of forbidden fruit in Eden corrupted those made to display the glories of the Creator.

The message of hope is not found in our nation’s resolve, or in memorials to loved ones senselessly taken from us in a moment of repulsive horror. True hope is found in the hand of God that not only keeps us all from descending to the same depths of evil, but also sent the Savior to redeem from that fallen race some who would be adopted into the family of God. To love and redeem the good is wonderful. To do the same to the unworthy is astounding. Since there is no one who is truly good, considering the depth of our corruption, the work of our Savior amazes us and humbles us. We are driven to solemn worship of the Redeemer and King of all kings.

Romans 5:5-11, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”

Valuing Humans

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Valuing Humans

by Bob Burridge ©2011
watch the video
(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q:67-69)

Human life is a very special part of God’s creation.

Many inhabitants of our world have what we call physical life. They have a unique DNA structure, process foods for energy, respond to things around them, and reproduce their own kind. In that sense grass, bacteria, armadillos, and mold are all alive. It is only us humans who are here to display God’s moral nature. We have an immortal soul.

We were created in God’s image as it tells us in Genesis 1:26-27. We were put here to represent our Creator in his world, and to oversee his creation while doing his work. We need to respect that special purpose for which every one of us was made.

To those who dare to live in God’s world as if it did not belong to him, we are all just animals advanced by evolution, competing to survive, and working to get all we can for ourselves. They are horribly wrong. God did create us, and he made us in his image, even those forever separated from him and hating him. Therefore, every human life is to be respected and highly valued.

When people dislike something their hatred is often taken out on things that represent it. When people hate a nation they burn its flag. When they hate a leader they desecrate an effigy of him. Since evil sets out to disgrace God, an attack on human life made in his image is exactly what we should expect. Violence, hatred, bigotry, and cruelty have stained all of human history. We each need to be sure that we rid ourselves of the sin of disrespect for the life of others who though fallen are created in our Creator’s image.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches about the Sixth Commandment in questions 66-69.

Question 67. Which is the sixth commandment?
Answer. The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.

Question 68. What is required in the sixth commandment?
Answer. The sixth commandment requireth all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life, and the life of others.

Question 69. What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?
Answer. The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbor unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.

The 6th Commandment is found in Exodus 20:13

“You shall not murder.”

The old King James Version has caused some confusion and misuse of this Commandment. By translating it as forbidding killing, the verse has been used by those against things ranging from war and capitol punishment, to eating meat.

There are nine Hebrew words commonly used in the Old Testament for killing. Four of those words are mainly used for the killing of animals for food or as a sacrifice. They are like our words “to hunt”, “to slaughter “or “to butcher”. Those words are not used in this commandment.

God has never forbidden hunting, or killing animals for food and clothing. In fact the Bible actually commands these things. God made clothing out of the skins of animals for Adam and Eve. The diet God mandated for the Jews specifically included beef, and lamb. Jesus sent his disciples out to get a lamb for the Passover meal and sacrifice. Those who use this commandment to teach moral vegetarianism, or to oppose hunting, contribute to the modern confusion about the value of human life.

There are also four very general Hebrew words for killing. They’re like our words “to kill, put to death, execute, and massacre.” These words have a very broad meaning. Their use in the Bible ranges from killing in war, to the destroying of crops.

None of these words are used in the 6th commandment. God does not forbid executing criminals, or killing when necessary in defense of family or country, or killing a roach in our house, or a troublesome weed in our garden if they are bringing in disease or destroying our crops. People who picket executions, meat markets, or clothing manufacturers with signs saying, “Thou shalt not kill” horribly distort the meaning of this word of God.

The Hebrew word God used in this commandment is ratsakh (רצח). Unlike the other 8 words, it has a very specialized and limited meaning. It always means the unjust killing of another human being.

It is used 43 times in the Old Testament. A look at each of the 43 uses shows that it is always used narrowly. It it is very much like our English word “murder”.

The most accurate translation of this Commandment is, “You shall not murder.”

The moral foundation for this commandment
is rooted in the way God made us.

This goes back to creation itself. We were made to represent God in his world. We are to be a display of his communicable attributes, and to show his dominion over creation by managing it for our Lord. We were made in his image to carry out the duties assigned at creation on behalf of the Creator.

This creation principle is why such a high value is placed upon human life. This is the reason the Bible gives for imposing the death penalty for murderers in Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.”

Since all are made in God’s image, human life is never to be treated with disrespect. To take a life unjustly so horribly violates this basic ethic, that execution for certain crimes is mandated. However, even in the execution of convicted murderers by the state, or in war defending our families and neighbors against enemies, the taking of a human life should be done with dignity, respecting the tragedy of the life that needs to be terminated.

Some look at this very superficially. They assume that as long as they don’t commit premeditated homicide they have obeyed all God commands us concerning our attitude toward human life. They forget that God’s moral principles are not limited to the statements of the Ten Commandments. The Commandments are summaries of Creation Principles that apply always to all people in all ages.

This commandment forbids more than
just intentional unjustified homicide.

It is not only addressing those who illegally murder someone. Jesus explained that the moral principle includes hatred and disrespect for human life. In his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:P21-22 Jesus showed that this commandment implies more than just avoiding murder.

First, He pointed them back to this summary of God’s moral principle in the 6th Commandment. He said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Jesus was correcting abuses in this section of his sermon. He wasn’t taking issue with the 6th Commandment. This creation principle is as old as man being made in God’s image. His concern was the spin the Rabbis added to the law of God.

The legalists perverted the law into a way of salvation. To make it possible for the elite to claim they were righteous, they added to the law of God. They added noble sounding technicalities. By applying the law very narrowly they ruled out the moral principle behind it. The law was reduced to just a set of punishments for certain outward acts.

They allowed disrespect for the image of God in man as long as no one was actually murdered. They were arrogant, rude, bigoted, and judgmental. Jesus was correcting their wrong use of God’s law to justify personal vengeance and hatred. He explained that the principle here goes beyond their narrow use of the Commandment. This is why in verse 22 he said, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Without going into the details, there are distinctions made here correcting the rabbinical errors. The Rabbis allowed their own anger, vengeance and hatred to go unjudged. They missed the central issue of God’s creation law.

It is not only actual murderers that offend God. Even personal anger deserves judgment. Calling someone “raca” (which means “empty head”) deserves condemnation by the Sanhedrin. Calling someone a “fool” makes a person guilty of sin and worthy of hell fire. What offends the Creator is the sin of the heart against the image of God in man, not just actual homicide.

In his first epistle the Apostle John gives this same interpretation of the law. 1 John 3:15 says, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, … ”

God’s word points to the sins of the heart, not just the things that show outwardly. 1 Samuel 16:7 “… the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

God’s law is not just a set of penalties for certain limited actions. God looks at the state of the soul. It is wrong to hate, or to be cruel and disrespectful toward people. They are creatures that bear the Creator’s image.

When we come to know Christ truly, to love him for the unearned grace by which he loved us, the virtues that honor God will grow in us, and he will bless our lives.

To battle hatred, our first weapon is the gospel that changes hearts. Once we come to Christ, the law of God shows us how to express our gratitude to him, and how to please him in both worship, and in the way we treat our neighbors.

On the practical side, we should apply the
commandment in many areas of life.

While God permits taking a human life in self-defense, and in the execution of a convicted murderer by the state, it does not allow killing for convenience or out of personal vengeance. Without debate, there should be no murder. The unjust taking of a life intentionally is obviously evil and ca not be excused.

By definition, this crime would also include the sin of abortion. From the moment of human conception, life is precious and should be protected. Even in the case of medical threats, every attempt should be made to save the life of both mother and child. Abortion for convenience, for quality of life, or for the mental rest of the mother are all clearly forbidden, not by church rules or policies, but by God’s own law.

Equally tragic is the sin of suicide, either by the person himself, or by those assisting him. There is no justification morally for ending a life to stop physical or mental anguish. As tragic as these sufferings are, there are better ways to deal with them than killing.

As Jesus pointed out in his Sermon on the Mount, hatred and personal vengeance are the heart sins this commandment addresses. These are the moral principles behind it. They show a disrespect for the image of God in all humans. All the violations of this commandment elevate the feelings of a created human over the moral principles revealed to us by our Creator.

Far from leaving us with just negatives,
God’s word points us to what is right and good.

God has always commanded us to appreciate life and to love others. Jesus quoted from the law of Moses in Leviticus 19:18 when he said, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

In other words, our love is not just to be shown to those who appreciate us and who are kind to us. It is to be shown toward even those we might want to be vengeful toward, and people who might provoke us to hold a grudge against them. Instead of personal vengeance or bearing grudges, God’s people need to learn to love such people.

As Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-48, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

This is the high standard God has always expected of his people. It’s not the distortion of the law some corrupted Pharisees promoted, that we should love only our clearly defined neighbors, those who are like us. They allowed and defended hating those who are different, those who are against us. That is not what Moses said. It is not what Jesus said. This attempt to justify personal hatred and prejudice is morally wrong.

We are called upon to respect the image of God stamped upon all humans, good and troublesome. It does not mean we should excuse violators of God’s laws for society. Loving them does not excuse their sins, or free them from punishments if they commit crimes.

Our duty is to show the love of Christ in how we leave penalties to those authorized to give it. Let God deal with eternal debts for those not redeemed by Christ, and let the civil authorities deal with civil crimes here on earth.

Do not let the evil of others become an excuse for abandoning what God says is right. Do not let their sin poison your own life with attitudes God forbids. Proverbs 20:22 says, “Do not say, ‘I will recompense evil’; Wait for the Lord, and He will save you.”

Your attitudes and actions should show the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

God tells us what should be in our hearts to crowd out the sinful attitudes. We are required to love our neighbors, even to show love toward those who oppose us.

This is the moral foundation
upon which your life should be built.

You confuse and abuse this 6th Commandment if you fail to appreciate the value of human life, and of God’s moral nature revealed in the creation of humans. It is not just about committing actual homicide. You break this moral principle and offend God by your attitude toward others. It is not a light thing to show hatred, vengeance and anger.

From God’s first words to us in the earliest pages of Scripture, to the words of Jesus himself, such things offend the heart of God, the one who loves you, and has redeemed you. God calls you to love others. This means you should be patient, kind and gentle with self-control.

The promise to believers is that our Savior is there for us as we call upon him in faith. The trust he puts in our hearts is there to be used.

This is serious. It is important. Not one day more should go by where anger or hatred creeps into your heart. When it is discovered there, we are called upon to repent of it immediately,and to count upon the strength God promises us to enable us to overcome our hatreds

No one who trust in the Savior should doubt the power of the Living Christ in him to battle these sins. The Bible says in 1 John 4:8, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Those who know God as his redeemed children have the full potential in them to love. That is what makes God’s children different.

Pray that this love will show its presence in your heart, even in situations where the fallen world cannot imagine you being able to love. We need to show respect for all human life. Not based upon how a person lives his life, nor for the value that life has for us or for society. We are to treat all humans as special because they of the image of God in which they was created. We must respect the image because of the value its Creator.

Your life has this value too. Not for how talented you are, or how rich you are, or how good looking you are. You are made in God’s image and put here to display his wonder, grace, and glory. Make that your primary focus in all you do, and God will bless your life, even when the hard struggles come along.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Living Beacons

Living Beacons

by Bob Burridge ©2011

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16,

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Notice Jesus didn’t say that his listeners should become light for the world. He told them that they, as citizens of God’s Kingdom, are in fact already the light of the world.

Light has many meanings in Scripture. It is used to symbolize God’s true knowledge, goodness, truth, righteousness, joy, gladness, blessing, and so on. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” Jn 8:12. John called Jesus “the true light … coming into the world” (Jn 1:9)

In this verse Jesus calls his followers the light of the world. We are not light all by ourselves. Our light comes from Jesus Christ. We have often been compared with the moon. The moon gives off a lot of light, but it is only reflecting the sun’s light. All by itself the moon would be very dark.

God made light and all the things that produce it in our universe. In recent history we have started to realize something of the amazingly mysterious mechanisms that cause light to be given off. For example, atoms can give off light when they are heated. According to the model we use to study this, the electrons absorb energy and “jump up” away from the nucleus into higher energy levels away from the nucleus. When they are in this “energized” state we say they are “excited”. Eventually an electron will drop back to its ground state and give up that extra energy by emitting a packet of light.

When we become energized by the power of the gospel at work in us, we become in a sense “excited” about what God by grace has done for us. Just as an excited electron must emit light, so must the citizens of God’s Kingdom emit the light that energizes his life. When we are truly his, and believe without reservation every promise God has given us, how can we not be excited to radiance by God’s indwelling grace? God put us here to promote his glory in the world. We do it by living the way he created us to live.

Lights are lit to be seen. We who are redeemed by Christ are like a city set on a hill. It will be clearly visible to everyone. God doesn’t save us to hide us away to live under-cover lives. He places us on a hill for all to see. We are redeemed to shine for Christ. The Bible says so. To refuse this calling is moral rebellion against the Lord.

Lamps are not lit to be hidden under a basket. That would not make sense. Lamps were put on a lampstand, a high pillar, beam, or shelf where they could light up a room at night.

We are to shine before men. They should see the good works God produces in us, and give him the glory for it. The fruits of Christ at work in us should be made visible.

For example: the characteristics of the beatitudes which Jesus had just finished listing (verses 3-12) should show our redeemed condition to all those observing our lives.

    Those transformed by grace by the work of the Savior …

  • are poor in spirit. They understand their spiritual need and dependence upon God.
  • mourn over their sin – for its offense against God.
  • have a gentle spirit.
  • hunger and thirst for righteousness above everything else in life.
  • are merciful – reflecting God’s mercy to others.
  • have purity of heart before God.
  • make peace among God’s people.
  • are willing to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness.

These characteristics demonstrate God at work in us. This is light that ought to shine from lives touched by grace. Romans 2:19 says that Christians are “a light to those who are in darkness.”

The light that shines from our lives should not direct people to our own abilities and accomplishments, but to our Creator and Redeemer. Our works are not for our own honor and glory. It would be the worst kind of thievery to take credit for God’s work.

We should shine our light to improve the world we live in. However we need to keep in mind that it’s not the behaviors that change the world. It’s what causes those behaviors, the work of our powerful God.

The darkness of sin has infected the world’s politics, economics, education, law enforcement, security and morality. These will only be improved when the hearts of individuals are changed by the gospel of grace.

Martin Lloyd-Jones wrote, “the great hope for society today is in an increasing number of individual Christians.”

One of the main themes of Scripture is the presence of God’s Kingdom. The presence of the Kingdom can make a difference in our world. Even imperfect Christians, when their faith is acted upon, can have a positive influence upon this corrupt world.

We are to work to maintain the world, and to use its resources to provide for our daily needs. We are to worship, honor, and obey God in all our thoughts, words, and works. We are to trust in him as our Creator, Redeemer, Provider, Father, and King. God also calls those redeemed by grace to represent him to others.

Our problem isn’t going to be solved by passing more laws. Things will only improve by changing the hearts of those who crave to do what is wrong. Our problem isn’t the abundance of guns, drugs, TV’s, video games, or rock stars. It’s too little hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and too much trying to satisfy our needs in ways God forbids.

The pessimism we see so prevalent today, both outside the church and within it, comes from a tragic failure to believe God’s promises. The gospel is the power of God to salvation (Romans 1:16). Our Savior can take a heart of stone and replace it with a new heart. The gospel can take haters of God, and transform them into his children.

The solution for dispelling the darkness in our world is not found by cursing the darkness, or by trying to push it out, or by passing laws against it. It is not found by setting out on a hopeless quest for the perfect leader, political party, or budget. It is found in letting the light of Christ show brightly in your life. We must be emitters of God’s light to the world in which we live.

The light that should be shining in us is more than just the words of the gospel message. It includes our actions, God-honoring lives that people can see.

Many of the good things we do are done privately, but others should see the evidence of our Christian faith in our lives. They should see a different attitude than the world has, different standards and goals. We should not measure success by how popular, good looking, smart, or rich we can be, but by how faithfully we value God and his ways.

Our friends aren’t chosen by how much fun we have with them, or by how they can benefit us, but by our concern for them in the Lord, and how we can together grow to be like Christ.

The purpose of godliness isn’t to make people envy you, or look up to you. It’s to direct them to the glory of God, your Heavenly Father. This means that good deeds done very humbly should be connected with a clear testimony to God’s love and power in your life. They should know by your conversation and obedience that the Lord is your strength, enabler, and hope.

In Matthew 6 we see the danger and hypocrisy of fasting done for personal glory. Our light that shines is not supposed to be a show of piety that exalts us, but a humility and dedication to our responsibilities that proves the power that Christ can have in the redeemed heart of a sinner.

When we behave in a way that is self-absorbed, rude, or greedy we are showing that our Christianity is just a set of beliefs which have no connection with a power able to transform us. We need to be thinking all through every day about how we might let our light direct people to Christ.

When we humbly serve God, take care of our responsibilities well, worship faithfully, do our best to show love and kindness to others, and give God all the glory, that’s when we shine with the gospel light and others will be shown the goodness of our Heavenly Father.

Proverbs 4:18, “But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.”

(The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Courtesy: A Neglected Virtue

Courtesy: A Neglected Virtue

Characteristics of the Christian
by Bob Burridge ©2001, 2011

Courtesy and manners have always been part
of how we get along with other people.

There is a handbook on the web for International students at one of our major universities. It has a whole chapter on the detailed rules that make our American culture unique. It is amazing to read the cultural differences foreign visitors face here. It warns students that though belching is a compliment after a meal in some countries, it is considered rude in the United States. It then advises that there are better ways to complement a host or hostess.

Another website gives advice to people on business trips in other countries. It advises that when in China a person may show he is enjoying a meal if he slurps his soup or belches. It warns you to cover your mouth with your hand when using a toothpick. Bones or seeds from food should be put on the table, never on your plate or in your bowl. If you eat everything on your plate, the host is obligated to give you another helping. Here if you don’t clean your plate it appears you didn’t like the food. When you point, extend your open hand, never point with a finger extended. Never let people see the bottoms of your shoes or the soles of your feet.

In Germany it warns never shake hands with the other hand in your pocket. In France one should never use a comb, nail clippers or toothpick in public.

Rules about manners and social etiquette are not always logical. For example, elbows are normally rested on arms of chairs, but if you rest them on a table it may be considered to be rude. In very formal settings, using the wrong fork can be a horrible mistake.

There are also manners relating to a visit in one of the virtual worlds that exist on the Internet. If you keep typing with all upper case letters, others might become upset. It’s considered offensive as if you were screaming at the other people.

Detailed rules for manners and etiquette
often have nothing to do with real courtesy.

Superficial rules of etiquette can be used to simulate courtesy. They can be the veneer that gives a civilized appearance to pride and condescension. They often belittle those who don’t know complex social regulations as if they are crude people.

Of course social customs can work both ways. One rather down home list of customs, certainly intended as humor, suggests the following set of “Rules for Culturally Accepted Behavior” for some of the more rural locations in the United States:

  • Trucks with bumpers uncovered with stickers are considered offensively naked.
  • Drinks must be served in their original cans.
  • Cans must be crushed on some part of the body before disposal. Smashing them against the forehead is the greatest complement to the host.
  • Front yards are most properly decorated with discarded tires and at least one disassembled vehicle preferably resting on cinder blocks.

While those were written for humor, the sad fact is that both the rules of the highly refined cultures of the educated, and what are commonly see as normal in very local neighborhoods, can become judgmental standards that degrade the worth of those who don’t conform.

Those taken in by these pretenses are easily offended when the most sincere person breaks the rules, even though the person was merely ignorant of the custom and didn’t intend to offend anyone.

However, not all manners are evidences of empty pride and arrogance. There is a true courtesy that is a characteristic of a mature child of God.

The 6th item in the list of characteristics in
1 Corinthians 13:5a involves courtesy

It says that love “does not act unbecomingly …” (translated … “unseemly” in the King James Version). The original Greek text has, ouκ askhaemonei (ουκ ασχημονει). Love is not without skhaema (σχημα). The word means “form, fashion, or a manner that is proper”. Those who love in a biblical manner should not behave in a way that is inconsiderate of, or crude toward, others.

Our fallen nature turns all the godly characteristics around. Self-advancement becomes the greatest goal. There is a rule of law which Jesus said was most important, In Matthew 22 Jesus was asked: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” His answer in verses 37 – 40 was this, ” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

The fallen heart sees God as a means for personal advancement. It sees others either as there to help them get ahead, or as markers showing whom they have surpassed. Pride displaces humble service. Building up self takes the place of encouraging others to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24).

The conservative Lutheran, Dr. Lenski comments on this verse saying, “When pride puffs up the heart, unseemly bearing and conduct naturally follow. Tactlessness forgets its own place and fails to accord to others their proper dues of respect, honor or consideration.”

True manners come from inner respect
and concern for persons, and is sincere.

True courtesy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit at work in the heart of a person who is redeemed by grace. A godly person is humble. He looks to avoid anything that would cause offense to others. He tries to learn good etiquette, not to show off or to impress others with himself, and certainly not to out-do others, but to show respect and honor to those around them in every situation and culture. He works hard to show courtesy and care toward everyone in every level of society. He honors those who have authority over him, even when he disagrees. He earns the respect of those over whom he has authority.

Love therefore tries to show good manners. It is polite to others. It approaches personal differences and immaturity in others with tact. Rudeness betrays the absence of godly love.

A humble and loving person who doesn’t know the detailed rules may look ignorant, but by his conduct he will not give the impression that he doesn’t respect others. Therefore he doesn’t offend in his social errors. At the most he lets himself appear foolish rather than crude.

Commenting on 1 Corinthians 13:5a, Matthew Henry said, “love is careful not to pass the bounds of decency.” It does nothing “indecorous, nothing that in the common account of men is base or vile”

Calvin commented that love “does not exult in a foolish ostentation, or does not bluster, but observes moderation and propriety.” He reminds us of the problems in Corinth that motivated the epistle our present text is taken from. There was division and pride in the church there. One group criticized the other. While they worked toward settling their differences, they needed this characteristic of love — to maintain decorum and courtesy.

One commentator directs us to the character of Paul. In the Apostle’s imprisonments and trials, he was respected even by the Romans who had authority over him. Besser writes, “Who taught this tentmaker such noble and beautiful manners, such perfect tact in all his bearing, that even the great in this world were compelled to respect him?”

Godly love is thoughtful of others
and remembers to show respect for them.

No one is better than another. No one ought to be treated with less honor than is due to any creature of God who was made to bear his image. No brother or sister in Christ should be treated with less honor than was shown by the love of the Savior who died for him or her on the painful cross.

We should make sure that our manners, our courtesy, is put into practice. We can do simple things by saying “please” or “thank you”, by sending thank you notes or get well cards, by young people remembering to show cheerful respect to adults, by holding doors for others, by passing food at tables, by yielding in conversations, by never engaging in gossip or ridicule, by not interrupting, by greeting visitors at church, by making sure others get their share, by not saving the best for self, and by many similar courtesies.

There is a group called Messies Anonymous. It has a newsletter in which its founder, Sandra Felton of Miami, printed her recommendations for getting control of your home. It’s just a list of mannerly behaviors showing consideration for others who live there or visit:

Rules of the House
If you open it, close it.
If you get it out, put it away.
If you sleep in it, make it up.
If you drink out of it, wash it up.
If you take it off, hang it up.
If you turn it on, turn it off.
If you drop it, pick it up.
If you clip it, file it.
If it hurts, comfort it.
If it cries, love it.

Christ-like behavior doesn’t cut ahead in line, doesn’t elbow into crowds, doesn’t fight over the last hamburger, or push to get the last item on the sale rack. It doesn’t nose ahead in traffic to avoid cars merging in from side roads.

It tries to know what people see as respect, and avoids offenses. Love does not act in an unseemly manner. It tries to always be polite.

Note: The verses in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.

Learning Patience

Learning Patience

Characteristics of the Christian
by Bob Burridge ©2000, 2011

1 Corinthians 13:4a “Love is patient … ”

Waiting doesn’t come easily for us in our fallen human nature. We become impatient so quickly and may be tempted to make that insincere prayer, “Lord teach me patience. And could you please be quick about it?”

I once found an old letter in an abandoned house in an overgrown grove not far from here. It was written by the Taylor family, one of the early pioneer families in Pinellas County, Florida. The letter spoke of a trip to Tampa from Clearwater. It was a full day’s trip by horse cart around the north side of Tampa Bay. Those early pioneers would be amazed to see people commuting daily by car over our present choice of three high speed causeways between the two sides of the Bay. We have turned that full day’s trip into a 10 minute drive. Yet, you can’t make that trip today without seeing drivers impatiently going over the speed limit, weaving in and out of traffic, and getting angry when they can’t get around a slower car.

We live in a very fast world. We have come to expect our hamburgers to be served fast, and restaurant servers to be quick in taking care of us. We want our news to be up-to-date: to see it live on TV, or up-to-the-minute on the Internet. When I get the newspaper in the morning, it’s last night’s news and is no longer relevant. Magazines are a week or more old when we get them. Often the stories have changed dramatically. We want traffic to move fast. If it doesn’t, people get restless and sometimes irritated. We expect check-out lines to move fast, never getting bogged down with slow customers, lazy checkers, price errors, or lagging computers.

People complain when they have to wait around for vacation trips or special events. They don’t like to wait for people to see things their way, or to get over a dispute. They want immediate feedback when they try something new.

Learning patience is hard. But it is an important lesson.

Patience is the first attribute of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4a “Love is patient … ” The Greek word in the original text is makrothumei (μακροθuμει). It is made up of two root words:
1. “macro” (μακρο-) means something large. Macro-economics is when we look at the larger effects on the economy in a society. Macro-evolution is the theory that all things evolve from lower life forms. (Micro-evolution refers to the little changes in races and breeds within created forms.) A macro in computer programming is a group of commands that do some larger job.
2. “thumei” (-θuμει) is from the word that means “passions, emotion, anger”.

Together these roots combine to mean “the ability to keep our passions under control for a long time.” So literally this verse means, “Love puts up with things for a long time” (KJV uses “longsuffering”)

Though we might be faced with indifference, annoyances, selfishness, or even opposition, love doesn’t give up. It doesn’t try to hurt back. It endures the annoyances and selfishness of others.

Longsuffering is the 4th element in the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

It is the 5th item in Colossians 3:12-13 of those things we should put on as the elect of God, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”

Patience teaches us about God
because he is perfectly longsuffering.

He brings about his plan according to a large cosmic time schedule. He lets sin show itself so that his justice and power over evil can be displayed. He does all things in his own good time.

During this present period between Adam’s fall and the final day of judgment, God dramatically, but slowly, unfolds his plan of grace and wrath. He does it at the pace that best displays it for us finite creatures to observe it.

Those who don’t know the Lord misread the situation. They see God’s patience as inaction, or even worse as approval of their sin. If they aren’t judged right then and there when they do wrong, they expect they have gotten away with something.

God tells us that he often lets sin go unrestrained for very good reasons. He may not always show us what those reasons are in each case. However, we know that in his longsuffering with sinners, he brings about his perfect plan. God’s longsuffering should not be construed as inaction or approval. There is always a wise and good intent in those times when God seems to be silent about human sin and rebellion.

Acts 14:16, “who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways.”
Acts 17:30, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,”

To the believer, God’s long endurance is a great blessing. When we do wrong, and the consequences don’t come along right away, he lets us see what we would be without his work in our hearts, and his longsuffering brings us humbly before him in repentance and grateful faith.

Peter described the slow execution of God’s wrath in the time of the great flood. 1 Peter 3:20 speaks of those, “who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.”

The same word used here for the patience of God, is the one found in our text for this study:
1 Corinthians 13:4a “Love is patient … .” God gave time for the wicked to show how much they deserved his wrath, and for those marked by grace to repent and show his work upon their hearts.

There is also a time, after God’s patience fulfills its purpose, when his wrath is justly displayed. Jesus put up with much. However, there were times when he exercised his authority as Judge. He drove the money-changers out of God’s temple which they were desecrating. He will come one day to judge the living and the dead.

Even in showing his wrath, our Lord did not act out of impatience, but in his proper authority as a Priest, having been set aside by the Spirit’s baptism to be Lord of God’s Temple, and as the Divine Judge over all that he created. He was patient until the best time to show his wrath. He didn’t lose his temper when provoked so many times in conversations, and during his trial.

It’s sad how some have been confused by the forged book called the Gospel of Thomas. There, Jesus as a little boy is shown impatiently striking playmates dead for disturbing his play, or those who accidentally bumped into him in public places. The Jesus of these myths is not the Jesus of the Bible. That was a false Christ injected into our literature by Satan’s hatred for the truth.

God acts only at the right time, when his plan reaches the point where it is best to judge. He waits until the better time has come, even putting up with sin and evil for his greater glory. God’s perfect longsuffering is our ultimate model.

We have good human examples in Scripture to help us as well:

Hebrews 6:12 points us to those who have gone before us saying, “that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

James 5:10 also points us to the heroes of Scripture, “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.”

Paul tried to be a good example himself:

1 Timothy 1:16, “However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.”

2 Timothy 3:10, “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance”

2 Timothy 4:2. “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching”

When we learn Patience,
it fits us for a more peaceful life in God’s world.

Our attitude toward events and time should conform to God’s holy ways both to show his handiwork in us, and to obediently follow the unfolding of his plan.

As with our Lord, this doesn’t mean we never take decisive action against wrongs. It is not a lack of patience with a murderer that we finally execute him. It is not a lack of patience when we lovingly discipline our children. God commanded those things, but only within given authority to do so. These things are only to be done in love and in obedience to God’s prescribed methods. They must not be an unauthorized reaction, or done without careful deliberation.

Patience does not mean putting off exerting rightful responsibility. However, to act out of an unjustified passion is wrong. It is not our prerogative to show wrath when someone is slow on the highway, or rudely serves us our fries or burger. Impatience in those cases obscures the attributes of Christ which ought to be growing in us and diminishes the display of God’s kingship over our lives. We should learn to be examples of patience toward our children, friends, spouses and neighbors.

Patience means being willing not to get all the things we want when we want them. We learned in our study of Living Optimistically, how we need to see the larger picture. God is at work. As children we need to submit to the undisclosed plans of God as they unfold.

Psalm 27:14, “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (KJV)

Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

This not only makes us optimistic, it helps us endure trials patiently. God is pleased with our patience, and blesses us for it. 1 Peter 2:20 says, “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.”

Patience teaches us about God, and trains us to live as lights in God’s world.

Patience only comes to fallen hearts when redeemed by Christ and strengthened by the power of God. Colossians 1:11 tells us, “strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;”

God’s word encourages us to be patient, optimistic, and persistent as we live for him. Paul wrote in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

Patience brings wonderful honor to God and blessings for all his kingdom. When we learn to be patient …

  • we honor God by displaying his attributes restored in us by grace
  • we honor Christ by whose power we are restored
  • we make life easier for our loved ones and everyone else we deal with, when we aren’t impatient toward them.
  • we help ourselves spiritually by being obedient to the requirements of God.
  • and from our studies of science, it appears there are direct physical benefits: Learning sincere patience can lower a person’s blood pressure. It can ease stress on the various systems of the body. It appears to reduce the risk of heart attacks, and strokes, and may even improve the workings of our immune system in fighting diseases.

This then is how we improve our patience:

We need to …

  • make our salvation sure, so that the Spirit’s fruit can grow in us.
  • be mindful of God’s Sovereign rule working all things together for good.
  • pray for patience, because it is only by God’s power that we can grow in it.
  • think on the examples given to us in Scripture so they can be our model for living.
  • turn our attention to what we are doing, instead of what we are not yet able to do.

So often impatience flares up when something keeps us from what we planned, when we don’t get something fast enough, or when something isn’t done the way we prefer. The proper response to those things is to ask yourself, “What is my duty in this circumstance right now?”. As we are strengthened by our Savior, and assured by our confidence in his power as revealed in his word, we disable the impatient agonizing over circumstances over which we have no control.

This reminds us of Paul’s mature attitude while held in a Roman prison where he wrote in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:”

Note: The verses in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.