said, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your
good works and glorify the Father which is in heaven." By doing good
the Christian bears fruit which, to the people of the world, is a
shining light, radiating and reflecting the love of God. However,
good work is not the only way the Christian is made into a shining
light. He is to "keep himself unspotted from the world" (Jas. 1
:27), and to "abhor that which is evil and cleave to that which
is good" (Rom. 12:9). Since the Christian is really not a
light except as he reflects Christ, then any impurity in his life
will minimize that light. The light that would shine from our lives
because of the good works we do is often obscured by the defilements
of moral impurity.
inclined to consider our age as one that is especially vexed with moral
problems, but evidently these same matters were the concern of God's people
since the days of Adam and Eve. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, so let
us consider some of the major problems which we must face from day to day if
we are to be real and effective "lights in the world."
The Problem Of Pure Thoughts
"As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he," and Jesus emphasized this in the
sermon on mount when he showed that one can commit adultery "in his heart,"
by harboring evil thoughts even though the overt act has not been committed.
In Phil. 4:8 Paul admonished us to think on the things that are true,
honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy.
control" then becomes a very real problem to the child of God. There are
three reasons why we must exercise strict control over our own thinking
processes: (1) It is a plain command of the New Testament (Phil. 4:8).
(2) Our thinking determines our character, for what we think in our hearts
we actually are in our lives (Prov. 23:7). (3) Defiled, debased
thinking will lead us on to more and more defilement in the flesh. Somebody
said that one reason so many people jump off high buildings and bridges is
that they "look too long." We follow our eyes - our thoughts. Likewise many
look upon sin so long and so willingly that sin loses its horrible
appearance. We may be able to think about evil things without contrasting
them with the good and pure until, in our thoughts the thing is no longer
sinful. For instance Americans have looked so long upon near-nudity that it
seems less offensive than it did 30 years ago, not only because some have
become calloused to such sights, but probably mostly because so many people
no longer consider it wrong to have evil thoughts. Too many women today
don't care if a man commits adultery in his heart with her!
promotes evil thoughts, for one definition of the word is "tending to excite
lustful desires." Most dancing is lasciviousness. The Indian war dance was
intended to stir up one emotion-the desire to fight. The modern dances in
which one sex fondles the other stirs up another emotion and the resulting
thoughts tear down inhibitions to sinful conduct. The man who thinks of evil
relations for hours on the dance floor will have little power to restrain
himself at the end of such experience.
way, then, to safeguard our conduct is to control our thoughts. It is not
only important that we recognize this need in our own selves, but that we
make every effort to contribute to purity of thought among others with whom
we associate in the home, school, office, factory, etc. There is certainly a
sense in which we can and must be "our brother's keeper," even as we help
him keep his thoughts undefiled.
The Problem Of Pure Motives
4:12 we learn that the word of God is a "discerner of the thoughts and
intents of the heart." Purity of motive does not guarantee purity of action,
but on the other hand action can hardly be pure if the intent is defiled. In
this article we shall not try to identify all motives which may be bad, but
we shall consider three significant ones.
an evil motive which may manifest itself many times. Perhaps this was the
motivating cause with James and John when they desired to sit on either
side, one on the right and one on the left, of Jesus in his kingdom.
Selfishness is not simply real concern for self, but actually it is the
showing of so much regard for one's own self that the interests and welfare
of others is disregarded. This evil motive might cause a child of God to
consider his own welfare, and that of his family, so important that he is
unwilling to leave a sheltered environment even to teach and preach the
gospel to lost men. Selfishness on the part of preachers and their families
probably prevents more fruitful work in the Lord's vineyard than any other
hindering cause. The following poem by G. McDonald should cause many of us
to consider our motives in gospel work:
I said, "Let me walk in the fields,"
He said, "No, walk in the town."
I said, "There are no flowers there,"
He said, "No flowers, but a crown."
I said, "But the skies are black;
There is nothing but noise and din"
And he wept as he sent me back,
"There is more," he said, "there is sin."
I said, "But the air is thick,
And the fogs are veiling the sun."
He answered, "Yet souls are sick,
And souls in the dark are undone."
I said, "I shall miss the light,
And friends will miss me, they say,"
He answered, "Choose tonight,
If I am to miss you, or they."
I pleaded for time to be given;
He said, "Is it hard to decide?
It will not seem hard in heaven,
To have followed the steps of your guide."
I cast one look at the fields,
Then set my face to the town,
He said, "My child, do you yield ?
Will you have the flowers or the crown?"
Then into his hand went mine,
And into my heart came he.
And I walked in a light divine,
The path I had feared to see.
another motive which produces much evil. The brother of the Prodigal Son
(see Luke 15) demonstrated the evil which may result when jealousy
invades our hearts. Jealousy may so warp our nature that it will hinder our
usefulness and it may also cause us to throw obstacles in the way of other
servants of Christ. Jealousy manifests itself among preachers in so many
ways: unwise and undue criticisms of other preachers; complaints because
others preach to more people or receive more support; etc. Likewise, other
Christians give every evidence of jealousy when they bicker, wrangle and/or
pout over such things as who will lead the singing, who will teach a class,
who will wait on the table, etc. Any amount of jealousy among Christians
will cause discord and difficulty.
Greed is the
third evil motive we shall mention. Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom and
eventually lost everything he had except two daughters, because he "lifted
up his eyes and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered
everywhere . (Gen. 13:10). How much better it might have been for Lot
and his family if he had forgotten his desire for fine pastures for his
flocks and would have considered the dangers to his family in the sin-cursed
cities of the plain. Today we see many similarities in the way children of
God migrate to places for financial gain and in their greed for the money to
be had from "overtime," abandon the meetings of the church. We have observed
in recent months here in Chicagoland, that sometimes even elders of the
Lord's church and preachers of the gospel move here to make money and
greedily pursue that course even when it means failing to assemble one hour
per week to worship God. Significantly this greed is not for millions, nor
even thousands of dollars, but often only for a few hundred with which to
get a car or a television set etc. Mothers abandon their children, leaving
them for strangers to train, or sometimes leaving them alone to roam the
streets, just for a few paltry dollars with which to buy those few extras
that the neighbors already have. Revolting indeed is the attitude of some
preachers, who, when approached about work in a certain place ask first of
all, "What do they pay?" All of us might well ponder the following words:
Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!
Bright and yellow, hard and cold;
Molten, graven, hammered and rolled;
Heavy to get and light to hold.
Hoarded, bartered, bought and sold,
Stolen, borrowed, squandered, doled;
Spurned by the young, but hugged by the old
To the very edge of the churchyard mold;
Price of many a crime untold:
Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!
Good or bad, a thousand fold!
Greed not only
causes some to engage in dishonest or improper activities, but it may also
cause us to take a wrong attitude toward the possessions which we do have.
Regardless of whether we have much or little, hoarding is a manifestation of
greed. Isaiah described some of those who claimed to be God's people, even
those who claimed to be his watchmen thus: "Yea, they are greedy dogs which
can never have enough . . . they all look to their own way, every one for
his own gain . . ." (Isa. 56:11). Solomon said, "He that is greedy of
gain troubleth his own house" (Prov. 15 :27). Some poet said:
Use your money while you're living,
Do not hoard it to be proud;
You can never take it with you,
There's no pocket in a shroud.
Gold can help you on no farther
Than the graveyard where you lie;
And though you're rich while living,
You're a pauper when you die.
Use it then some lives to brighten
As through life they weary plod;
Place your bank account in heaven,
And grow rich toward your God.
then must put away selfishness, jealousy and greed. When motives are pure,
they will be manifested by an unselfish spirit that may better be described
as selflessness. Envy, strife and resentments that characterize the jealous
person will be absent in the life of one whose motives harmonize with the
will of God. Pure motives forbid the grasping, covetous spirit that is a
direct product of greed.
propose to discuss problems of pure speech, pure actions and pure
Magazine - April 1958