We are spending a few weeks looking at the advantages and disadvantages of Christianity. We listed five advantages last week, and proceed with a few more this week.
6/Christianity is very humbling. When we measure our character against what Scripture requires, we quickly find that there are countless aspects of the way we live in which we need to become vastly better. Humility is a key virtue in life, and an honest examination of our character humbles us. This is good. It is good to face reality honestly and to realize that we have a long way to go before we are truly godly people. At the same time, we see that it is possible for us to change for the better. We see this partly because we can sometimes sense modest changes for the better in our own character as we live the Christian faith. But we also see it as we observe or read about other Christians, living and dead, whose excellent behavior informs us that improvement of character is possible. After all, other people have excelled in godliness; why not us? So while humility is, well, humbling, it is also calling us onward and upward in our behavior.
7/Christianity protects the weak and the innocent. The Bible bristles with warnings from God that we not mistreat widows and orphans. For one example, applied Christianity would not permit unborn children to be murdered in a Christian republic or Christian monarchy or Christian democracy or a Christian something else. For another example, women and men, girls and boys, would all be protected from rape, in a nation which was serious about practical Christianity. Deuteronomy 22:25-27 instructs us that rapists be executed. This law, applied judiciously over a few years, eventually would protect the weak and the innocent to a very large extent, and would reduce the number of rapes enormously. Many potential rapists would be warned off the crime tempting them. At the worst, an executed rapist would probably be committing far fewer rapes in the future. It’s just a theory.
8/Christianity encourages financial honesty toward other people. The Eighth Commandment, ‘”You shall not steal,”‘ (Exodus 20:15), has many practical applications. Of course it tells us not to rob that tempting liquor store, or not to mug people walking in the park, or not to shoplift. But the more subtle real life applications are virtually endless. For example, the Eighth Commandment, properly applied by us, will discourage us from voting to tax away the property of our neighbor. The Eighth Commandment, internalized by us, is one of the countless aspects of biblical Christianity which help make life on the earth better for everyone–for ourselves first of all as we refuse a self-indulgent sin, and for everyone else as we protect our neighbor’s property from theft.
9/Christianity encourages us to have large goals. Once we believe what the Bible teaches about how reality is put together, we begin to have hope that we can accomplish something big. There will be no end to the increase of Christ’s government. There will be no end to the increase of peace. All this will be accomplished with justice and righteousness. It will happen because of the zeal of God. Where do I get all this optimistic stuff? Read Isaiah 9:6-7–and a lot of other passages back that up. We can have huge goals, because God is powerful, is good, and is ready and willing to support us in any endeavors we undertake which are good. End nutritional blindness on the earth? Why not? End war? Why not? See that every child is loved and guided and protected by one or more adults? Why not? Clean up the U.S. so that it is completely litter free? Why not? We can all pick some goal appropriate to our personality, get behind and shove. Of course our individual powers are puny, but God is sovereign and is in control all the way. Living solely for our petty selves is a pathetic way to go through life. Christianity encourages us to come out of that childish lifestyle. It is all quite logical: God gives enormous grace to us when He saves us through Jesus Christ; we in turn of course should be willing to take as much grace as we can to the world around us. So we can want to do big and good things. Will we accomplish them? Stay tuned. We might, or we might not. But it is completely logical that we try to accomplish something big. If we fail, at least it was in the pursuit of something big and good. What better way to fail? And we might get more done than we think, and start the ball rolling in the right direction, so that people coming after us will succeed where we seemed only to fail.
10/Christianity encourages us to be very generous people. This is true to begin with in financial terms, but I think it really applies to our spirit in general. God requires a tithe from us. (Malachi 3:8-12; Matthew 23:23, etc.) A tithe is 10% of our increase. If we tithed to the church, the church would have plenty of money to take the gospel to the whole world, to help people who have fallen on hard times, to do whatever needs to be done and should be done. The American church is currently getting by on 2.5% (emptytomb.org). If we had four times as much money, we would have as much as we needed and probably more than we needed. But Christianity doesn’t really stop with telling us we need to tithe. The Bible makes it clear we should be generous people. A tithe is a mere beginning. It is a good beginning, a very useful beginning, and nothing to be sneezed at! But it is a beginning only. Beyond a tithe we could be doing much more to help other people. But let us leave aside generosity in its financial aspect only. Christ in Matthew 23:23 tells us we should be tithing, but He also tells us there are ‘”weightier provisions of the law”‘ such as justice, mercy and faithfulness. Christianity encourages us to develop a generosity of spirit in every aspect of life. We can be financially generous beyond a tithe, of course. But we can have a generosity of spirit in how we treat people and how we live in general. The financial aspect is only one of dozens of ways in which we can be generous-spirited people. Christianity encourages the development of people with big and generous spirits. We start from where we are, of course. We may not be very generous now–but we can get better at generosity as we go along.
Next week we will plan to look at a few more of the advantages of Christianity.