Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Religious Businessman

Sometimes we can be too “spiritual” for our own good. We can feel that as long as we perform certain religious duties, we can do what we want with the rest of our lives. The Pharisees were prime examples of this. They were very punctilious about their religious duties and tithed even the herbs that grew in their gardens (Matthew 23:23). But they were willing to foreclose on the houses of widows (Mark 12:40) and made hairsplitting distinctions about what oaths were valid (Matthew 23:16-22). They also were portrayed in general as lovers of money (Luke 16:14). The people described in the epistle of James seem have carried on the same types of practices. They showed partiality toward the rich (James 2:1-7) and refused to help those in need (James 2:15,16). Also, they were refusing to pay their laborers and condemning to death those who opposed them, so they could live in luxury (James 5:1-6). Not a pretty picture.   

God, you see, is very practical. He is not so much concerned with our religious respectability and outward reputation as with who we really are. He is looking for our inner character (Galatians 5:22,23; 1 Corinthians 13:1-7; Romans 12:9-21), but He wants to see that displayed practically in how we act toward other people (James 1:27; Matthew 25:31-46; Isaiah 58:2-10). This gets down into the nitty-gritty of how we conduct our business dealings and other practical, day-by-day issues. In these issues we are called to be honest in our dealings and not attempt to cheat people (Proverbs 11:1; Amos 8:4,5; Micah 6:11). We should do a decent day’s work for a decent day’s pay (Ephesians 4:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; Proverbs 6:6-11). We should be willing to give to help those in need (1 John 3:17; Galatians 2:10; Proverbs 14:31). But ultimately, we must avoid making money the central focus of our lives (Matthew 6:19-24; 1 Timothy 6:6-10; Colossians 3:5).

Now this is not always easy to do. We live in a world where we do need money to live, and it is always easy to get it out of proportion. And it is often difficult in the business world to know what is and what is not just dealing. But if we do not consider where the boundaries are and make a deliberate attempt to avoid passing over them, there is a good chance we will drift over them without noticing. And if we go too far down that road, God will not be impressed by our external religious observances.

Now salvation is by grace and is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4.5; Philippians 3:9). But this great love of God for us should result in a response of love for Him (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Romans 12:1,2). And this should result in a transformation of our lives (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:11-14; 2 Corinthians 3:18). A transformation that reaches into all aspects of our lives, not just the religious ones.

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