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Culture and Christianity XVIII:

Substance Use and Abuse, Tithing, Politics and Environmentalism, Friendship, Self-Defense, and Work

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Question #1:

What about for example sleeping pills? It also changing minds, and sometimes people are using some alcohol for better sleeping. Do you think is it also sin?

Thank you very much

Response #1:

I'm pretty sure I have made it clear that drinking alcohol is not a sin. Getting drunk is a sin (see the link).

In terms of prescribed medication, I know of no scripture to indicate that prescription meds given for legitimate reasons by legitimate physicians are a problem. Whether or not it is wise to take them, especially if it is a discretionary situation, is another matter. And of course violating the terms of the doctor's orders or getting meds under false pretenses is certainly not right.

But I would counsel you not to be overly worried about all this. It's not possible to grow spiritually by fine tuning behavior in this way, writing up all manner of rules and regulations. The point of the Christian life is to grow closer to the Lord through the truth and then to walk closely with Him by the Spirit. If you start doing that, all the minor little things will fall into place – and into their proper perspective.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Thank you - it helps me.

One thing which I don't much understand is why is smoking pot and drinking alcohol to drunkenness is sin? It is because these things changing our minds - right? But smoking cigarettes is not sin because it is "just" an addiction? Some teachers saying that all these things are sin because our body is temple of the Holy Spirit.

Response #2:

You're very welcome, my friend.

As to your new question, when the Lord told Adam and Eve not to eat of the forbidden fruit, He wasn't being nasty – as we know. Despite the lies that the devil told Eve through the serpent, disobedience had horrific consequences. Lesson: when God tells us not to do something it always for our own good.

Why "no" to drunkenness from alcohol or drugs? I've seen both things ruin very many lives, and not from light use. If a person drinks/takes so much of anything that they are behaving in a significantly different way than they would do if sober, clearly their will is impaired – and no one ever makes better decisions when drunk or high. And this life is all about choice. If it's hard enough to do the right things when we are sober . . .

I've heard the argument based on the "temple of the Holy Spirit" before but that is not the interpretation of the passage and it is a questionable application. There are many things a person can do or fail to do (like not brushing one's teeth) which will not be helpful and may be harmful which do not impair the will or lead to reckless behavior. They may be ill-advised, but that is not the same thing as a sin.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:

I found interesting view on alcohol : http://www.isawthelightministries.com/alcohol.html

Please read.

Response #3:

I skimmed it and didn't see anything I disagreed with enough to mention.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Thank you.

That article is saying that being drunk is not sin. But can be sinful if we doing bad things when we are drunk. But what about Gal 5:21?

Response #4:

Getting drunk is most definitely a sin as in the passage you cite (Gal.5:21). This is what I found in your article:

BUT we know that we should NOT allow the alcohol to gain control over us!

That is a fair definition of what getting drunk is.

I skimmed the article, as I say. I didn't discover it on the internet. I didn't write it. I'm not going to defend it. I took from it the correct proposition that drinking is not a sin but that drunkenness is a sin. That is my position in any case because that is the Bible's position (see the link). To the extent that this article is confusing or confused about either proposition, to that extent I would not recommend it.

I'm happy to discuss any particular points or evidence used for either proposition (or things that seem to be contradictory), but I'm not going to vouch for the article, only the two correct conclusions included above.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

There is also that Noah was drunk and it was not sin.

Response #5:

Noah might have had an excuse – since he was the first person in history to get drunk (there was no fermentation until after the major changes produced by the great flood; see the link); but a sin is a sin, even if committed in ignorance; only the culpability changes: Eve was guilty just like Adam even though she had been deceived (1Tim.2:13-14).

Question #6:

Dear Bob,

I was just wanting to ask another quick question, this one concerning how we handle paychecks and payment for working. I have been following the 10/80/10 model, wherein you put at least 10% of what you make into savings, give away 10% to charity or to a person in need, and then the remaining 80 being the 'free' amount you can do with as you wish; although, I often end up putting much of the remainder into savings, regardless.

The question I had was clarification on the 10% or more we give away: does it matter who we give it to? Does it have to be the church in specific, or can it just be anyone in need, such as the poor, a charity, a friend in need, etc?

Response #6:

This model is OK . . . if it's what you want/choose to do. However, there is nothing of this sort in scripture. The Law talks about tithing but 1) that has nothing to do with us today and 2) was actually quite different in many respects from what people often assume – and what churches/groups who want donations want them to assume (see the link which will lead to others: "Tithing"). In terms of saving, here is what I read in scripture:

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV

Everyone and everyone's situation is different, of course, and I'm not saying that it is wrong to have a little emergency cash in the bank or that if our employer has a retirement plan we shouldn't take advantage of it (why wouldn't we?); but it is the case that if we are looking for security in this world it will only alienate us from Him who is our true security, both now and forever. A personal observation: almost all the believers I've known in my life who were diligently seeking the Lord through the truth have almost without exception been so hard-pressed financially most of time so that this could never even be a consideration. That tells you something (in my opinion).

Here are some other links on the subject:

Tithing and the Book of Life

Is tithing required for salvation?

Melchizedek and tithing

The prosperity gospel and tithing (see especially Q/A #4)

Tithing and church polity

Tithing and the Book of Life

Is Tithing Net or just 'Gross'?

Tithing as income tax

More on tithing

Christian giving

Charity

Charity and beggars

Jobs, Money, Finances and Giving: What does the Bible say?

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:

I remember you talking about it before, but I admit to forgetting the context, but thank you for the clarification on the matter. While I may still follow the model as a general rule, since there is nothing wrong with giving or donating to others who are in need, I won't feel quite as beholden to the model as I was originally was. I have been trying to save up money, but only in the context of emergencies, as you've stated, and to help me and my fiancee with our future plans.

If anything, this will only help in the sense that I will be giving even more freely to those who need, and not so much like I have to, which just makes it even better. I hope it did not sound as though I was boasting, I was just keeping in-mind the scripture where it says to give freely and with a glad heart, that is all. In any case, thank you for answering and helping out with this. It has definitely been a great help knowing that, in my journey, I can always come to you for matters which I can't quite figure out myself, or get another perspective on.

Response #7:

Sounds good and reasonable.

Gracious giving is indeed the only way.

Thanks for your encouraging words.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hi Bob,

While I am very grateful to God for the job I will be doing shortly, my mother gave me some advice, viz., that I should do something with my local government and environmental protection.

This began when I took a personal field trip to Waukegan and surrounding cities in Lake County. I pointed out how many of the zones have been fenced off because of environmental contaminants, and some of them have even been labeled Superfund sites. In case you didn’t know, Superfund is a federal government program for designating the worst environmental disaster zones in the country.

While the vast majority of “political action” focuses on a federal, or worse, international level, it is actually the local level (such as county or possibly state) that is in the most need of competent political leadership. Yet because local government is often deemed “uninteresting” by most citizens, important issues such as local environmental protection are left neglected and children go play around these very dangerous areas. In Waukegan there is a very dangerous 300 acre asbestos field that is right next to a local park and beach, but unfortunately that is not all of the dangerous zones.

I wrote a letter to a gubernational candidate telling him that there should be a law requiring municipal government to put up big yellow road signs with big bold writing saying “THIS IS A KNOWN ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER ZONE” on the fences of these areas, because most of the local residents are blissfully unaware of how bad their neighborhood is. If that were done, there would be a lot more productive anger.

I know that you were a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. Have you ever been to Great Lakes Naval Base? Because these areas are just north of it, so it might be of interest to you too.

Sincerely,

Response #8:

When the waters all turn to blood during the Tribulation, I doubt that any "superfund" will be sufficient.

Question #9:

Good response. But you don’t even have to go that far. If God wills, I could die tomorrow. Yet that seems to be a very poor argument for not planning for my future….

When it comes to the apocalypse, there are two popular extreme schools of thought, and both of them are foolish.

The first school of thought says that because so many people have failed to predict the rapture (which I know isn’t real, but it is still popularly held) or the second coming (which is real), that therefore we should assume that the second coming or the tribulation is made-up and will never happen.

The second school of thought says that because it is imminent, therefore we shouldn’t care about any sort of long-term planning or investment because, for all we know, it could all unravel tomorrow.

The first one is foolish because false predictions don’t discount true predictors. To use a meteorological example, the types of cloud formations present in the sky can give a clue to whether it will rain or not, but just because once or twice storm clouds formed but it failed to rain doesn’t mean that we should dismiss all storm clouds.

The second one is foolish because like I said, we could all die tomorrow for any reason. But we still need to plan as if we won’t.

Response #9:

That's it exactly. We do have to do some planning, and we do have to proceed as if we will be here tomorrow even though we know that we are only given one day at a time. James sums up the correct attitude and approach:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.
James 4:13-16 NIV

That said, in terms of your previous email, part of my point is that probably isn't enough time left to be able to fix the devil's world – of course that would be true even if there were a thousand years left. We are here to honor Christ and in the process we have to earn our bread. I'm concerned about anything that even gets close to causes and crusading, however noble.

In my youth, I was in the Boy Scouts for many years and am a deeply committed conservationist. But environmentalism is radically different from conservationism. As we used to say about enjoying the natural world, "Let no one say – and say it to your shame – that all was beauty here before YOU came!" In other words, the golden rule applied to camping, hiking, etc. But environmentalism is a religion which in many instances seeks to stop people through the power of government from using and enjoying the natural world – other people, that is, while those of this "religion" can do pretty much as they please. In my youth, it was considered a terrible thing even to let a chewing gum wrapper fall on the ground without picking it up. Now that the environmental religion holds sway, its disciples throw trash out the car window like it means nothing – but would be quick to turn you in if you are not recycling.

In light of the above, it is important for believers to remember that politics is the devil's playground. Every political action that may look like "a good cause" wherein a person might think to have "God on his side" is in fact part of Satan's machinations, and he is actually walking hand in hand not with God but with the devil. And the devil is not on anyone's side – he's also holding hands with the people on the other side of the barricade shouting profanities at you, and he couldn't be happier if there are believers in both groups who are threatening their brothers and sisters in Christ with bodily violence because they have a different political opinion . . . about something that has absolutely NOTHING to do with the plan of God for their lives.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #10:

I have last question: what is meaning of James 4:17? So for example if I am drinking energy drinks and I know it's better to not drink it, is it sin?

Response #10:

James 4:17 is a general statement and it about doing what is right rather than refraining from what is wrong. In the example, it would be appropriate for these individuals James complains about to acknowledge in humility that the Lord is the source of their prosperity and that they will only succeed with His help; failing to do so is an indication of arrogance, a very widespread sin.

As far as "energy drinks" are concerned, I don't see any justification for condemning mild, legal stimulants (not from the Bible, anyway). More to the point, I think it is a trap to be overly worried about what I would consider very small and legalistic "fine tuning" of one's public behavior. This is what the Pharisees did (i.e., worrying about tithing the produce of their small spice gardens while overlooking "justice and mercy and faith": Matt.23:23).

So if you are asking this question because you have "friends" or church members who are upset about the issue, you might want to consider getting new friends and a new church. No one can grow spiritually in a legalistic environment because in such places self-righteous justification of one's actions and condemnation of others for not following suit is the rule. But we grow "through the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" (2Pet.3:18). Spiritual growth is a positive thing (of course it requires sanctification which is staying away from actual sin and confessing when one lapses), responding with love to God's love of us, not a negative "Law-following" thing which rejoices in a man-made code of behavior. As our Lord said when asked about the "greatest commandment" in the Law:

Jesus said to him, " ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
Matthew 22:37-40 NKJV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Well so its connected to previous verse. For example if I say: I will go to college and I will be an engineer and I will have good work, it's a sin?

Response #11:

Arrogance is a sin. Planning for the future within reason and in a godly way with all humility is only prudent.

But I am again concerned for you. It seems to me that by growing spiritually and by learning how to walk closer to the Lord in the Spirit all such things are made more and more clear and less and less does the believer have to wonder about what is right and what is wrong.

So I again commend spiritual growth to you. You might consider reading the Peter series as a good start (at the link); the early lessons are short and not too difficult even in English.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

So if I say it with knowledge that God or other things can change my way, then it's not bad?

I still don't understand that if we know what is good and don't do it then it is sin for us (James 4:17).

So if I say it's good to go outside and sport, but don't do it that is sin? I don't understand this verse.

Response #12:

The verse, James 4:17, has to do with arrogance. Arrogance is a sin. The more a person thinks that he/she is in control and will do something – without acknowledging in their heart that all things are in God's hands (and thus anything can happen) – the more towards arrogance their thoughts are verging.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Yes that is what I mean. If I say that I will be engineer. But I know that it's not for sure. That God or other things can change my way. So if I know these things than its not sin to say it.

Response #13:

The point is one's attitude – from which all words come (Matt.12:34-35; cf. Matt.15:19; Mk.7:21-23). If we are walking with the Lord we will know that He is in control of all things. This is only a problem if in our arrogance of heart we really do foolishly believe that we can control the future. As our Lord says in the parable of the rich fool: "‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you" (Lk.12:20 NIV). None of us even knows if we will be given a tomorrow. The proper Christian perspective is, therefore, "one day at a time". It's not wrong to plan. We have to plan some things. But we ought to do it in humility AND we ought to be calculating everything towards the plan of God: what He wants us to do, namely, grow spiritually, walk closer with Jesus, and help others do likewise.

Question #14:

Hi, I want to ask about the words being judged and condemned. 1 Cor 11:32 is saying that being judged means education from God. So is it somewhere written to don't or do this or you will be judged?

Also the word condemned by this verse means being lost. I'm right?

Response #14:

This passage (1Cor.11:32) has to do with the Corinthian believers celebrating communion while in a state of unconfessed sinfulness – and that leads to divine discipline from disrespecting the Lord's sacrifice for us. Here is how I translate the passage:

(27) Therefore whoever eats the [communion] bread or drinks the [communion] cup of the Lord in an unworthy way is guilty [of offense against] the body and the blood of the Lord. (28) So let [each] person evaluate himself and in this manner (i.e., following confession of all sins remembered in such reflection) let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. (29) For the person who eats and drinks eats and drinks judgment for himself if he does not evaluate his body [aright] (i.e., refusing first to repent and confess). (30) It is for this [very] reason that many among you are sick and infirm – and not a few have passed away (i.e., have suffered the sin unto death). (31) But if we were evaluating ourselves [so as to repent and confess], we would not be falling under judgment. (32) And when we are being judged [for this offense], it is by the Lord that we are being disciplined, to the end that we might not be condemned (lit., "terminally judged") along with the world.
1st Corinthians 11:27-32

Words mean what they mean in context. So in this context the "judging" is the evaluation from the Lord (which poor communion invites) and "condemned" at the end is a reference to suffering the sin unto death for continuation in gross sinfulness without confession and repentance (biblically = changing one's thinking and turning around spiritually); cf. 1Cor.5:5: "that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I am in a conundrum that involves someone who refers to himself as my "best friend". He would tell me the nicest things like," you have a nice heart, you are honest, I love you, a true Christian, full of love, etc.". Then we got into an argument not too long after and he said that me and his mom are the same in character. Now, he hates his mom with a passion and have called her every evil and hateful name in the English dictionary, then told me that me and his mom are just the same in regards to behavior and character. How is this possible? I still love him, but the emotional scar hurts so bad that it's almost impossible to forget, and it's VERY difficult to ever see him as a best friend again. It's like if someone kills my entire family and asks for forgiveness (which my friend hasn't). I can forgive him, but the emotional scar is FAR more painful than any physical pain I have experienced. I don't know what to do, so I am seeking the council of wise men. What is the Godly thing to do in this situation?

God Bless you and your ministry,

Response #15:

When it comes to friendships of a personal nature, while we are required to forgive such people just as we are required to forgive all of our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, we are not required to continue in a close personal relationship with someone else (as long as we are not married to them or related to them), and many times it can be a trap to try and continue. Some people, even Christians, are better "loved from afar". I don't know all the details, but the information you have provided does not bespeak a very spiritually mature attitude on your friend's part. Immature believers are capable of all manner of questionable behavior. Since even mature believers can stumble, how much more those who are not interested in growing up? It's never easy to "turn the page" in any relationship – and I certainly cannot advise you one way or the other here (it would be unwise even if I knew much more than I do) – but sometimes ending things is the best course for one's spiritual well-being as well as peace of mind.

In any case, we always also have to remember that even Christians are "only human", so expecting too much from any person is always a dangerous thing. Everything will be fine in the New Jerusalem together, but until then, prudence is the proper posture in all of our dealings with others.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

I forgave my friend as you told me because immature Christians can do seriously wrong things as you mentioned in the previous email. But the one thing I am confused is whether he is even saved or not even though he says he is and sings worship songs with tears. The very next day he told me he was going to wash my car and he will be back in an hour. Well, he was dishonest. He didn't wash my car, and instead, he was DUI and crashed my car. Fortunately I have a brother who paid for the release from the police department, impound, and two front tires, which costed a total of 800 dollars. Thank God Almighty the damage is minimal and the car drive-able. He also had illegal drugs in the car and is in jail for 6 months. Not only that, his ex-girlfriend whom he just broke up with told me he was going to her house to kill her. He also has many literal demons in his house. [details omitted] I believe his hatred for his mom and his mom's hatred for him are inviting these unclean spirits. Is it possible for a blood bought Christian to behave in this manner and have that many demons and unclean spirits dwelling in his house?

God Bless you and your ministry,

Response #16:

I should tell you that I don't believe in visibly appearing demons. I don't know of any example of that in the Bible. Demon possession on the other hand is a reality (though only in the case of unbelievers).

In terms of whether or not your "friend" (I'm reluctant to use the word) is or is not a believer, when someone is behaving in this way – drinking, drugs, violating the law, lying, destroying the property of others, threatening to KILL someone!?! – no one should have any further contact with such a person regardless of the answer to that question.

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
1st Corinthians 5:11 NIV

Based upon 1st John 3:15, it seems that this person is even worse than the description in the verse above. Given what happened to your car, I commend you for your forgiveness. But I would also strongly caution you to "love this person from afar" and having nothing further to do with him. You have "dodged a bullet" as they say; going back into harm's way would be imprudent in the extreme. People like this have been known to implicate others who are innocent.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Well thank you. Final question do you believe that Christian can use self defense and kill an aggressor? By Ex 22:2 yes. But Matt 5:39 seems to contradict.

Response #17:

Remember, our Lord also said, "“But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one" (Lk.22:36 NIV) – for self-defense. Matthew 5:39 is written in the context of receiving a rebuke from a fellow believer (as all the Israelites were supposed to be), and does not intend to communicate that we should not try to ward off a mortal blow. Here are some links on that if you'd like to know more:

Turn the other cheek

Preemptive war?

The biblical view of self-defense

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Sorry I read that article but I still don't understand that verse. So if somebody smack me I must not defend? I don't know.

If someone tries to hurt you seriously, you are definitely allowed to defend yourself.

Response #18:

If someone tries to hurt you seriously or mortally, you are definitely allowed to defend yourself.  The slap to which we are to "turn the other cheek" is a slap of rebuke which we may or may not deserve.  It is to that we are not to respond in kind.  It's not talking about self-defense.

Question #19:

So this verse is talking about being humble. For example if somebody pokes us. But it sounds more about hurting because there is eye for eye and that's hurting.

Response #19:

By "this verse" you mean Exodus 22:2? That's something completely different: the Mosaic Law (which is not valid for believers today: Rom.7:4; 7:4). In the case of this verse, the Law is speaking about matters of legal justice. The "eye for an eye" is the legal standard of retribution that a judge should impose, not overstepping or underrating. It is not in the purview of individual Christians to decide personal matters based on this passage – and even in Israel this was something for a judge to decide.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #20:

I'm still talking about Matt 5:38-39.

I'm confused because there is we don't resist to evil. So if somebody give me a punch I can't defend?

Response #20:

I really doubt that there is any Christian alive who perfectly carries out our Lord's words in the "Beatitudes" (of which this passage is just a part). Remember, our Lord was speaking to those under the Law in a time when Israel was supposed to be God's perfect witness to the whole world. All therein were supposed to be believers and behaving perfectly, and perfect people in a perfect state led by judges who administer the Law perfectly should indeed do all the things that the beatitudes tell us to do. However, we do not live in ancient Israel, nor are we under the Law, nor is my nation or your nation a divinely constituted state wherein unbelievers were not even to be tolerated. Today, we believers are the exception; unbelief is the rule. And even we believers are certainly not "perfect" – not by a long shot.

Part of the reason our Lord put things in this way was to demonstrate to all who were listening to Him that His listeners too were not perfect so there could be no possibility of salvation by following the Law – the true meaning of the Law as Christ taught it rather than the ritualized dumbing-down of it which the Pharisees taught. The beatitudes (as so much else of our Lord's teaching) demonstrates quite clearly that no human being can be so good as to be saved through keeping the Law. That doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to "be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matt.5:48 NKJV); but it does mean that every believer must realize that we are going to fall short in lots of ways.

In terms of this passage, we should never get mad and we should never retaliate to a slight (as this passage tells us not to do), but many of us have hot tempers and every once in a while even someone spiritually mature may slip into letting him/herself get unreasonably angry. Mind you, this does not mean that we are not allowed to engage in self-defense if someone is trying to harm us. Being slapped as a reproach (this passage you ask about) is not something that is even going to endanger our health a little bit – but it will hurt our pride and it certainly may make us angry enough to slap back. But if a person wanted to follow Matt.5:38-39, they should ignore the slap of reproach, justified or not.

Here is something else our Lord said:

And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” So they said, “Nothing.” Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.
Luke 22:35-36 NKJV

Clearly, the sword is not meant for kitchen use but for protection, for self-defense – and specifically for protection against robbers and bandits when these men would be spreading the gospel around the Mediterranean world traveling dangerous highways and byways to do so. But our Lord makes this statement for the benefit of us all.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Speaking of our daily bread, if you have a boss who tells you it is illegal to talk about your wages, they are wrong. It is legal, and saying this usually means they are hiding how cheap they’re paying you.

Response #21:

As I always tell my students, in the ancient Greek and Roman world (where aristocrats ruled, even in putative democracies and tyrannies), being poor meant having to work for a living – having to work for somebody else meant being "dirt poor" (wage slavery).

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.
Ephesians 6:5-6 NIV

And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
Ephesians 6:9 NIV

The second passage tells "bosses" what to do – but it is up to them to do it as before the Lord, and not up to us to force them. The second passage tells us, the employees, what to do, and I find nothing here to commend a rebellious attitude towards employers. More than that, the people Paul was writing too were slaves without rights. We who are not slaves are not prohibited from looking for another, different job or otherwise seeking to change our circumstances without resorting to threats and violence. I'm not willing to say that scripture precludes any sort of dialogue or legal defense of one's rights, but anything of the sort, it seems to me, ought to be entered into as a last rather than a first resort, and with prudence and reverence . . . towards the Lord.

In Jesus Christ whose bought us with His blood so that we belong to Him forever.

Bob L.

Question #22:

I have been changed very much by what I have read. For example, although I had read where the Bible said that God created the nations so that we might seek Him, I had never ever thought to connect that to nationalism/internationalism. And I spent the last five years of my life preparing to launch a business revolving around a social media product that would connect communities around the world so that people could learn from each other and participate to some extent in each other's affairs. I thought it was good, that it was a way to encourage neighborliness among human beings. I thought it might help people to understand each other better and help each other in more meaningful ways. It never occurred to me that I might be doing the devil's work for him. I actually believed that I could make it possible to retain the identity and cultural uniqueness of each community online and only allow remote interaction with each other. But I feel now that that will not happen, that evil will cross borders in this product and make it increasingly impossible for individual members of each community to seek after God. So I dropped the project.

I have no degree, since I dropped out of school five years ago after a poor academic experience (I was completely consumed with finding out what God wanted me to do with my life, what the meaning of life was and how I should live and where to invest all my gifts and abilities that I couldn't concentrate on schoolwork. And when I had another chance to finish my degree, I had too much work from my previous years to do that I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to finish it especially as I was still caught up in the questioning), and that project was my plan for starting to rebuild or build my life. Since I dropped it, I have been troubled about work and how to survive. It seems to me that the very economy is designed to force compromise from believers. Everywhere I look, the price of work is my conscience. Where it is a little likely that I can maintain freedom of conscience to work, I have no access. Entrepreneurship seems to be the best path but with that project gone, I need a new idea and time and other resources (I was just starting to learn how to code to build the product since I couldn't raise money to hire developers) to start something new...or so it seems to me.

I've prayed and I ask you to pray for me but I don't know what to do.

Response #22:

It's very good to make your acquaintance, my friend! Let me say first of all that your experiences in coming to terms with the truth, loving it and finding that it changes everything, are very much parallel to my own and also to those of most of the really serious Christians I have met through this ministry over the years. So I first want to assure you that listening to the Spirit's still, small voice is a good thing, and also that while you and I do not know exactly what the Lord has in store for you, He certainly does, and His plans are always for good.

"For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope."
Jeremiah 29:11 NASB

Not knowing everything about this issue – certainly not your particular spin on it – I wouldn't have been willing to give you advice one way or the other. Since you have come to this conclusion on your own, I also certainly do not want to second guess you. Technology of every kind is always a double-edged sword. It can be used for evil or for good and everything in between. This ministry, Ichthys, has only been possible because of the profusion of personal computing devices and the development of the internet. I have been able to avoid compromise along the lines of what you are concerned about because there is no profit motive in this ministry. But we all have to make a living. Even the apostle Paul made tents. That was the craft he learned as a young man, it being then and in some quarters also now the tradition that a Jewish man should have a craft to fall back on, even if that did not turn out to be his primary focus in life. Making tents is pretty neutral – although even tents could be conceivably used for ill (depending, e.g., on what is going on inside the tent), so nothing in this life is "Simon pure". Still, it is commendable that, when you decided that the particular slant to the project you intended to have as you bread-winning emphasis was not conducive to a clear conscience, you gave it up. It's not for me to say, but perhaps there is some variation on the theme or something that might be related somehow which might have potential without the same drawbacks.

The area of technology is very broad. And I don't think that most of things that might be done therein are in and of themselves wrong (any more than tent-making). If you have talents in this area and have learned skills, I am relatively confident that the Lord blessed you with these for a reason. Just about any job has some compromise involved – but we are meant to work and commanded to work. I am sure that the Lord will lead you to a way to make a living without compromising your essential principles. Even if we are talking about areas where it is difficult to break in, nothing is impossible for the Lord. He honors godly intentions such as yours. Only keep "working the problem" and keep trusting Him that He will work it out. I'm not saying it will be easy (not much in this life is for positive believers whom the evil one has in his sights); but I can also say with David, "I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread" (Ps.37:25). I will indeed pray for you (and have added a prayer request for you on the site as well).

Question #23:

Thank you very much for replying, sir.

I agree that technology can serve good or it can serve evil. In fact, pretty much anything made by man in this world can go to either purpose. Please allow me to tell you what I thought that led to my decision so that you can share your thoughts on it with me.

I had two major reasons for choosing to become an entrepreneur. One was to actually live out the teachings of Christ and prove them experientially so that I can teach them accurately to fellow Christians. I didn't want to be like the ministers I knew who didn't appear to me to really know what the Scriptures said about day-to-day living. And I also did not want to be an economic burden on those whom I served.

The second reason was that I hoped to, by my example in business and sharing of the lessons I learned with my countrymen, help to drive a turnaround of my country's economy. I assumed that they may not listen to me but at least the example would be there for them to see.

Then I had to figure out what product to start with. I took the Words of our Lord to heart in John 6:27, Matthew 6:33 and Paul's teaching in Ephesians 4:28 as well. I believed that our work should not be dictated by our need to survive but by our responsibility to please God, to obey Him. So I conceived a project that I believed was founded on the lesson of the Good Samaritan, that we should love even the people who are not immediately our obligation.

The product was . . . [details omitted to preserve proprietary work]

About work, I found an opportunity to study coding with a company that takes software engineering work from businesses around the world. They pay their trainees from the first month and put them to work six months into the program to work for the different businesses they take work from. From their link you'll see both what they define as their purpose and what frame of mind candidates must possess to be able to fit with them. When I saw that I had to be wanting to make the world better with technology, what I had only just learned from the SR series caused me to pause. If I qualified for acceptance into the program, I would not be in control of what projects I worked on. They would be.

Their stated purpose is to change the world through technology, to develop technological power here in Africa as well because of its belief that technology is the way that this world will be made better. It only stands to reason that they will accept projects in keeping with this belief it has in the power of technology. With the growing overt hostility to Christ in the world today, chances are that many of these projects will be pretending to be able to remove our need for God and His Christ. And the four-year contract that I would have signed would demand that I work on them.

I didn't think that I could do so in good conscience. So I thought that I should let the opportunity go. I decided to study programming on my own and I began to but I ran into a number of constraints so I suspended it. My laptop has a bad battery and has crashed so many times that the hard drive has been damaged. Because I have no other place to move my documents and files from it, I decided that it was a better idea to not use it until I can do something to fix it or replace it. Which was another reason that I was hoping to find a job soon. But it's troublesome to find one.

I have a much older relative who has some involvement in agriculture and I thought that he could help me find a farm to work in in the meantime. If I decide to ignore issues of conscience, there are more options available to me, but I think that that is a very bad idea just so that I can feed myself and attend to my material needs. But what other options do I have? Here in my country hostility to Christ is not generally overt but it is pervasive.

Thank you for your encouragement and words of wisdom, sir.

Yours in Our Lord,

Response #23:

Thanks for sharing your experience and your thought processes about all this. Let me say that I am happy to hear that you are acting out of conscience. You should do whatever you feel the Spirit is directing you to do.

I am certainly not qualified to weigh in on whether company X or Y is anti-God. In my opinion, most of the world is anti-God so it is not surprising if all enterprises are steeped in that sort of thing as well. Yet we are required to earn a living. I think you may find that even in agri-business the business is only as good as the people who run it. And there is technology involved in agriculture today as well as I'm sure you know. I certainly don't support all of the things universities do, not even my own. But I am able with a clear conscience to do my job without any particular compromise. The world is imperfect. It is a battlefield. And every day is a fight. To be absolutely pure we would have to leave the field entirely but this we cannot and should not do (cf. 1Cor.5:9-10). So it is not an easy problem. I'm hoping that you will get some good perspective on this from our friend (have you heard from him yet?).

In sum, I would not be willing to say that either your own idea is not capable of modification so as to not violate conscience, nor that this job opportunity is necessarily impossible without compromise. In the first case, these sorts of things often turn out very differently in fact that had been anticipated; in the second, it might be possible that you would not be called upon actually to do anything you felt to be wrong (all companies of this sort want to proclaim that they are "doing good" for PR reasons).

Anyway, thanks again for the info, my friend.

I'll be keeping you in my prayers for your guidance and success.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Thank you very much for your thoughts. They gave me plenty of pause.

I think that you are right that we cannot be pure in this world but it troubles me that that may mean that I should do certain things that seem rather obviously wrong in order to do something right.

I may not even get into this company after all if I go on to apply but if I did, I would be knowing that it accords technology a place of honor that is due to Christ only. They clearly state that they want people who want to change the world or make it better with technology. I am not averse to technology at all but I know that its place is not that. We can use it to seek God and even to share His goodness with each other but we cannot make a better world with it.

I'm concerned that joining them would mean sharing in that sin. But perhaps not. I see no other options right now though so I'm starting to think that I should go on and apply and hope that I will be kept from evil in all its forms whether by being rejected or by not being involved in projects and other activities that oppose the knowledge of Christ.

In the Great Tribulation, would this not be the same sort of thing we would have to deal with? Would we not be so hemmed in that we will be forced to choose between starvation and participating in economic activity that opposes the knowledge of Christ? I expect that eventually it will be gross and overtly hostile, but it will evidently start with subtle arguments about how doing something wrong will really honor our Lord.

I am afraid that proceeding like this (taking a job knowing that the stated purpose it will be serving stands against Christ or starting a business knowing that what I will be doing does not serve Christ) may only inure me to future temptations. Can I really work for a company that believes that the world can be made better with technology? Should I, in fact? As for my business, I believe that I can come up with a better idea if I gain programming skill.

No, sir, I have not heard from him. I thought that it may have been because it was the weekend so I decided to give it till today to be sure. He has not emailed yet. I am thankful for your help in that regard as well.

Thank you, sir, for continuing to pray for me. May our God continue to keep you too.

Yours in our Lord Jesus Christ

P.S. I meant to add that I think that we shouldn't reject work from or choose not to ask for work from people and organizations who have a good stated purpose even if they may end up doing evil that belies their good purpose. Our challenge then would be to refuse to be stained by their hypocrisy.

But when an individual or organization starts out with an evil stated purpose, it is a test of faith, isn't it, for us to be challenged with seeking work from them when the likely alternative is starvation and embarrassment?

If this is so, then all I need to make sure of is whether their purpose of changing the world with technology is right or wrong, that is, whether it stands for or against the knowledge of Christ, right, sir?

Yours in our Lord Jesus Christ

Response #24:

Good to hear from you my friend. Our friend tells me that he will be happy to correspond with you as soon as his work and university commitments allow.

By all means, I do not wish to undermine in any way your conscience or your judgment in this matter. If you have purposed in your heart that this is a "wrong road" then certainly you should not take it. That is a matter for you to decide. When it comes to biblical matters, there is the Bible to guide us; when it comes to making decisions in this world, that is something each of us has to do with the guidance of the Spirit based upon the truth we have learned and believed. We should never violate our conscience in such matters (cf. Rom.14:23; Jas.4:17). As we learn more – about the truth in the Bible, about the world around us, and about ourselves – our opinions on some things may change in both directions. That is to say, we may find that some things we felt sinful or unprofitable are actually not sinful and not damaging in moderation if we are mature enough to keep them at arm's length; and we may find that some things we considered not sinful and not disadvantages are actually dangerous and spiritually costly. This process of sanctification and walking closer to the Lord is one that changes us all for the good, if we are actually growing in Him day by day. And the "facts on the ground" can change too: a person or an organization that was good or at least benign may become bad or even evil – and (though rarely) also vice versa. Paul certainly changed, for example, so that staying away from him as an unbeliever was a wise and necessary thing to do, but becoming close to him was an extraordinary blessing once he turned to the Lord.

My concern is for your welfare, physical, emotional, and especially spiritual. If this particular course of action will compromise spirituality, then by all means let it go. It's not as if the Lord is unable to provide something else even better. It's always a mistake not to trust Him. We just don't want to confuse trusting Him with testing Him (in cases where things given definitely are from Him).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25:

Hello sir

It is very very pleasant to hear from you.

I haven't found a job yet but I have a new idea for a product. I am looking for some job to do in the meantime to help me learn coding (I need to replace my bad laptop and maintain access to the Internet at least) or else I need to find funding to launch the new venture.

This time . . . [details omitted to preserve proprietary work]

I have been meaning to email you to tell you that our friend contacted me after all. He did about a fortnight ago, I think. I just replied his second email today. I delayed (his email came in on the 24th) because I was thinking about what he said and I have been on the road since Saturday - I travelled back home in the Eastern part of the country to see my 86-year-old dad who is recovering from a surgery to remove a tumor in his colon. I have had a few related and unrelated errands as well so I was too tied up until today to answer my emails. I am looking forward to his response.

I will be happy to talk with your other correspondent too. I expect I will learn much from him.

By the way, I was thinking about the point of work on earth, why it is necessary at all to preserve our lives on earth. We are here to seek after God, right? That should be the point of all our activity. If it is, then even the work we do should be defined by that. Is this right?

Yours in the Lord Jesus Christ

Response #25:

It's great to hear from you too, my friend. I'm happy to hear that you are in touch with him and will soon be in touch with our other friend as well. It's important for us all to remember that we are not alone in this fight, that we are all in the "armed forces" of our Lord and that He is deploying us throughout the world to carry on the necessary work of the kingdom of God. What precisely our role is becomes more and more clear as we grow in Him, but whatever it is we can be sure that it will be a "fight to the finish" because of the opposition of the evil one. It is very refreshing and encouraging to hear your good attitude come shining through in all of our correspondence in spite of the pressures you are under and the problems you have. Good for you, my friend!

As to work vs. the Word, I have been very blessed to have been able to secure a job (after much preparation) which allows me to support this ministry. I also consider it a blessing to have the job and the ministry not be directly related. It has proved to be a great blessing to me to have the two separate because there are no issues of compromise that way. Paul made tents. Nothing spiritual about that – but it paid the bills so that he could minister when not working. I am paid to teach Greek and Latin, to do research, and to do administration – but not to do what I do in my free time on this ministry. I find this the ideal situation. It doesn't mean you can't let people know you are a Christian or offer spiritual encouragement etc. when there is an opportunity, but I am very glad that I do not get paid to teach theology, e.g. I'm happy to teach it for free via Ichthys with no attendant compromise or pressures in that direction.

As to the "why" of work, it all goes back to the Genesis curse, after all, and I can say with assurance that most everyone who has been around in this world for a while recognizes that it is really very unhealthy for a person not to have work that consumes a good deal of their time and energy – it's in the nature of how we are built (and how we have been corrupted by the fall). We all need a measure of what my dear departed mentor Col. Thieme used to call "enforced humility". That is to say, human beings tend towards arrogance as a natural result of our sin natures. Being forced to get out there and earn a living by (literally) the sweat of our brow every day doing things that are hard and sometimes most disagreeable and never entirely easy regardless of job or profession helps keep us grounded, reminding us that we are but dust and to dust will return.

Additionally, for believers, having the "load" of working for a living in our lives provides a daily test of priorities. We will always, it seems, be too tired, too busy, and too over-loaded to do all we should do or would wish to do in regard to the kingdom of heaven. When we do manage in spite of it all to put in a good effort for the Lord in reading our Bibles, paying attention to good teaching, living consciously for Christ and ministering His Word (and/or helping other ministers/ministries in this process until we come into our own specific ministries), that is a very obvious demonstration of our true priorities and love for the Lord, to the world, the angels, and to ourselves. It is also the very opposite of what usually obtains here in lukewarm Laodicea. Every time you conquer your fatigue and competing interests to do "the right thing" is a victory, and work along with the necessity of work provides the essential framework for that set of choices. In other words, life is all about choice, but the Lord has a way of testing our choices to see (and to help us to see) just how firm, resolute and zealous they are. If we had unlimited resources, time and energy, it just wouldn't be the same.

"So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord."
Deuteronomy 8:3 NKJV (cf. Matt.4:4; Lk.4:4).

During the Millennium, the Genesis curse will be removed so that there will be boundless prosperity worldwide under the perfect government of Jesus Christ, with no more war or disease or want of any kind. Further, during those 1,000 years, "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Is.11:9; Hab.2:14). So during that time people will have more spiritual opportunities with the freedom to use them to draw closer to the Lord than ever before since they will have unlimited time and unlimited access to the truth. So they will be the greatest believers of all time, right? Wrong. At the end of those thousand years the vast majority of this pampered population, a population who will have had more access to the truth with less "load" on all fronts and no trouble getting the truth and getting it straight than any previous group of people, will actually rebel against the rule of Jesus Christ and attempt to dethrone Him (see the link)! So much for opportunity resulting in spirituality. It's not a matter of opportunity in fact. It's a matter of choice. Those who want nothing to do with God will want nothing to do with Him whether their lives are incredible hard or blissfully easy. And those who do love Him with all their hearts will find a way even in dire circumstances – God helping them – to learn about Christ, draw closer to Him, and serve Him as He wishes no matter how impossible it may seem . . . because nothing is impossible for Him.

Keeping you in my prayers.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26:

Hello sir

Thank you very much for all your encouragement and prayers, sir. It means a great deal to me. I wish that I have always had such an attitude as you described. Unfortunately I don't, but God has been merciful to me.

Your answer makes a great deal of sense to me. I was just trying to get a sense of direction for deciding what to do for work. As a matter of fact, it solves a lot of puzzles for me.

Can you help me understand the following? It's part of the email I just sent to our friend.

"Our Lord said in John 6:27 that we should not labor for the food which perishes but for the food which lasts unto eternal life. Then Paul said in Ephesians 4:28 that the thief should cease stealing but rather work with his hands the thing that is good that he may have to give to him that has not. He also said essentially in Ephesians 6 and 1 Corinthians 7 that those who have masters (I assume that they would include employees) should work as if they are employees of Christ rather than of men, not seeking to please men but to please Christ. Then in 2 Corinthians 6, he teaches that we are to be separated from unbelievers and avoid unclean things."

How can I know what is good? Is it only whatever is legal? Can that which is legal not be wrong? In what way can/should I stay away from what is unclean? What pleases Christ for me to do for work?

I am sorry if I am drawing this out longer than you like, sir. I hope that I am not. I am trying to be sure of what is right to do now.

Yours in our Lord Jesus Christ

Response #26:

The pleasure is mine – no need to apologize for asking questions (especially important ones)!

As you note in your paragraph, the principle that all must work for a living is very clearly and irrefutably advanced by scripture from Genesis 3:17-19 onward; here is another pertinent verse:

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
2nd Thessalonians 3:10 NIV

Pretty clear. Also clear is that this cannot contradict our Lord's words. There are no contradictions in scripture; there are only gaps in our understanding of it at times. So our Lord is clearly not telling us at John 6:27 that we don't have to work to earn a living in the normal sense of things (or in terms of the usual biblical mandate); rather His words address our motivations and priorities. In the context, the individuals who had partaken of the miraculously provided feast of bread and fish wanted to make Christ king of their country in a secular sense . . . precisely in order that they might not have to work any longer but could continue to enjoy a "free lunch" at will for the rest of their lives (Jn.6:15; 6:26). That was their motivation, a demonstrably false one. The purpose of the miracle was divine provision for those seeking God in a unique situation, and the lesson was that God helps us to do what He wants us to do even when to human eyes it seems impossible. The lesson was not that the Millennium had arrived – though that is what these men wanted. So our Lord's words are intended to turn them back to the spiritual priorities which had everything to do with His ministering to them earlier. So the lesson of our Lord's words is precisely the opposite of "you don't have to do secular work" since that is what these men wanted and wrongly so (Jn.6:15; 6:26).

How then to understand the actual words of this verse? First, we have to note the contrast. The command is to believe in Christ, for our Lord says that they should labor "for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you", and we know from what He says later in this chapter that He is talking about His body and His blood (Jn.6:53), that is, since He is "the Bread of Life", believing in Him, His person as the God-man (represented by the bread) and His coming sacrifice on the cross in dying spiritually for every sin (the "blood of Christ"). So what the contrast of these two verses indicates is that they 1) should not work for salvation, but 2) put their faith in Christ for salvation – because the "work" of God is faith not actual work:

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
John 6:29 NKJV

Since "work" is faith, our direction of our will to the good, in the second command, that has to be the essential meaning in the first command too: "do not put your heart into things that are temporary but put your heart into things that are eternal by believing in Me".

As was often the case, our Lord spoke in parables to those who were not ready to believe the truth. And while this is not a parable it most definitely is "parable-speak", deliberately metaphorical (comparing the work of God to food because it is the body and blood of Christ which is eaten without work by faith – just as the communion ceremony likewise depicts our faith in Him in eating and drinking the elements which represent Him and His work on the cross). These unbelievers did not understand because they were not willing to understand.

Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”
John 6:60 NKJV

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.
John 6:66 NKJV

And as with many parables, even within the details the truth comes out when one sees the true import and analyzes it closely: the imperative ergazesthe, "work for", is in the present stem here and its aspect thus reflects repeated action and also occasionally effort and intent. To translate with admitted overemphasis: "Don't be putting all of your effort into earning bread that decays, but put your effort into winning the Bread that lasts forever (eternal life in Jesus Christ won "by grace through faith").

Feel free to write me any time, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #27:

Hello again sir

I was just thinking about the part of Scripture where Paul said that an idol is nothing and food sacrificed to idols is nothing but food. It's in 1 Corinthians 8.

Then I checked 1 Corinthians 10 where he seemed to contradict what he said in the earlier chapter. But he didn't really, did he?

He was really saying that if we need food and what is available to us is meat sacrificed to an idol, we can receive it with thanksgiving as provision from the Lord but we must not then assume that we should start seeking after such food perhaps to prove a point or for whatever reason. It is only what we take of necessity because we are not partakers with demons.

That seems to me to be what he was saying. What do you see there?

Also, thank you for that explanation. There's quite a bit in there that I had not got before now. But I did take for granted that our Lord was not saying that we should not work. I just thought that He meant that whatever we do we should do it with our eternal salvation in view. If there is something that opposes or contradicts our focus on our eternal salvation, our faith in Him, then we should have nothing to do with it regardless what value it might appear to hold for us temporally.

I don't know anything anymore. I can't solve this puzzle about work. I know that I cannot avoid working with unbelievers or even being in the midst of evil where I work. But I am no longer sure what is right for a Christian to do and what I must never do no matter what the cost to me may be.

I keep thinking how in the Tribulation our physical survival can be at risk because we cannot buy or sell without the mark of the beast. If we will not be allowed to participate legally in the economy unless we do something like take a tattoo even if in our hearts we are not accepting of it, why should we today be willing to work under conditions that require us to contradict our confession even if only on the surface?

I can build technologies. I can do so without taking responsibility for how people will use them even as God is not responsible for what we do with our free will and with the vast creation that He has given to the angels and us. But can I build technologies without considering that the technologies themselves may be evil? A porn website is bad even when no one uses it. Could the same not be true of a website that essentially breaks down the divide that God established between nations to allow people to seek Him in each nation? US culture is filling the whole world through the Internet and not always for good. A growing uniformity of attitude is happening today through deliberately designed technologies that foster such things. While I accept that the Internet can be for good, I think it is possible to deliberately design its technologies for evil, especially of the subtle kind. Can one really say that they can work for a company that is deliberately pursuing paths like that without having their conscience stained?

When Paul tells us to work what is good, does that not make us responsible to consider whether what work we are doing to stay alive and serve God in this world is indeed good?

For another example, I want to find an apprenticeship, preferably for technology but I'll take anything at this point, but can I really stand blameless before God if I must take one from someone who is bent on using me and my work to oppose Him? If I can accept work from someone like that without contradicting my confession, things will become much easier for me. But can I? That is what I want very much for you to help me figure out.

I consider Naaman as a difficult example to understand. He had a responsibility to the Assyrian king and asked that God pardon him when he had to bow to an idol as the king's attendant in the king's house of worship. Is that an example for us? Or should we stand with the three Hebrew men who would not bow on pain of death even though they too were the king's officials?

Where do I draw the line? That is what I am troubled by. When am I being unequally yoked with unbelievers?

Even if we cannot be completely pure in this world, shouldn't we nevertheless strive toward purity rather than away from it?

Then again, what is practical? I cannot refuse to work indefinitely. I am afraid that I may have to do whatever is within reach even if it seems wrong to me. I have been trying to get even menial jobs to do but even those retreat from me. I don't know how to do anything and I am willing to learn even if I will work without pay while learning but nothing appears within my reach but then I should go out more and ask more people regardless who they are and what they think of me.

I am just troubled that the general attitude is that if it makes money, it is good unless it breaks the law (and, here in my country even if it does, survival comes first). So, I am hemmed in. The only thing that seems best to do is to start one's own business but I can't do that without some technical skill and/or money.

I appreciate all the time you give me, sir. Thank you. I pray that our God will not forget your labor of love.

Yours in our Lord Jesus Christ

Response #27:

Good to hear from you!

On this second email, later on in 1st Corinthians chapter ten (verses 27-33) Paul makes it clear that the issue is one of conscience: not offending those who will see eating such meat as wrong. This would include many Jewish Christians but also some gentile Christians with weak consciences. Food is food. But if someone else makes an issue of it in our presence we should consider their spiritual welfare (which does NOT mean we should allow ourselves to be bullied by such persons in regard to what spiritual applications we personally make in private).

On your other question, the way I usually explain these things is that in this world there are a lot of gray areas where it comes to applying principles of truth to complicated life-situations. If we are too pedantic about some principle it will rule out everything and we will do nothing; if we are too lax in its application it will allow everything and we will do things we should not. Clearly, we have to find a middle road between doing nothing and allowing everything – that is right and good and scriptural (e.g., Eccl.7:16-18). How to do so is a skill that grows as we grow – but it will always involve listening carefully to the Spirit.

So on the one hand it is good to be someone who has the wisdom to see that all of this "stuff" in the world is temporary and that we are not obliged to assign the same spiritual value to it that the world does; on the other hand it is good to be a man of conscience and live by one's principles. The potential problem of the former is that it may lead a person over the line into justifying questionable or even dangerously sinful behavior; the potential problem with the latter is that it may cause us to adopt a perfectionist attitude towards life that makes actual functioning in this world impossible (or, alternatively, hypocritically legalistic).

The most important thing to remember regardless of which way one naturally tends is that our relationship with the Lord, our spiritual growth, our potential ministry are all so much more important than these other issues – as long as we do not slip into permissive licentiousness on the one hand or paralyzing self-righteousness on the other. Most Christians in the process of engaging with spiritual growth in a serious way have to sort this issue out; it's just that the "mix" is different in each case because of the kaleidoscopic differences in individuals and their situations. We have to find a way to live in this world that is godly. We cannot go out of the world and we cannot embrace the world. That is the Christian dilemma but also the Christian strength: we are in this world but not of it . . . at the same time.

Paul made tents. He had no idea to what purpose the tents he was making were going to be used. They may have been used for godly purposes; they may have been used for evil purposes; they may have been used for totally banal purposes. That had nothing to do with him – or if it did it fell into that area of "living in the world" and having to deal with a certain amount of contact with it even though spiritually we strive to rise always above it. It would have been different if he had decided to make idols for a living like the craftsman in Ephesus who opposed him. On the one hand we have a commodity which is not in and of itself evil or sinful; on the other hand we have a commodity which by its very nature would have contradicted his witness.

You mention the mark of the beast. I think there is a very clear distinction there. Taking the mark of the beast is swearing allegiance to the devil and rejecting Christ, overtly and by definition. Taking a job with a company whose directors are not perfect would not be the same thing at all. No boss is perfect – not even a Christian one (and perhaps especially not a Christian one because an unbeliever will not have the same potential misconceptions about how we should act / what we should believe as Christians). Still, there are clearly some people and some companies it would be better to avoid.

I think you are right to ask yourself these questions, and the last thing I would want to do is to undermine your conscience. You know a good deal more both about the "what" you will be asked to do and the "for whom" you would be doing it in any job situation for which you would apply. It is fair to point out that any job working for any company regardless of the industry is going to involve imperfection and some compromises of some kind. It takes a measure of spiritual maturity to weigh out whether or not we are being overly scrupulous if we don't take a job with company X or on the other hand being too dismissive of our consciences in taking the job. No job will ever be perfect in this regard (it was ever thus); but there are jobs that are best avoided. I can't tell you which is which; that is for you to decide. What I can tell you is that God honors both your desire to walk carefully before Him and your desire to earn a living as you are required to do. He is able to provide such a job / business for you. He is faithful. He will do it. Your job is to trust Him – and to demonstrate that trust by actively engaging in the process and the effort with all your strength, confident that in Him your labors will not be in vain.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #28:

Hello sir

I can't answer you fully now. I'm still digesting your email. I just want to express my profound gratitude for this last email. It helps so much more than I can express right now.

You said before that it is always our conscience that we should follow but that as we grow in the faith, we learn better and our conscience adjusts accordingly.

I think this was a crisis point where I had to properly learn how to negotiate this world as a Christian. My conscience was pulling both ways and I couldn't understand what to do.

Thank you very much, sir. I pray that God never leave you without help when you need it.

I will email again when I have done thinking through what you said.

Yours in our Lord Jesus Christ

Response #28:

You are certainly most welcome, my friend. I'm keeping you in my prayers on this. Do feel free to write me any time. I'm also hoping that you can use our friends to bounce some of these ideas off of – they are both youngish men who are / have confronted similar issues. My generation had somewhat different challenges – at least in terms of the texture.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #29:

Dear sir

Thank you for continuing to pray for me, sir. I am very grateful for your prayers and very dependent as well on them.

Could you explain 2 Corinthians 6-7, especially 6:14-7:1 to me?

I want to work it into what I am currently understanding about work and our lives in this world.

Is Paul speaking generally there or of the false apostles who were troubling the Corinthians? If he was speaking generally, how do his words apply to daily living? He already said that we cannot go out of this world (as you said too) so I'm thinking that this is more related to unbelievers masquerading as believers than to unbelievers outside of the church. Is that correct?

Yours in our Lord Jesus Christ

Response #29:

Good to hear from you my friend. I will continue to pray for you, and I am hoping you are going to be getting some prayer support from our mutual friends and from the request posted at Ichthys as well.

As to 2nd Corinthians, I think I understand your question, but please do feel free to write back if you want additional clarification.

As far as "unequally yoked" is concerned, this is dealing with the inadvisability of believers binding themselves to unbelievers in any sort of legal relationship. That would include, among other things, marriage to an unbeliever or a formal business partnership with them. It would not include working for or with unbelievers, however, because one cannot avoid "being in the world". We do have to have interaction with unbelievers since the world is largely composed of them (and even many self-proclaimed "Christians" are really only so in name). What we should avoid is getting too close to anyone who does not share our essential values of putting Christ, the truth, and our brothers and sisters in Him first in our lives. And we should also avoid other believers if they are involved in activities or behaviors which give the Lord a bad name.

As I say, please feel free to write back if I've missed the point or if you have additional questions.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #30:

Dear sir

I think that this agrees with Naaman's request of Elisha, right?

Where can we draw the line though in paid employment? When does it become an issue of disloyalty to our God when we work for men?

Someone told me, for example, that a Christian can set up shop to provide wedding cakes exclusively to gay couples without being guilty.

Is that true? I ask so that I can understand this perfectly, sir. I can't run well when I have doubts about things.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ

Response #30:

In our modern world, the vast majority of "work" available is "working for others" in one way or another, and there are no perfect people, not even "Christian employers" who may be that in name only.

In the ancient Greek world, the definition of being poor was having to work for a living (as opposed to being independently wealthy); and the definition of being "dirt poor" (as we say in the states) was having to work for somebody else. So we are all today (at least most of us) "dirt poor" by ancient standards and far worse off in that respect than a 19th century farmer in the U.S. who had no money but produced his own food.

Our status/situation today, whether we are working for a corporation or a university or a small company is essentially that of "slave" – a slave to wages instead of belonging as property to the person/organization . . . which is in some ways worse because we don't get provided for in terms of all of our needs; we merely earn some money which is usually not enough to take care of everything we need as completely as we would like. So the following passage seems to me to sum up our responsibilities today in this regard, for it is really for the Lord that we are working regardless of the moral quality of our employers:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:22-24 NIV

The advantage we have over actual slaves is that we get to pick our master . . . or at least try to do so. As we all know, these days it's not such an easy thing even to find a master who will have us and be willing to pay us. Clearly, there are some master's we would like to avoid, especially if they are cruel. We would also want to avoid a master who is going to require us to do things that are criminal or immoral or directly and clearly violate biblical mandates. That is unusual in my country. There are many more examples of subtle compromise involved in being a wage-slave. So we do our best to avoid as much subtle compromise as we can by our choice going in. We do have that right. What we do not have is the right not to work just because we cannot easily find anything that fully meets our ideal requirements. So this is a hard problem. But, believe me, the Lord knows this very well and He also knows your heart perfectly. Put your trust in Him. Pray to Him for guidance and also pray to Him for help in finding the "right thing" which, while of course not perfect (since nothing on this earth is) and He will bring it to pass (I promise to continue to keep you in prayer on this as well). And remember, when you do find something, it will be for the Lord whom you are working.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #31:

Dear sir

I think I understand it now.

On the one hand, we can't help the human agents we have to serve in order to earn. On the other, we must do only what serves our spiritual growth and ministry in the world.

I will trust the Lord to help me work out the unique details of each work situation I get into subsequently.

Thank you for being so patient with me.

Response #31:

Glad to be able to be of some small service to you in the Lord, my friend. Do feel free to write me any time.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #32:

Hi, I want to ask what is the meaning of Matthew 12:36?

"But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment."
Matthew 12:36 NKJV

Response #32:

It's pretty straightforward, but it means something different depending on the ultimate status of the person in question. For unbelievers:

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
Jude 1:14-15 NKJV

For believers:

Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
1st Corinthians 3:12-15 NKJV

Believers will be evaluated for our life's work to assess our reward, but all the bad things will be burnt up (sins have already been judged); unbelievers will be evaluated to demonstrate that they had opportunities to be saved but really had no interest in that, condemned by their own words (sins have already been judged).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #33:

I don't understand what means "idle word". For example if I'm talking for myself.

Response #33:

I see. The adjective argos translated "idle" in NKJV means "lazy", and the application is really to the speaker not to the "word" which is spoken (i.e., a person speaking in an idle, lazy way): if we do not take the proper effort to speak things that are in accord with the truth (from whatever faulty motivation), then the words we speak which are not honoring to the Lord and to His truth will be "called to account", for unbelievers in confirming their lack of worthiness for eternal life – only faith in Christ would have changed that; for believers, this will be part of the overall evaluation of our lives – the more "lazy words", the less we cared about the truth, the less we cared to believe the truth, the less we cared to live our lives in accordance with the truth we should have known, loved and lived. No one is perfect. If we are believers, we are saved (e.g., Jn.3:18), but our reward is based upon our total positive response to the Lord after salvation; the more that is "burned up" at the judgment seat of Christ (as in "lazy words"), the less there will be remaining to be rewarded (cf. Rev.3:11). This kind of conduct, i.e., not taking the trouble to learn the truth or to speak in accordance with it, is reflective of a sloppy attitude towards the Lord and the things He values. Such a course of action if characteristic of the believer's entire life will lead to little or no reward; the opposite, i.e., caring about the truth, believing it when we are taught it, and applying it all we think, do and – in this context – say, is what leads to being well rewarded when He evaluates us all on that great day of days.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #34:

So for example if I'm using a word like "bro" etc. it's not bad?

Response #34:

Few words are "bad" in and of themselves (we know the "four letter" exceptions well enough). As for all of the others, it's all about how we use them that counts (i.e., our attitude, motivation and purpose in what and how we speak):

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Ephesians 4:29 NIV

For as our Lord said in the two verse just preceding the verse you had originally asked about:

"Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things."
Matthew 12:34-35 NKJV

Compare:

"But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man."
Matthew 15:18-20 NKJV

And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man."
Mark 7:20-23 NKJV

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

 

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