An audio overview of the lesson by Raul Diaz.
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Creation and Morality
There is a quote from Ellen White that will give context to this week’s lesson: “Upon all created things is seen the impress of the Deity. Nature testifies of God” (Education, p.99). We are also created by God so the impress of Deity should be seen in us, in other words we should testify of God. Our lesson takes us step by step revealing how we were created in His image. This similarity should also include our morality. If we are created in His image and He is moral, we ought to be moral. Ellen White adds in the same place of the above quote that the power to sustain nature is the power that also has jurisdiction of the soul – heart and mind. It is His power that makes us moral agents. So, what is morality? Our lesson never defines morality, but it does illustrate it.
One definition of morality is that it is a doctrine or system of moral conduct and the conformity to those ideals. Moral is defined as relating to principles of right and wrong behavior. While neither word is found in the King James Version, Adventists do make a distinction between the moral, ceremonial and health laws as found in scripture. For us the moral law is the Ten Commandments. So, it is no surprise we have measured morality against the ten edicts written on those tablets of stone: do not make images to worship, cease secular work and go to a church on the Sabbath, honor your parents, do not kill, lie, nor steal, and do not commit fornication or adultery. Other standards of morality were added, such as: do not drink alcoholic beverages, do not eat unclean foods, do not smoke, do not listen to worldly music, do not gamble, do not go to the theatre, dress simply and modestly, and do not frequent places of ill repute. Anyone that engaged in any of these practices was considered immoral.
However, in recent years our concept of morality seems to have changed. Today some of these rules appear to have been relaxed; so it’s acceptable to many to engage in the following behaviors as long as they are done in moderation and do not appear to harm anyone else. It is alright to drink the occasional glass of wine. It is now OK to be physically intimate before marriage, as long as you love each other, and hopefully there will be no telltale pregnancy. It is OK to cohabitate, but a low profile must be kept, and plans must have been made to marry. The common rational is, “I do not see why that is wrong” or “I do not see a problem with that.” What is interesting is that our lesson’s topic, although about morality, does not touch any of this. Instead, it ties morality to God, by using two very familiar parables to illustrate His character. Let’s go over them briefly and see how they reveal morality.
The first parable is that of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30 - 37). If we recall, Jesus was answering the question, “who is my neighbor?” He began by narrating the story of a man lying on the ground by the side of a road badly beaten, and robbed. A Priest on his way to serve in the temple, upon seeing the wounded, beaten man, crossed the street to avoid him, and continued on his way. Later, a Levite also passed by and he also crossed the street. Remember each man worked in the Temple, and was considered to be doing God’s work. Caring for the wounded man would not only have made them late, but ceremoniously unclean, and therefore unfit to “do God’s Work”. A Samaritan – considered a sinner of the worst kind (and therefore immoral) –stopped by to help. This Samaritan took the man to a safe place, made sure he was well cared for, and his resulting bill met, before departing. So, Christ asked the question, “Who was the true neighbor?” In other words, “who truly did God’s work: Those who worked in the temple and avoided the wounded and needy or the one who stopped to help?” The Pharisees and the Priests answered, “He that shewed mercy on him.” They would not say, “the Samaritan.” The Priest and the Levite did the temple’s work, but not God’s work. It is here that Christ establishes a contrast between immoral and moral. In God’s eyes the priests were immoral because they were calloused, and the Samaritan was moral, because by living out mercy, he demonstrated benevolent love.
The second parable is that of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25. We start reading in verse 34 and continue through verse 36,
"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me."
The sheep seem not to know what Jesus is talking about. They reply in verses 37-39,
"…Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?"
To which the Lord replied in vs. 40,
"…, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Notice some parallels: the sheep and the Samaritan helped others in need. They had mercy on others. As we move on in the story, the goats were given the opposite message. Let us read the dialogue in Matthew 25:41 - 43 for His response to them --
"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungry, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not."
Verse 44 is the goats’ response to Christ:
"Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?"
Matt 25:45 records his final response to them –
"Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me."
From this we see, that while the goats professed to do God’s work, they, like the Levite and the Pharisee, did not truly possess mercy toward others. Therefore, in God’s eyes, they were immoral. Which of the two groups (goats and sheep) were actually acting in the image and likeness of God? It was the merciful ones.
The Prophet Micah says that what is good, what the Lord requires of us, among other things, is to love mercy (Micah 6: 8). Zechariah says that God’s desire is for us to show mercy and compassion (Zechariah 7: 9). This, friends, because it fulfills the law of love, written on the heart as opposed to cold tables of stone, is true morality.