Right Living at All Times

Thursday: Practical Examples

Romans 12:17 In this study, we are reminded of the need to live according to God’s standard of right and wrong.
Practical Examples

A number of years ago there was a movie with the title Do the Right Thing. It was good advice, even if our culture is unable to tell us what the right thing is. Here are some verses in which the Bible lists areas in which we need to do what’s right. 

Handling money. In the eighth chapter of 2 Corinthians Paul writes about the way he was handling a large sum of money given by the Gentile churches for the poor Christians of Jerusalem. There had been a famine in Judea. Many were starving, and the Gentiles had given money that was to be taken to these poor people. In these chapters Paul explains that he was committing the money to a group of men appointed by the various churches so there would be accountability and no questions about any mishandling of the funds. He explains his reasoning in verse 21, using the word kalos, the word found in Romans 12:17. “We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right (kalos), not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men” (2 Cor. 8:21). 

What can provide an ethical foundation for American morality? 

Think of the scandals in the church over money. It is because of money that Jim Bakker went to jail, and he is only the most visible and recent of many prominent religious figures who have mishandled their supporters’ funds. If we are to be “careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody,” we must begin here. We should be utterly honest and entirely above board in how we handle money. 

That is why at The Bible Study Hour we have our books audited and hold membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. 

Fair treatment of those who work for you. In Colossians Paul writes to those who own slaves, saying, “Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven” (Col. 4:1). The word that is translated “right” in this verse is not the same word as in Romans 12:17. In this verse the word is dikaios from which we get the Greek word for “righteousness” (dikaiosune). It means “conforming to a standard,” “right,” “proper,” “fair,” “honest,” “innocent.” It is a different word, as I said. But it means the same or nearly the same thing, and it would be fair to say that dikaios is a near biblical equivalent of the secular philosophical Greek term kalos

What does this have to do with us? It means treating those who work for you fairly, not using them only for what you can get out of them or always trying to get the highest profit at the lowest cost, at their expense. It means that Christians should lead the way in fair labor relations and work always for the good of their employees and the betterment of their lives. 

Wayne Alderson is one person who has shown how this can be done. He was a coal miner’s son who pioneered constructive rather than antagonistic labor-management relations in a steel foundry in western Pennsylvania known as Pitron. When he entered the plant Pitron was in the throes of a ruinous and potentially explosive strike. But Alderson identified with the workers, respected them and treated them fairly, and as a result he soon turned the plant into one of the nation’s most productive and profitable operations. He now heads an organization known as “Value of the Person” which is trying to apply biblical principles to labor-management relations nationwide.1

Respect of one’s parents. One sad part of the loss of values in America surveyed in The Day America Told the Truth is a breakdown in filial piety, more than half of all Americans admitting that they do not plan to take care of their parents in their old age. Nor do the parents expect to be taken care of.2 The Bible’s standard is quite different. The fifth of the Ten Commandments says, “Honor your father and your mother” (Exod. 20:12), and Paul wrote thoughtfully, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right (dikaios)” (Eph. 6:1). 

The pursuit of all good things. A list of this kind might go on indefinitely since right conduct needs to be a part of everything we think, say or do. But here is one which I have put last only because it comes close to embracing nearly everything else. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right (dikaios), whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil. 4:8). 

We live in a trashy culture, worse—a sinful, evil, ugly and perverted culture. It is hard not to be sullied by it. Yet it was no different in Paul’s day. The Greek and Roman world of the first century was a slime pit. But in spite of it, Paul says that Christians are to set their minds on good things, things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. We are to seek the best rather than the worst of the world around us. 

1See R. C. Sproul, Stronger Than Steel: The Wayne Alderson Story (New York: Harper & Row, 1980). 

2James Patterson and Peter Kim, The Day America Told the Truth: What People Really Believe About Everything That Really Matters (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1991), 8.

Study Questions
  1. What four examples of right living did Dr. Boice discuss today?
  2. How does our culture think about these four examples? What is the Bible’s standard for each of them?
  3. Look again at Paul’s example in 2 Corinthians 8:21. How did Paul ensure that the money would be handled honestly? Why does this method help to avoid criticism of the way the gift is distributed to the poor? How can churches and Christian organizations follow this example?

Application: Think of your own co-workers or employees. Do you treat them fairly? In what ways are your dealings and relationships at work an example of doing what is right in the eyes of men and God?

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to Philip Ryken’s message, “The Law and the Gospel.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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